Babett Hirzel never expected to hear the words “you have breast cancer.” She doesn’t have a family history and she underwent regular mammograms. This is her story in her own words.
As if the pandemic wasn’t scary and sad enough, I lost a very dear colleague of mine to breast cancer in 2020. At her celebration of life, I listened closely as her best friend read a letter she’d written before she passed. In it, she wished all the women who attended her celebration of life would go home and check themselves. And so I went home and did just that – and I found a lump under my arm.
I have no family history of breast cancer and was always on point with my mammogram appointments. As a matter of fact, my last mammogram six months prior to that day had been all clear. How could I have found a lump?
I reached out to my doctor for an appointment. The doctor sent me for follow up tests. It seemed like forever before I received the dreadful phone call: “Yes, you have breast cancer.” I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.
That’s all I heard, and I zoned out, not listening to the rest of the call. It felt like I was in the wrong movie, it was just so surreal to me. After the initial shock, what helped me was to be surrounded by my family and friends. Relatively quickly I went from thinking “I’m going to die” to fighter mode.
My treatment was intense. I had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal. Because the cancer had spread and was fed by hormones, I also had a hysterectomy. I had 12 rounds of chemo and six weeks of daily radiation. Chemo side effects included bone pain, my nails turning black and neuropathy.
During treatment, I learned it’s important to:
- arm yourself with hope and positivity
- find something that gives you strength
- surround yourself with an army of people who you know will stick with you through thick and thin
- remember you are in charge of your journey
I did what I knew would help me through this time: I listened to music, I laughed a lot, I wore fun wigs and hats and bright pink outfits.
I also tried to keep my life as normal as possible in the middle of the chaos of treatment. When someone asked me how they could help me through my cancer journey, I was brutally honest. For the first time in my life, I learned to put myself first.
Everyone is different, everyone has their own story and their own way of fighting. I armed myself with information. I found resources on Komen’s website, including the helpline, which I called a couple of times for guidance.
Having that resource at my fingertips takes a bit of the fear away. I felt supported and that I had someone I could reach out to. I also listened to and read survivor stories, which helped me feel ready and informed for my own fight. These things gave me hope and courage and strengthened my positive attitude to be ready for my fight.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.
To contact the Komen Breast Cancer Helpline, please call 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email email@example.com. All calls are answered by a trained specialists Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Se habla español.