Sharon Cecil: A True Story

Sharon Cecil: A True Story

 

On May 16, 1990, I was scheduled for a biopsy. Biopsy is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as “the study of tissue taken from a living person or organism”. What events lead up to a day that felt like the plot for a horror movie? This couldn’t be happening to me. I was too busy. after all, I’d always heard “life at 40”. Plus, I was going to graduate from nursing school in a few days and my daughter was going to graduate from high school in a few days and turn 18 in a couple of weeks. My husband and I were making plans for a wonderful celebration. Our lives were moving full stream ahead.

The Beginning

On January 15, 1990, I found a lump in my breast. It felt like a large, egg shaped knot in the lower quadrant of my breast. I had always done my monthly breast self-exam (BSE). This was not my idea of a Happy New Year gift. The lump scared me. I needed to call my doctor. it was not regular doctor office hours when I found this lump that was invading my privacy. I called the office anyway. I was told to call back in the morning. I call the office first thing the next morning.

A mammogram was ordered for January 30. Those days of waiting before I could have the mammogram were difficult. I had so many questions. I could not understand why I had to wait so long so have this lump checked. I didn’t understand why I hadn’t noticed this lump sooner. How could it be there now and not feel anything the month before? If it is breast cancer, will I die? The questions kept eating at me.

The results of my mammogram were excellent according to my OB/GYN and internist. “Nothing to be concerned about.” So I decided I needed to get back to business as usual. I need to stop feeling like my body has been invaded. Or worse yet, that my body was failing me. Yet, once a month, I was reminded that the lump was still there. February, March, and April proved that this “nothing to be concerned about” lump was becoming more tender and larger. This just didn’t feel right emotionally or physically. The question kept hitting me in the gut, “If this is breast cancer, will I die?”

I began to ask other people questions. I talked with a couple of my nursing instructors and friends who were nurses. I was reminded that I had no predisposing factors. I was told that:

Cancer lumps are not painful
40 is too young for breast cancer
You breast fed your child-that’s good
The list went on and on. This all sounded like what I wanted and needed to hear. Then, why did I continue to have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach?

The Middle

In May, I was scheduled for another mammogram. Again, it showed nothing. I was scheduled for a biopsy and on May 16, I was told that I had breast cancer. On May 21, I had a modified radical mastectomy with lymph node dissection (this is where some lymph nodes are removed and examined so the doctors can stage the cancer and determine treatment). Great, now I’m being amputated and dissected.

My first thoughts were about my family. I didn’t want to leave my beautiful, wonderful, loving family. I was so afraid of dying. I was being drafted into war I did not want to fight. I started comparing myself to the young men who had been drafted into the Vietnam War. The emotions ran rampant. Different doctors had different recommendations, one of which was to see an oncologist. At this moment in time, my biggest concern was the legacy (having been taught and told this disease runs in families), I would be leaving my daughter….Breast Cancer.

And we’re off…now I felt I was in a race for time. I started Chemotherapy. It felt as if a day didn’t go by that I was in a doctor’s office. Some weeks, I would see up to three different doctors. The months drug by slowly. I was still working as much as possible and I was completing my last semester of nursing school.

The End

In December, 1990, I finished nursing school and my chemotherapy on the same day.

I decided to stop and take some time to reflect on the past year. I did see my daughter go to her senior prom, graduate from high school and celebrate her 18th birthday. I realized how grateful I was. Now more than ever, I realized positive thoughts would create positive experiences. How could I relay these gratitude’s. I realized the spoken word is very powerful. I had a lot of realization going through me.

In 1991 I passed my state boards and I am a real nurse (R.N.)

In March, 1991, I made my first public appearance speaking on gratitude and attitude. I had buttons made to say “HANG ON TO A GOOD ATTITUDE”. Later that year, I had cards printed that read “Shar’n my gratitude with a gift of a gold ATTITUDE”. Attached to these cards was a gold attitude pin. Then I began volunteering for cancer organizations throughout the community. I was the BSE (breast self-exam) program coordinator for the American Cancer Society for several years.

In 1994, We Survive, Inc. was born. Women Offering Wisdom (WOW), a division of We Survive, was created. WOW is an inter-generational education program promoting communication between younger and older women. Its focus is to educate younger women-ranging in age from puberty to early childhood-on ways to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Through my experiences in life, I realized the importance of nutrition, physical health, and a positive mental outlook. These are areas addressed with the WOW program. Advocating the position that the more young women know about their bodies, the better prepared they will be to face any problems that may develop later in their lives. The WOW program incorporates breast self-exam into its program.

In 1998, I continue to speak publicly, my family is wonderful, and my life is moving full stream ahead.