By Naomi Cohen
My story does not start with a diagnosis of breast cancer. It starts with me well before and well after that. Breast cancer is not who or what I am, but it is a fact of my life. The very good news – it was over 22 years ago. So if anyone needs hope, here I am. There is life and a good life after breast cancer. Do I worry every year when I have a mammogram – you bet. But if it happened to me again, I think I would tackle it the same way I did 22 years ago: with a vision to move forward and a determination to survive. There is an element of luck and I am one of the lucky ones. I did not do anything better or different than the next person, but I was lucky.
I felt I had no choice but to push forward, take whatever treatment was available (chemotherapy and radiation concurrently) and hope for the best because I had a five year-old to worry about. And frankly, that kept me motivated to just keep moving forward like a mack truck.
I did learn that you have to be your own advocate, and you have to know your own body and mind. When I was told to just watch the lump in my breast because 'it was probably nothing' I decided to have it removed. My reasoning was that any lump is not a good thing and by the time I would realize it was different (bigger), it would probably be too late. So out it went and lo and behold it was cancer.
I was steadfast about having the lump removed no matter what the outcome since a dear friend was battling stage 4 breast cancer, and unfortunately she lost that battle a couple of years later. I was fortunate to have been referred to Dr. Deborah Axelrod whom I still see to this day. Her treatment, guidance and friendship have been invaluable.
I never joined a cancer group. There were at least five women that I knew very well all going through their own breast cancer diagnosis, and we all had young children! So we kept tabs on each other, commiserated, and compared protocol regimens. We also laughed a lot, telling each other about our treatment mishaps, our loss of body hair, and our perpetual runny noses. We did laugh, but we cried as well.
I believe that in my lifetime cancer treatment will improve. Perhaps a cure will be discovered. That is why I am thrilled to be part of the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center’s NYC 5k Schlep.
What better way to put my time, energy and funds than to ensuring that our goal will eventually be met. For you, for me, for our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and the men in our lives.
Dr. Marc Lubin, from Rabin Medical Center’s Urology Department, came to New York for a one month observership in uro-oncology at Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Barbara Abrams is a two-time survivor of breast cancer, an Ashkenazi Jew and BRCA positive. Every woman in her family, who has been BRCA tested, has the gene and has been affected by cancer in some way. Her grandmother, aunt and cousin did not survive the illness.