I have always enjoyed learning; possessed a healthy thirst for the power of and comfort found in knowledge. That thirst led me to enroll in an elective high school class that explored world religions. It was in that class that I was introduced to the concept of karma. As a result of my teenager-framed interpretation of this life view, during those formative years, and in fear of upsetting the balance of my personal life continuum, I have worked to live by a religious-based moral compass and have also been a self-proclaimed rule follower ever since. Anyone who knows me will tell you that my life mantra is – Carpe Diem! But do no harm – live smart, live honorably, live fully present, live healthy, and ultimately live happy; chief among these has always been an endeavor to live healthy.
Each year I scheduled my annual physical to occur on or near my birthday, as a symbolic gift and proof of my smart and healthy living. My 56th year was no exception. My life, to that point, had been a living blueprint of the stay healthy tips promoted by the American Cancer Society; staying at a healthy weight, healthy eating, taking part in an energetic exercise program, not smoking, and establishing a schedule for getting the recommended screening tests. My breast cancer diagnosis knocked me completely off of my balance-attuned orbit. Upon hearing the news I tried unsuccessfully to pinpoint the exact life action that had caused this disruption in my karma, in my life balance. My doctor, of sixteen years, unable to find the appropriate words with which to convey the test results had resorted to medical terms. Poorly differentiated carcinoma?! I understood each word individually. Spoken together in a medical context they made little sense. They made even less sense when applied to me; the rule follower, the life lived in balance. Poorly differentiated carcinoma?! Infiltrating ductal carcinoma?! Triple negative?! 3.3 centimeters?! The literacy professor in me tried desperately to tie each word to some pre-existing knowledge, some schema which might lead to a deeper level of enlightenment. However, in those first days following receipt of my diagnosis, balance had been destroyed and no karma-justified meaning, no understanding, no clarity, no comprehension was forthcoming.
My mind did, however, instantly make connections between the news of this diagnosis and a host of possible ramifications for my immediate family – for my husband and our two daughters. In those first days post diagnosis and without full understanding of the specifics of my unique cancer profile I wondered just how many more momentous life events we would all witness together – birthdays, vacations, promotions, anniversaries, weddings and grandchildren. The triple negative nature of my diagnosis and size of my tumor added a sense of urgency to my need to begin a treatment plan. While still struggling to make sense of the news of my diagnosis, I resorted to the comfortable process of searching for knowledge. We researched the unfamiliar medical terms listed in every line of my diagnosis paperwork. We systematically collected referrals, read references, poured over evaluations, visited, interviewed, and made critical decisions about oncologists, surgeons, and plastic surgeons, and hospitals. The movie-reel version of my life, during that period, seemed to progress at a frenetic and chaotic pace, while simultaneously moving at a deliberate and measured pace. We know now that a divine hand was at work in bypassing waitlists, opening appointment doors, and ultimately assembling a team that would save my life; my dream team. Carpe Diem became my team’s battle cry and it helped me to focus on waging war against this uninvited infiltrating force! My assembled team – a renowned oncologist, celebrated surgeon and plastic surgeon, respected radiologist, phenomenal group of oncology and radiation nurses, my family, and a host of friends helped me to successfully conquer sixteen weeks of chemotherapy, vena cava filter placement surgery, six weeks of daily radiation treatments, bilateral mastectomy surgery, tissue reconstruction and expander insertion surgery, skin graph surgery, http://www.papsociety.org/accutane-isotretinoin/ and the final implant transfer and nipple construction surgery.
Even after waging a successful fight to rid my body of the abnormally fast-growing cancer cells, my karma-tic turmoil had yet to settle. A new diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) triggered a referral to TurningPoint. This medical diagnosis proved to be a pivotal moment in the process of rebuilding and adding to my life rather than the cancer diagnosis that had resulted in the process of breaking down and subtracting from my life. The individualized and focused care provided by the therapists at TurningPoint was specific to my particular and unique bodily needs as a breast cancer survivor and post-mastectomy patient. The therapists were committed to increasing my shoulder range of motion. They also validated my questions, affirmed my suspicions, and allayed my concerns, while arming me with the informational tools necessary to serve as my own self-advocate. With each session I began to regain my confidence. Everyone at TurningPoint helped me to restore a level of calm, a sense of balance and a renewed sense of positive karma to my life. The information, knowledge, and therapeutic strategies that I received at TurningPoint helped me to see that my new normal need not be one of limited mobility, ability, or possibility. My fighting mantra had been revived. Carpe Diem! – live smart, live honorably, live in the moment, live healthy, and live happy. I will be eternally grateful for the care and support I received at TurningPoint.