Her name was Deidre. May she Rest In Peace.
I was a co-worker of Deidre’s. We were work friends. She had beautiful red hair and sparkling eyes, and a bright and happy smile.
She was kind and generous beyond words. Her faith in God was strong. She had a daughter she loved so much and who gave her much joy. Then one day we learned Deidre had breast cancer.
It had only been a relatively short time prior that her husband predeceased her. He died of cancer as well. She supported him through his struggles, then fate turned to her.
She was lucky like me. She had a boss who treated her with dignity and respect. Theirs was a good working relationship. She was a great legal secretary.
I think of Deidre so often. It has been over 10 years, I think, since her passing. As it is with so many instances of cancer, people are gone way too young.
For a couple of years afterwards, I sent her family a card on the anniversary of her death. They appreciated the gesture. They replied how much they missed her.
One of my favorite memories of Deidre was what she did for me for my 50th birthday. She gave me a dozen yellow roses in a delft blue vase. They were gorgeous. They were also totally unexpected. I felt so humbled she did this — but this was the sort of thing she did, she gave to others.
I had the roses for a good while. They stayed lush and full for a long time. Paul and I went to the lake at some point afterwards, and I took the spent roses with me. On a pretty, warm day in September, I sat on the edge of the dock with the roses next to me. I see myself sitting there now.
I took each rose and softly tossed it in the water and made a wish each time I tossed one. I never wanted to let the roses go. They meant so much.
Thank you, Deidre, for the kindness and generosity you gave to me. I will never forget you. I am so sorry you lost your battle with breast cancer.
Another friend gone
Oh, what the ravages of breast cancer can do. I had another friend who succumbed to the disease too young as well. May you Rest In Peace.
She went for a screening mammogram. While there, they basically took her from the mammogram room directly to surgery. It was that fast and that urgent. The doctors performed a double mastectomy. Her prognosis was not good. She lasted awhile and then was gone.
She was such a neat person — the life of the party.
She, too, had red hair. Freckles. I was friends with her brother also. Sometimes we’d all go to Benihana in Peachtree Center for lunch. On the way back to our offices before getting on the escalator, we often stopped at the Midnight Sun Bakery to get a treat. I always got the sugar cookie with the Hershey’s Kiss nestled in the middle.
It was great fun and we enjoyed each other. About the only thing I recall about the lunches was merriment. She and her brother were a good comedy duo. His humor was dry. They were good together and they were very close.
I miss those times and her. I imagine she’s got everyone in heaven laughing. Take it easy my friend. You are so loved.
My breast cancer
There are so many of us who survived. We are all grateful. I always feel guilty talking about my experience because so many others went through so much worse than I did.
I remember having my first mammogram in my gynecologist’s office years and years ago. Can you even believe that we used to go to our doctor’s office to be screened?
At some point my doctor stopped doing this. In 2003, I went to the Adventist Hospital for a screening. I went in a room no bigger than a closet to change clothes.
This closet was in a storage room. Definitely nothing like today’s surroundings. Seriously, it was small. I pulled back the fabric curtain with rings as though I was stepping out of my shower.
I don’t remember anything about the screening. What I do remember is getting a letter in the mail after a week that said the findings on my mammogram were not quite right. The letter said I needed to see a doctor.
I contacted my gynecologist for a referral. He recommended Dr. William Barber at Piedmont Hospital. At the time he was considered one of the top breast surgeons in Atlanta. I was so thankful.
I walked into his reception area with my films in hand. I rushed to the glass window and blurted out, “Am I going to die?” Isn’t this what you are thinking if you’re being tested for cancer?
In response to my question, a nurse behind the glass asked if I had ever had children. Since I had not, this was a risk factor. So now I am on high alert. I don’t know why she said that at that moment. However, as I age with health issues, I’m surprised how often not having had children comes up.
So I see Dr. Barber and as it turns out I have DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). He recommends a lumpectomy. Fine. Did that. He did not get clear margins.
He performed another lumpectomy with the same results. So we proceed to a mastectomy. The decision becomes do I want reconstruction with a TRAM (transverse rectus abdominal muscle) flap or do I want an implant to replace the breast I am about to lose. Dr. Barber made a referral for a plastic surgeon.
Although the implant was quicker and less painful, I went for the reconstruction with the TRAM flap — basically it was a tummy tuck. The real negative about the implant was that it had to be maintained. I would be in and out of the hospital just taking care of that.
Another reason I did not want an implant concerned aging and things starting to go south. I liked things even and moving at the same pace. Didn’t need to have the perky look as time was crawling over me.
But Lordy, recovering from that was more than I bargained for. My heart goes out to the women who have this done as elective surgery. Definitely not for wussies. The same goes for delivering a baby. It’s a pain all its own.
One of the last things the plastic surgeon said to me was, “Now that I have given you a flat stomach, stay away from apple pie and cakes.”
I was Stage 0. I did not have chemo or radiation. The fascinating thing to me is that even with Stage 0, I ended up with a unilateral mastectomy.
The American Cancer Society estimates for breast cancer in 2021:
- About 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 49,290 cases of DCIS will be diagnosed.
- About 43,600 women will die from breast cancer.
- The risk of a woman developing breast cancer in her lifetime is 13% — this is 1 in 8.
- The chance a woman will die from breast cancer is 2.6% — that is about 1 in 39.
- There are currently 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Not many. I don’t know what more I could say.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who have lost a loved one. And the same for those who are on their breast cancer journey now.
There are just so many, many things we have no control over. Peace, love, and warm hugs to all.
Thank you for reading. Comments are always welcome.