Linda D. – 20 year Breast Cancer Survivor, and PSEG Long Island Sr. Real Estate Representative
October 13, 2000, 20 years ago today. This is the date of my mammography – the day my breast cancer journey began. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
My former husband and I were hoping to start a family. Before any treatment, the fertility specialist ordered a battery of tests – starting with my first mammography. Two weeks later, in the office of my new breast surgeon ─ not my fertility specialist ─ I learned there was a 2.1 cm tumor growing in my right breast – “invasive ductal carcinoma.” My treatment plan was surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and then adjuvant therapy (Tamoxifen) for five years.
Nearly a year into my treatment, the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred. I felt a somewhat deeper connection to this tragedy as my dad helped build the Twin Towers. I also knew people who were lost their lives that day. Along with grief, sadness, fear and anger we all were feeling, I also faced the reality that I was 41-years-old and battling breast cancer. As Ground Zero still smoldered, I participated in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer at Jones Beach for the first time in my pink “survivor” shirt. Walking the boardwalk, I found myself surrounded by a sea of pink ribbons and photos of others who had breast cancer, mixed with hundreds of American flags and snapshots of those lost on 9/11. I wondered how many of these victims had survived cancer only to be taken by this horrific event.
Getting pregnant was no longer in my life’s plan. My cancer was an “estrogen receptive positive cancer,” which means the estrogen hormones can actually fuel cancer growth. While the early detection of the mammogram likely saved my life, pregnancy could do the opposite.I have always been outspoken about certain causes. Breast cancer became one of them. I joined a “young survivors” advocacy group – a coalition for women diagnosed by age 40 – because younger women with breast cancer have different issues and concerns. Most specifically, breast cancer in younger women frequently grows faster and often has a not so great prognosis. Also the stigma of losing your breast, self-consciousness about body image and concerns about pregnancy after breast cancer come into play.
In March 2002, with 9/11 still weighing heavily on everyone’s mind, I went to Albany for State Lobby Day. The first lawmaker I visited was on the New York Senate Health Committee. As I tried to explain to her the unique issues facing the younger breast cancer patient, she replied ─ without missing a beat ─ “Now is not the right time.”
It’s now 2020 and a global pandemic continues to change the lives of so many.. Some may once again argue that now is not the right time to think about breast cancer, but it is. It is always the right time.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused many canceled mammogram appointments, breast surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Some people may have breast cancer right now and not even know it because they haven’t been screened. Later stage diagnoses can result in worse outcomes.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to educate people that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It’s never the right time to be told you have breast cancer, and it’s never the right time to be fighting breast cancer.
Please consider joining or supporting my team, PSEG LI Pink Transformers, because it’s always the right time to help breast cancer patients and survivors through research, education, advocacy and services.