Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors (Fifth Anniversary Edition)

Overview

Barbara Delinsky's 1998 bestseller, COAST ROAD, featured a heroine who was a breast cancer survivor. To this day, it is the book that generates more mail than any of her others. That fact, combined with Barbara's ongoing commitment to breast cancer research, led her to her first book of nonfiction. Not a medical book — there is no discussion of the pros and cons of a particular treatment or hospital or doctor — UPLIFT is rather a collection of hundreds of pieces of practical and inspiring tidbits collected from ...

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Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors (Tenth Anniversary Edition)

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Overview

Barbara Delinsky's 1998 bestseller, COAST ROAD, featured a heroine who was a breast cancer survivor. To this day, it is the book that generates more mail than any of her others. That fact, combined with Barbara's ongoing commitment to breast cancer research, led her to her first book of nonfiction. Not a medical book — there is no discussion of the pros and cons of a particular treatment or hospital or doctor — UPLIFT is rather a collection of hundreds of pieces of practical and inspiring tidbits collected from survivors and their on everything from what kind of deodorant to use during radiation treatment to the best kinds of exercise aftloved ones. Think of it as "The Girlfriends' Guide" to breast cancer, with hints on everything from what kind of deodorant to use during radiation treatment to the best kinds of exercise after a mastectomy to how to tell the person you're most afraid to tell that you have cancer.

And as timeless as ever, this newly revised edition of UPLIFT contains the latest and most up-to-the-minute medical information, as well as new stories from inspiring cancer survivors.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Courageous, inspirational, and relentlessly optimistic, Uplift is a wellspring of information about getting through breast cancer and going on with your life, straight from women who have not only survived the disease but have thrived. Barbara Delinsky, the hugely popular author of novels such as Coast Road and The Vineyard, conceived of this project as a way of showing women that there is life after breast cancer, and it can be as full of activity, laughter, and intimacy as you choose it to be. In addition to collecting and organizing the submissions of women throughout the nation, Delinsky also reveals her own personal experience with breast cancer. Filled with humor and warmth -- and scores of tips for making it through diagnosis, chemo, hair loss, sickness, tattooing, recovery, and more -- this book is a must for any woman determined to join the "sisterhood of breast cancer survivors" (with emphasis on the word survivors), and the friends and family who love them.
Publishers Weekly
Delinsky (A Woman's Place), a prolific popular novelist, lost her mother to breast cancer and is herself a survivor of the disease. This practical guide is a worthy addition to recent literature about how individual women deal with this illness, like Jennie Nash's The Victoria's Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming (reviewed above). Delinsky has collected a compendium of survival secrets "that have nothing to do with doctors, machines or drugs and everything to do with women helping women" that she wished had been available to her when she was diagnosed in 1994. She offers short personal anecdotes contributed by breast cancer survivors of every age and background. They recount the strategies that helped them through all aspects of cancer, including diagnosis, treatment, support groups and how to best conduct relationships with family, friends and in the workplace. Upbeat in tone, the women share such tips as the types of deodorants that may be used during radiation, how to handle hair loss ("I called my hair dresser and had the remainder of my hair buzzed off.... My buzzed head represented strength and control"), what foods will lessen nausea and, in general, how to take charge of one's life and remain positive. Almost everyone will find something in this varied advice that applies to her particular situation. Several women, for example, thought that hiring a professional to clean for them was extremely beneficial during draining treatments, while another found the mindless "therapy" involved in weeding the garden helpful. Delinsky also contributes several reminiscences, e.g., of her determination to remain physically strong and emotionally healthy after her diagnosis. (Oct.) Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Now in paperback, breast cancer survivor and fiction favorite Delinsky's "support group between covers." Delinsky's name will bring the demand—again. (LJ 9/1/01)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743431378
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 5/20/2003
  • Edition description: Updated Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Delinsky

Barbara Delinsky has written many bestselling novels over the past two decades, including Looking for Peyton Place, The Summer I Dared, Flirting with Pete, An Accidental Woman, The Woman Next Door, The Vineyard, Lake News, Coast Road, Three Wishes, A Woman's Place, and For My Daughters. She is also the author of a nonfiction book, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors, available from Washington Square Press. Published in twenty-five languages worldwide, her books regularly appear on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Delinsky is a lifelong New Englander who loves communicating with her readers. She can be reached at P.O. Box 812894, Wellesley, MA 02482-0026, or visit her website: www.barbaradelinsky.com.

