follow us: Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Join us on LinkedIn Bookmark and Share

< back


At the age of 38, I found a lump in my right breast while taking a shower. I was certain there was a simple explanation for it.

On May 24, 2007 I headed into the Brigham for a scheduled doc appointment. I was thinking about all of the things I had to complete at work and this appointment, as it turns out, was smack dab in the middle of my day. I fully anticipated returning to work after my appointment and probably let my staff know that I would have my cell phone on vibrate if possible. I said something like, "If you get my voice mail, no worries, it is because I am inside the hospital. Feel free to leave me a message and I will call you back as soon as I am able." As you may suspect, I did not return to work that day nor did I retrieve voicemail.

It seems more interesting. I am also a sucker for accents!

Before I proceed, the doctor I had the appointment with has been my doctor for over 20 years. He knows that I am an optimist. I prefer to know the full extent of the details up front. The sooner, the better.

He walked into the room to find me lying like a bug that got stuck on her back and hadn't quite figured out a way to roll over yet as I had "assumed the position." I was scrunched down to the end of the table. My feet were in stirrups. I figured if I was at the gynecologist, I might as well get my annual tests handled right? My doctor wanted to look at my breast first. He was concerned since we last spoke. I shared the story again, "I was washing my body in the shower. I moved the soap from the left breast over to the right and felt something that I had not felt before. I thought it must have been the way I was holding the soap so I tried it again. The do-over provided the same result, there was something in my breast. I got out of the shower, dripping water onto the beige tile, the water continued to run down the drain as I inspected my right breast in the mirror. Hmmm...what is that? Is it me or does my breast look different." It was a story I would tell many times to come.

My doc was on task. He wasn't interested in my check off. He wanted to see and feel the lump. Within 2 minutes he said words I will never forget, “I think we have a malignancy here. I am going to schedule you for an immediate MRI and biopsy. Burned into memory was the look of my docs face as we wore his reading glasses on the middle of his forehead.

The beauty of being in the hospital and having a well respected doctor with clout is it got done immediately. I couldn't help but notice the tears in the eyes of the MRI tech when she came back in to help me off the table.

I needed to get my car from the valet. All of the tests were complete. Where the attendants wearing red jackets before? I hadn't noticed. As I waited on the bench for my VW to arrive, the tiny hair on my arms were tickled by the slight breeze. It was really very sunny outside, maybe 75 degrees. The sky was luminous blue. It was as if someone turned the lights on to the world. My senses were acutely aware of everything!

Over the next 22 months, I was in treatment for breast can-cuh, stage III. There is a stage IV but no stage V. I was happy to report I had matured since the day I found out I was graduating magna cum laude NOT summa cum laude. I was disappointed as it wasn't "the best". I am a recovering perfectionist... Stage III...WOW! I do not want stage IV. Here's what happened: I started neo adjuvant chemotherapy on June 27th, 2007. I purchased a new dress for the occasion, a lovely flowery Donna Ricco. I had decided to choose can-cuh. I had 8 AC-T, lost every hair on my body, rounds of chemo. I gained a profound appreciation for the role eyebrows play on one's face. Eyebrows and I have a whole new relationship! I had a right side mastectomy and aggressive radiation. The pathology results were "not as we hoped." My tumor was the size of a chunky cell phone. It measured 11 x 8 x 5. The can-cuh was alive and well and spread to my nodes. 27 were removed and many were affected. I thought I would fall through a trap in the floor and suspend forever into fall mode when I learned that more chemo was in order. MORE? I joined a 1 year investigational drug study: 2 chemo drugs that came along with several, thank God I have a sense of humor, side effects. Can-cuh had become my way of life, my full time job. It fought for my identity. It waited on my bed each morning for me to awake. The drugs were so strong! Things were happening to my body that one should not have to endure... Where they strong enough to kill my spirit? We battled. I did not recognize my life. I was on extended medical leave from work. I moved in with my brother and his family as it was easier. I couldn't the find the proper words when my brain searched the rolodex in my mind. I could fall asleep during conversations. I was depressed and wondered how I would emerge triumphantly? The light at the end of the tunnel was hidden from my view sometimes. Lucky for me I had top notch docs who assured me that all of what I was feeling was part of my journey. I have a powerful team of family and friends who reminded me who I was on days I forgot. An earth angel named Genevieve Mason disguised as a social worker at Dana Farber threw me a life preserver. She also thanked me for treading water for so long. I am forever grateful.

It was Genevieve who told me about Susan's Retreat. She thought it would be a good idea for me to get away and rejuvenate. To take a break from can-cuh. I am an optimist but did think it sounded "too good to be true". I had placed it in the, I hope that happens category but did not get too excited at first. I learned more about Susan as time went on and was lit up by her life's legacy. Her mission to provide women with a luxurious retreat as a tool for them use during treatment warmed my heart. I wished I knew her in life. I think we would be friends. When I learned I would be a recipient of the retreat I was elated, honored beyond words. I made plans and used the date as something to look forward to in time. It had been a long time since I looked forward to a social event. I had a secret skip in my step.

I went to Wentworth by the Sea with my dear friend/cheerleader Julie for 3 days and 2 nights. WBTS is one of the most breathtaking locations I have experienced. They know how to do it here! The location itself is lovely, very picturesque with ocean views.

Inside was chuck full of luxury: deep tissue massages. I took a spa shower which contributed to the feeling of being a princess, we sat in an outside hot tub! The restaurant was over the top, my food, every meal, was lick your plate delicious. The service the entire time was impeccable.

What happened to me as a result of Susan's Retreat was a restored faith in my future. It provided a very real current example of a happy, easy time.

Julie and I enjoyed each-others felt like our pre-cancer friendship, before life got so serious.

I could think of many ways to describe myself... I am someone who thoroughly enjoys the written language. I must admit that I am saddened many of our print newspapers are in danger of going out of business. Although I am often not without my MacBook Pro, can text as fast as my teenage nieces, I prefer a letter in the mail. I still get excited when I receive an unexpected piece of mail. Perhaps it is because I stop what I am doing and enjoy it. I savor the words. I am not concentrating on hitting reply, commenting and deleting from my in box. I don't have to do anything except receive the gift, feel honored and let it in.

Susan's Retreat is like an unexpected piece of mail, a lovely life-altering invitation to yourself.

Miracles have happened.

If I had the opportunity to go back to May 24th, 2007 and "unchoose" cancer, I would not. Let me explain. Cancer taught me that I am kick ass warrior goddess strong. I have a fabulous new life.

copyright 2007-2010 Susan's Retreat, Inc |