Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breast Cancer

By Richard P. Holm MD

I've heard it said that we should all have a close brush with death about once a year, in order to keep our priorities straight. 

I spoke to a good friend the other day about her breast cancer experience, and the following story unfolded. During her routine monthly self-breast exam she found a nodule; an abnormal mammogram followed; and then she had a biopsy, which showed cancer cells.

Treatment began with a lumpectomy and then followed six weeks of radiation to the site. Finally gene testing showed how she had a very favorable prognosis and wouldn't require chemotherapy. The expression favorable prognosis is a sweet duet of words, which means that the future looks optimistic, with a very good chance that the cancer won't be back. 

Now it's been three years of disease free survival and she tells me the whole experience changed her life dramatically. Considering the possibility of dying and realizing that her life will not go on forever made her live more in the present. She re-thought what was important in her life, and refocused on giving time to her family.

During this difficult time my friend sensed a rising spiritual presence accompanying her, and grew to feel that she was not alone. She told me that this experience would have been ten times harder without a faith in God.

I have observed many people walk this kind of journey through the valley of death. I am a physician, not a religious leader, but I know that people who get through this experience change how they value their family and friends. They seem to listen more, treasure the little things, and savor the tastes and flavors of each day.

Sometimes we don't know what we have until we almost lose it.

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