Biography

Born Ruth Greenberg, and raised in suburban Boston, Barbara Delinsky worked as a sociology researcher in children's services and was a newspaper photographer and reporter before turning to fiction writing full-time. In point of fact, she never intended to pursue a literary career. But, in the early 1980s, a newspaper article profiling three women who successfully balanced home, family, and romance writing caught her attention. Intrigued, she spent months researching and writing her first novel. It sold -- and Delinsky was off and running.

Praised by critics and fans alike for her character driven studies of marriage, parenthood, and friendship, Delinsky is one of a small cadre of successful women writers (including Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown) who started out writing pseudonymous paperbacks for the category romance genre and muscled their way onto the bestseller lists with hardcover escapist fiction. Yet she is candid about the hard work involved and insists there's no tried-and-true formula that converts automatically to easy money. As if to prove her own point, Delinsky works from eight in the morning to about seven at night, writing in the office above the garage in her Newton, Massachusetts home; doing research; handling interviews; or -- her least favorite part of the job -- touring the country making author appearances.

Over the decades Delinsky has written dozens of novels that have landed on The New York Times bestseller list, including Twilight Whispers (1988), For My Daughters (1994), Three Wishes (1997), Flirting with Pete (2003), and Family Tree (2007). In 2001, she published her first nonfiction title, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. A cancer survivor herself, she has earmarked all the profits from the sale of this book to benefit breast cancer research.

Good To Know

When she isn't writing, one of Delinsky's favorite pastimes is kayaking.

She gets some of her best ideas in the shower. "It's a little harder to write ideas down there," she wrote to fans on her web site, "but I've been known to yell something out to my husband, who does it for me!"

The family cat, Chelsea, is named after her 1992 novel The Passions of Chelsea Kane.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Billie Douglass, Bonnie Drake; born Ruth Greenberg
    2. Hometown:
      Newton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 9, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969

Read an Excerpt

1• On Diagnosis

First Things First

Where was I when I learned that I had breast cancer? You may as well ask where I was when I learned that JFK had been shot. I will never forget either answer.

In the case of JFK, I was in college, returning to my dormitory after class to find the television on in the dorm living room and my friends gathered around it. I remember feeling total disbelief—that what had happened couldn’t be so. It had nothing to do with political affiliation and everything to do with youth, vigor, and Camelot.

In the case of breast cancer, I felt no disbelief. I was working out in the basement of our home when my surgeon called to say that the results of my biopsy were in and that the tiny little granules she had removed from my breast were malignant. She told you that on the phone? Indeed, she did. It was just the right thing for me, and she knew it. She and I had been through biopsies together before. She knew that my mother had had breast cancer and that I’d been expecting it. She knew that the best approach to take with me would be the understated one. What she actually said was, “You’ve spent a lifetime waiting for the other shoe to fall, and now that it has, it’s a very small shoe. The cure rate for this is ninety-nine-point-five percent. Here is what I recommend . . .”

I listened. Then I hung up the phone and called my husband. Then I finished working out. In doing that, I was showing myself that I was healthy and strong, cancer and all. I needed to minimize the impact of what I’d learned . . . because just as a certain idealism had been lost when JFK was shot, so I knew that with a diagnosis of breast cancer, a part of my life was forever changed.

I was shaky as I climbed back up the stairs—and what had me most frightened wasn’t the prospect of having a re-excision and radiation. It was phoning our three sons, who were in three different states, in college and law school at the time. I went about making dinner, a crucial same-old same-old, as I put through those calls, and as I talked with each son I had the first of many cancer experiences that weren’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined. “Curable” was the word I stressed. My confidence was contagious.

MAKING DECISIONS

“When I was first diagnosed, I knew pretty much nothing about breast cancer—except that I didn’t want it! By learning everything I could, I started to calm down, sort things out, and actively make decisions. Knowledge is power. It definitely makes you feel a little bit more in control of your life.”

Deborah Lambert; diagnosed in 2000 at age 47;
medical secretary; Massachusetts

“The first thing I did when the doctor told me I had breast cancer was to sit down, since I was weak in the knees, then to get a pen and paper. As an educator I needed to get it all in print, to get it right. That served to calm me immediately.”

