Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Anniversary, Another cause for Celebration!

Four years ago today, I was undergoing the first of my two surgeries for breast cancer treatment.  I remember the morning very well.  I had to go to a large hospital early in the morning to get a mammogram guided marker placed in my breast so the surgeon could locate the tumor.  It was raining very softly and I remember thinking as we entered the hospital that the weather was akin to my heart... weeping.  The procedure was not overly painful and 45 minutes I left that hospital (walking) with a huge needle sticking out of my chest.  As it happens I work in this hospital, and I know a lot of employees there; the last words the technician said to me as I left was don't let a co-worker hug you this morning, because if they do, they will drive that big needle right in to your lungs.

I did run in to 2 co-workers who knew that it was my surgery day, and with tears in their eyes all they wanted to do was hug me - but I backed away.

We hopped into the van and drove about 12 miles to the smaller hospital where I was to have my surgery.  My surgeon and I had settled on a lumpectomy and lymph node removal.  In other words they were just going to remove the tumor and a little area around it, and take out the lymph nodes on my right side.  I had resolved myself to the fact that I had cancer, needed treatment, and that I might even eventually die from it... but it wasn't gonna happen that day, so I entered the hospital firm in my resolve to make the best of a pretty scary situation.

My resolve crumbled a little once I had a hospital gown and cloth slippers on, then a little more when the IV was started and then a lot more when it was time to head into the OR and I saw my husband crying and trying to hide it.

I woke up in extreme pain from my arm being positioned over my head for over  two hours, but morphine soon became my very best friend... at least for a couple of days, anyway.

In the end, that particular surgery was not enough.  Two weeks later when the pathology results came back from the surgery it was to say that there was still a margin of cancer present.  So back to the surgeon, more discussions, more angst, more decisions.  Take more?  Take it all?

Take it all.  I want it gone - take them both if you want, I don't care, I want it gone. 

So while I was still recuperating from the first surgery I returned to the same hospital once again, and had a total mastectomy... the whole breast removed.

It has been 4 years of emotional struggle, physical frustration and personal growth... 4 years of life well lived, and I can't help wanting to thank all those who have gone before me for their roll in my survival.  Every woman who has had breast cancer, been treated and has died has made it possible for me to live... and I feel this every day of my life.  So this post is for them... and me... and all those who will walk our steps in the days to come.  God please Bless us all....

Do you have all the facts you need to fight this disease?  The statistics are out there, you should familiarize yourself with them, because the chances are very high that someone in your immediate circle is going to experience this.

In Canada 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
In the USA 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

In 2010 in Canada 23,200  women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  5,300 will die from it.  445 Canadian women will be diagnosed every week.  100 will die every week!

In 2010 in the USA 207,090  women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  39, 840 will die from it.

Get in the habit of doing regular breast self examinations... how will you know there are changes to your breast, if you haven't become familiar with the size, texture and composition of your normal breasts.  If you are 40 or over or if you have a family history - get a baseline mammogram... even if your doctor says you should wait until you are 50 - push to get it done at 40!  Be mouthy, be mean and cross if you have to be, but get it done. Have a yearly physical... if you are obese, try and loose weight.... if you are menopausal - question hormone replacement therapy...

There are many many great sites to use if you have questions, or need advice... seek them out, that is what they are there for.

How to Perform Breast Self-Exam (BSE) | Breast Health Resource Center | Imaginis The Women's Health Resource
And if you can Please support Breast Cancer Research.

Here is a poem I wrote about my experience.


By Dale Graumann

T’was a hot July day when first we met,
Through circumstances I’ll not forget.
I the seeker, he the sought,
To save my life or so I thought.

The office crowded with such as me,
I ventured forth at five to three.
Mind aflutter I took a seat,
Controlling tears that weren’t discrete.

Nerves kicked in, my breath drew short,
I’d never been a panicked sort;
But this was wrought with pain and fear,
This very thing that’d brought me here.

A lengthy wait for one and all,
Then certain dread when name was called.
Two steps, three steps, ten or more;
Then “Have a seat, I’ll close the door.”

First impressions seldom fade,
Especially when so gently made.
Soft warm eyes, a caring smile,
Advised that I’d be here awhile.

Biopsy past, breast cancer cells;
Percent involved - no one can tell.
As much as needed – okay with you?

Feeling sick, head’s buzzing some,
Husband’s crying; I’m feeling numb.
Swallow the lump that quickly has gathered,
Focus on thoughts that suddenly matter.

Death is first on my list of fears,
Then leaving my son of tender years.
Don’t want to go, not ready yet;
So much of life, I’ve yet to get.

Plans are made, operation’s booked,
A week today - well I’ll be hooked!
No wait indeed, no none at all;
And here I thought I’d wait till fall.

First cut’s not quite deep enough,
This demon seems to be so tough.
Return again this time it’s fall,
And now this time, they take it all.

Awake my eyes awake and see,
This brand new view of who I’ll be.
One breast gone, the other there,
Is this much more than I can bear?

Not so I cry, not so at all,
Pity and grief are so appall.
Make of life the most I say,
Don’t you waste one single day!

Take your burdens, throw them aft,
Cling to life as though a raft.
Make it your’s and make it strong,
Ride it hard and ride it long.

Fast forward now two years or more,
Am I cured? Not known for sure.
Time will tell what lies ahead,
No matter if I fear or dread.

This is me; it’s who I am;
A pebble in the master’s plan.
Happy I, and grateful too;
For all the folks that helped me through.

Life goes on, it always does;
I can’t go back to what it was.
But I am here, and here I’ll stay,
Until my Lord takes me away.



  1. Beautiful poem. Blessed are you as you have come out the other side of a major crisis with hope and a positive attitude.