When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was a 40 year-old single mother of two, a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old. They were my touchstones. Every decision was based on what would give me a better chance to be here for them. My first baseline mammogram detected the breast cancer. I had a needle localization biopsy and was told that the margins from that procedure were adequate and I could proceed to radiation and tamoxifen. I wasn’t comfortable though and I went to Dr. Norman Wolmark for a 2nd opinion.
I had read that the risk of recurrence after a mastectomy was less than 1% as compared to 5% with a lumpectomy. One of the things I love best about Dr. Wolmark is that he never leaves the room until all your questions are answered. After discussing it with him, I decided to have a mastectomy. During that surgery, previously undetected cancer cells were found deeper in my breast. Listening to my own inner voice was the right thing to do.
I live 250 miles away from my closest family but my sister, sister-in-law and mother took turns coming to stay with me. A friend made a schedule for others in the community to drive me to appointments, cook meals, and do whatever I needed. I had purchased new wallpaper for my living room and when I came home from the hospital I found that they had put it up!
I’m private and hadn’t planned on sharing so publicly about having breast cancer. But after my surgery my 5 year-old daughter (who is now 14) touched my face. She said “I’m like you. Will I have breast cancer too?” That motivated me to support finding a cure. That, and the desire to pay back for all the help I received.
Merrilynn is Community Relations Director at Titusville Area Hospital and represents Crawford County in the PBCC traveling photo exhibit. She loves spending time with her children and running.