Christine Foutris; diagnosed in 1999 at age 49;
teacher; Illinois

“When I woke up after a lumpectomy and learned that I had breast cancer, I was in shock. To show how little I knew, when my husband was visiting and offered me a sip from his drink, I declined, saying that we didn’t know if he could catch cancer from my germs. After he left, I picked up a book that a friend had left. Opening it at random, my eyes caught the words, ‘A cancerous cell is, in fact, a weak and confused cell.’ That made both of us, I thought, and laughed heartily.”

Carol Pasternak; diagnosed in 1986 at age 47;
artist; Ontario, Canada

“I was devastated when I got the diagnosis of cancer. I’d had my mammogram faithfully every year. I went home to prepare dinner in a sort of shock. As I stood at the stove I worried about what was going to happen and how I could handle it. Then, suddenly, a feeling of calm and peace came over me, and an inner voice said, ‘You will be all right.’ From that moment on, I knew I would survive.”

Wendy Golab; diagnosed in 2000 at age 63;
nurse; Connecticut

“Realize that a diagnosis of cancer does not mean instant doom. You have time to investigate, reflect, get several opinions, and make careful decisions. Tell yourself this every morning, and tell everyone around you to keep telling it back to you.”

Susan Stamberg; diagnosed in 1986 at age 48;
broadcast journalist; Washington, D.C.

“I didn’t make any decisions about treatment until my children and significant other had been told. We all went to the surgeon’s office together the next day. My children were all in their twenties. The home care nurse and I gave one daughter a crash course in Nursing 101 so that she could change my dressings, and they all took turns driving me to my doctor appointments and treatment. This was a reassurance for them that nothing was being kept from them.”

Becky Honeycutt; diagnosed in 1995 at age 53;
licensed practical nurse; Indiana

“One of the very first things I did, after the words ‘cancer’ and ‘radiation’ were mentioned, was to get down to the local library to see what radiation entailed.”

Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48;
administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts

“When I was first diagnosed, I wanted information immediately. I wanted to know which treatment plan was right for me. I rushed out and purchased the largest book on breast cancer I could find and read it twice. I sought the advice of trusted family, friends, doctors, and breast cancer survivors. I made sure I was equipped with the best possible information, so that I could be my own best advocate.”

Corinne Wood; diagnosed in 1997 at age 42;
Lieutenant Governor; Illinois

“Treat your diagnosis as a business problem. Do research. Use the Internet, and go through literature at the hospital resource room. Feeling in control is pretty important, so begin with a notebook. The inside cover should have the name and telephone numbers of each of your caretakers (doctor, nurse, etc.) as they come on the scene. The notebook can be sectioned to keep track of doctors’ appointments, definitions, outside advice, and so on.”

Anne Jacobs; diagnosed in 1999 at age 62;
managing partner, real estate; Massachusetts

“Try to attend lectures on breast cancer. All major hospitals have these programs. Just call the community relations director. Attend lectures on the side effects of treatment and the importance of good nutrition.”

Ellen Beth Simon; diagnosed in 1998 at age 41;
lawyer; New Jersey

“When I went to appointments after the diagnosis, I always had two or three of the children with me and sometimes all of them. They had so many questions to ask and also wanted to make sure I understood all the doctor was saying. After a while, I went alone with just my husband. When the doctor came in and saw only the two of us, he started hunting in all the closets and cupboards and finally said, ‘Okay, where are they hiding?’ We got a big chuckle out of that.”

Sally Martel; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60;
wife, mother, retired accountant; New Hampshire, Florida

“The hardest part of the whole mess was deciding what I wanted to do. I struggled with the decision-making process. Finally a dear, sweet lady said, ‘Do your homework, make a decision, and don’t look back. You can deal with whatever is up ahead when you get to it.’ She was right.”

Mitzi Scarborough; diagnosed in 1999 at age 37;
childcare provider; Arkansas

“How much do you really want to know? Be honest with yourself. Once you have the answer and know what your learning style is, find a survivor who is a match with you.”

Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

“I would have loved to talk with someone about all of this before I had surgery and treatment. The worst part was my imagination. I worried myself to death with chemotherapy horror stories. But it’s a lot like pregnancy; it’s livable, doable.”

Joy West; diagnosed in 2000 at 34;
advertising account coordinator; South Carolina

“In deciding which option was best for me, I felt like I was looking at a Chinese menu. But what I found most comforting was that no matter who I talked to or what her own decision was, each felt confident of her decision even years later. Women even offered to show me their breasts. The idea of going to work without a bra began to sound pretty good.”

Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47;
merchandiser; South Carolina

“During the diagnosis phase, go to a fertility clinic for advice if you desire to have children after treatment for breast cancer.”

Alexandra Koffman; diagnosed in 1997 at age 40;
registered nurse; Massachusetts

“When you’re first diagnosed, you may find yourself reading books, watching videos, getting more and more information on your options. The important thing to remember is that you need to make the decision that’s best for you. No one else can tell you that what you have decided to do is wrong, because there is no wrong, if this is what you want.”

Glenda Chance; diagnosed in 2000 at age 38;
homemaker, mother, and wife; Ohio

“Be your own advocate. Do what feels right for you. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything.”

Rhonda Sorrell; diagnosed in 1998 at age 43;
special education teacher; Michigan

“Knowledge is power. The more educated you become, the less frightening the unknown is. Read, read, and read more. It helps!”

Cathy Hanlon; diagnosed in 2000 at age 42;
school researcher; New York

“Twenty-one years ago, when I was diagnosed, many people recommended that I read a particular book on breast cancer. It happens that the author’s husband had left her following her diagnosis. I remember thinking how depressing that was. My husband was there. He was worried about me, and I was worried about him, since he looked like he’d been kicked in the stomach. I never had to even think about his leaving. I knew I was more to him than a pair of breasts, and any woman with a strong relationship should know so, too. It helped him that a family friend whose wife had recently had a mastectomy made the effort to talk to him. Marty isn’t one who easily verbalizes his feelings, but having a friend who’d been through it was good for him.”

Lynne Rutenberg; diagnosed in 1980 at age 35;
retired teacher; New Jersey

“Research everything about your disease. Ask questions. The ultimate decisions are yours to make. If you do your homework, you will feel that you have done the best for yourself and, ultimately, for all those who love and depend on you.”

Christine Webber; diagnosed in 1998 at age 55;
registered nurse; Illinois

“Everyone handles traumatic situations differently. What is right for one can be wrong for another. I did everything I could not to dwell on my situation. I chose my doctors, got a second opinion, contacted the National Cancer Institute for the latest information, then I left it at that. A friend mailed me a book she had painstakingly highlighted to make the information she thought I needed more accessible—I never read it. People sent me articles, which I never read. I dressed up for every appointment, so my doctors and nurses would see what I looked like well and consider me a person who would be well. I was not in denial about having had breast cancer. Whenever I had a chance, I mentioned it to people. That was the promise I had made, the ‘bargain’ for my life . . . that I would spread the word that women had breast cancer and lived.”

Jane Vaughan; diagnosed in 1991 at age 53;
writer; Texas

“I strongly recommend to anyone newly diagnosed that they join a clinical trials study. It is like having the undivided attention of a complete support system at all times.”

Jacki Anthony; diagnosed in 1998 at age 48;
nurse; Massachusetts

“The four words that I live by: This too shall pass.”

Suzanne Almond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60;
secretary to the Special Services Director; New Hampshire

“Remember to thank your healthcare team as you navigate through the system of treatment. You would be surprised how much they worry about you as they plan your course of treatment.”

Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

HELPFUL LITTLE TRICKS

“Take another person with you to your doctor appointments to act as your advocate. They can ask questions you forget to ask and can make sure things are well explained. Also, take a list of questions with you, so you don’t forget to ask the doctor something important. I know a woman who used to fax her questions in advance to her oncologist. Tape recorders are good for remembering the answers.”

Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52;
registered nurse; Connecticut

“My mother and my husband were with me at every doctor’s appointment after my diagnosis. My mom kept a spiral notebook with her at all times to take notes. When we went for the first consultation to discuss the results of the pathology report, my mother had written down all the words that could possibly describe a tumor. When the doctor began, Mom just started circling words. This helped all of us to concentrate on what the doctor was saying. It was also helpful when reviewing later and doing research.”

Jennifer Wersal; diagnosed in 2000 at age 30;
marketing; Texas

“After my diagnosis, my dear friend and neighbor, Diane, came to the rescue. Because my husband and I were numb and couldn’t ‘hear,’ Diane went with us to see three surgeons, a radiation oncologist, and a reconstructive surgeon. She took notes, and we discussed my options later. One surgeon also taped our consultation. I suggest to others that they take a tape recorder to all appointments, plus a ‘Diane’—someone who loves you but can distance themselves.”

