By: Rachel Kops
Why me? I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I went for a routine mammogram at the age of 43. It’s difficult to go through something like this without asking “Why me?”
Was it so that my friends would all be diligent about going for routine mammograms? Was it so that I could help other women in my community who were diagnosed with breast cancer? There is no answer to the “why me?” question but anyone who is diagnosed with cancer will ask that question at least once, and probably many more times.
I consider myself very lucky because I was diagnosed early. I told my friends, “I have breast cancer. I’m going to be fine. It sucks.” What more was there to say?
They didn’t want to hear about all the doctor’s appointments, the waiting for results, waiting in the hospital for appointments, the surgery, the treatment, the side effects of the treatments. Everyone wants to hear that it’s going to be okay. My friends and community were very supportive, helping with meals and rides. Nobody can really understand what someone with cancer is going through besides other people going through it.
People always say that G-d doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me that I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. After my surgery, I had seven weeks of radiation therapy. While I was going through radiation, we moved houses and the week after we moved was my son’s bar mitzvah. Looking back, I don’t know how I did that, but I didn’t really think about it at the time. I was going for radiation every day and we had to move, and it was my son’s bar mitzvah. That was my life at the time. What choice did I have?
Throughout my cancer journey, my father acted as my “cancer coordinator.” My father had recently retired from his private practice as a radiologist specializing in mammography. He was able to advise me along the way. He told me that I needed to get an MRI, which showed more than they had seen on the ultrasound. My father also told me to get my slides from pathology to get a second opinion. I never would have thought to get a second opinion but the pathologist in New York found things that the pathologist in Israel had missed. My father spent a lot of time talking to radiologists and oncologists, finding out as much as possible about my options. I truly would have been lost without his input.
There is my life before being diagnosed with breast cancer and life after. Unfortunately, Thrivacious didn’t exist when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thrivacious provides a community and support system for women touched by cancer. I have met some wonderful women through Thrivacious. When you are diagnosed with cancer, your friends want to be there for you, but they don’t really know what to say. There are some things that you can only talk about with someone else going through it or who has gone through it.
Why me? I will never know, but this is my life now. Being a cancer survivor affects how I live and the decisions that I make. Everyone has challenges and difficult times in their lives. We don’t get to choose those challenges. We can only deal with what life throws at us and try to make the best of it.