I remember years ago, I was driving with my daughter, Molly, when a car on the highway flashed their lights at me. Just the day before, a family member had told me that flashing lights was a signal to watch out for something on the road ahead of you.
When we turned a corner, there was a big couch on the highway across the lanes. But since I had seen that flashing light, I knew to be careful. Someone was watching out for us.
My life has been about those little instances. I find that if you look around, there is usually the support that you need, just when you need it. After I got my breast cancer diagnosis, everywhere I turned I saw signs of love and support, big and small.
Last May, I felt a thickening in my breast and scheduled a mammogram. Just after my mammogram, the radiologist came out and let me know there was something abnormal on the reading. He did a sonogram and biopsy that day. It all happened fast.
For me, having breast cancer has been humbling. As the dean at the Columbia University School of Nursing, I am accustomed to giving support, with a mission to always keep patients front and center. When I went into this journey, I wished I didn’t need support, but I accepted it. And if you ask the faculty to describe me, they will tell you I often say, ‘I don’t like drama. No drama.’ So that’s how I approached my diagnosis and treatment.
I had a double mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy. The thing that helped me was I walked. I walked five miles a day through the whole therapy. There were some days where I was a little tired, but I held onto my husband, David, and we did our walking. I’ve lost 28 pounds, and my husband has lost 24. I hate to say there’s a silver lining, but when my husband went to his cardiologist he looked at him and said, ‘Wow, what did you do?’