Marianne Rennie; diagnosed in 1988 at age 39;
cancer information specialist; Ohio

“Take a little tape recorder with you when you have your initial consultations with the surgeon and oncologist. Even if you have a friend or family member with you, there is just too much information to remember. I was able to replay the tape for my mother and sister, and it helped to answer questions that I had later on. There is just too much emotion going on to have to rely on your memory for technical terms and procedures.”

Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48;
administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts

“When I was first diagnosed, a friend suggested I keep a journal of everything that was happening to me—what the doctor said, when and what the treatments were, and so on. I began doing that but found it to be too consuming. I was a pretty well-informed patient, and I didn’t think I needed to concentrate on my cancer this way. Instead, I decided to keep a ‘grateful journal.’ Every day I wrote down five things that I was grateful for. Granted, some days it was difficult to meet that goal, but every day for nine months I wrote something. It was such a positive exercise during a difficult time in my life. When I read those journals now, they lift my spirits.”

Susan Kowalski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 50;
college executive staff assistant; New York

“Form a phone tree. Then you only have to give an update to one person. Otherwise, the phone rings off the hook!”

Stephanie King;
friend of two survivors; New York

FINDING EARLY SUPPORT

“My husband was at home when I got the news. Our children were racing in the door from school, and at the same time the radiologist on the phone was confirming to me that I had cancer. I hung up and felt swallowed in confusion. My kids were rifling through the cabinets looking for snacks, and my husband was looking at the terror on my face, knowing in his heart what had just been said on the phone without hearing a word. Our children were eight and ten, and we decided that they needed to know. I made appointments with their teachers and explained the circumstances. With four months left in the school year, I knew I would need their help and support. I felt like I was assembling a team to go to war; it was empowering to have people on my side. When it came to the kids, we took them through each step separately so as not to overwhelm them—first surgery, then chemo, then radiation. Having information gave them the power to talk about the experience as we all went through it.”

Cindy Fiedler; diagnosed in 1998 at age 40;
registered nurse, mom; Massachusetts

“I never hid my diagnosis. I cannot stress enough the importance of being open. It is amazing how many people will be there for you. The support of others is one of the greatest healers around.”

Dee Pobjoy; diagnosed in 1999 at age 41;
sales clerk; Wisconsin

“At the time of my diagnosis, there were several other women in town who’d had breast cancer. One of them was a good friend and tennis partner of mine. She called and gave me a lot of support and advice. This helped me tremendously.”

Polly Briggs; diagnosed in 1987 at age 41;
secretary; Mississippi

“On the day of my diagnosis, I phoned a friend who had gone through breast cancer three years before. She was very busy with work, but she gave me the time I needed. She told me that until I determined what my treatment should be, I would feel that I was totally out of control, but that once the decision was made, it would feel like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. She was correct. I will always remember her last words. I said that I appreciated her time and long pep talk, and she said, ‘You know, this is therapy for me, too.’”

Caroline C. Hudnall; diagnosed in 1992 at age 55;
retired legal tech in the Supreme Court of Alaska; Montana

“My surgeon told me I had breast cancer at 5 P.M. on a Monday and gave me until noon the next day to decide between mastectomy and lumpectomy. I knew what a mastectomy was, but I knew nothing about a lumpectomy. Frantic, I called two of my girl-friends, each of whom had a friend who’d had breast cancer. Both of these women called me that night. They offered no opinions but did give me the knowledge I needed to make the right decision for me. They were absolutely wonderful with their support before, during, and after the surgery. They also helped me understand the process of radiation. This is a scary experience. Without their help, it would have been much more stressful.”

Rose Marie Clark; diagnosed in 1996 at age 50;
retired; New York

“When I was first diagnosed, I e-mailed a few friends to let them know. One friend who was not on my initial list e-mailed me to say, ‘We’re your friends in the bad times as well as the good!’ After that, I gave my two closest friends permission to pass on my e-mail to anyone they felt it would help. The list grew over the next six months from fourteen to over two hundred. Discovering that people truly care about me was wonderful.”

Deb Haggerty; diagnosed in 1999 at age 51;
professional speaker; Florida

“My feeling when I learned my diagnosis was, ‘Why me? I have been a good person and had such a nasty marriage, and things are finally good in my world. Why now?’ I was scared and cried in the parking lot. My boyfriend, Jerry, held me tightly and kept reassuring me that my cancer was curable. After surgery, the cards and phone calls were not to be believed. My bosses sent flowers and two huge live lobsters, which I loved!”

Sharon Daniels; diagnosed in 2000 at age 49;
hairstylist, wig store owner; Massachusetts

“Sleep didn’t come easy for me after my diagnosis. Instead of sleeping pills, my husband and I started having a glass of wine before bedtime to help me relax. Every night while we drank wine, we talked, we read to each other, and we played games. This be came a special time together when we shared our feelings, fears, and hopes for the future.”

Julie Crandall; diagnosed in 1998 at age 31;
stay-at-home mom; North Carolina

“We had gotten two kittens a few weeks before I learned I had cancer. They were confined to the guest bedroom. Whenever I was feeling down, I would go in and lie on the bed with them. They would climb all over me, cheering me into a better mood. My husband referred to my going in there as ‘opening a can of kittens.’”

Jeanne Sturdevant; diagnosed in 1990 at age 45;
artist; Texas

“Being a mother, wife, and nurse, I’d always been in the position of caring for everyone but myself. So I made an appointment with the social worker who was affiliated with the breast center I went to. Now, I must confess, I’m not one to share my feelings with a perfect stranger, but somehow I felt this was the healthiest thing to do. Though it was awkward and uncomfortable at first, I visited this social worker regularly. This helped me keep things in perspective. As time passed, I looked forward to our visits as a place where I could speak of what I feared or sing of my accomplishments.”

Cindy Fiedler; diagnosed in 1998 at age 40;
registered nurse, mom; Massachusetts

GROWING BOLD

“When I awoke in the hospital after my mastectomy, the operating room nurse sat by my bed. A breast cancer survivor herself, she had been sent by my surgeon. Her advice was, ‘When you need something from someone, ask.’ My generation of women was taught to ‘suffer silently,’ not to complain or impose. An hour or so later, my husband called from his office a few blocks away to see how I was doing. I told him that I needed him, and he came immediately. Before the nurse’s advice, I would have told my husband that I was okay—and then been miserable. Her advice has improved everything in my life!”

Jane Vaughan; diagnosed in 1991 at age 53;
writer; Texas

“Write all your questions down before your doctor’s appointment. Make sure your doctor listens to you and doesn’t talk down to you. If necessary, change doctors until you get the right one.”

Ellen Beth Simon; diagnosed in 1998 at age 41;
lawyer; New Jersey

“If you think that something isn’t right or hasn’t been answered or resolved to your satisfaction, hang in there until you are satisfied—at every step of the way! When I had doubts about the way a technician was setting me up for radiation, I asked that he not work with me in the future. My request was respected. That was important.”

Anne Jacobs; diagnosed in 1999 at age 62;
managing partner, real estate; Massachusetts

“The mammography technician who helped prep me for biopsy surgery was so kind that I have requested she do my mammograms each time I have gone back for followups. As a result, she and I have become friends.”

Jeanne Sturdevant; diganosed in 1990 at age 45;
artist; Texas

“If a needle wire localization is being done before biopsy or lumpectomy, ask if it can be done in the supine position. Most modern breast centers can do this. I had to sit up for the first round, only minutes before my lumpectomy. Between the discomfort of the procedure and anticipating surgery afterward, I passed out cold! My surgery was canceled, and I had to return for it a week later. The second time went much better. It was easier being able to lie down.”

Donna Barnett; diagnosed in 1999 at age 40;
registered nurse; California

“I refused to go back to the first radiation oncologist I saw, because he made me feel like a piece of meat. The second one was very sensitive to my feelings. He made a note on my radiation card that no male techs were to take care of me, and the female techs made a point of being busy with other things while I was undressing, thus making me feel less exposed. You have to speak up for yourself and let people know what your comfort levels are.”

Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52;
registered nurse; Connecticut

“Get a second opinion if you are unhappy with the first one. Do some reading, and speak up for what you want.”

Mary Raffol; diagnosed in 1998 at age 44;
teacher; Massachusetts

“At no other time in your life will you have so much power and control over your own destiny; choose your health team well.”

Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

“I became bold enough to leave my first surgeon and radiation oncologist, because I didn’t feel comfortable putting my life in their hands. At least, I still had some power.”

Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47;
merchandiser; South Carolina

“My first oncologist asked whether I wanted to take treatment, since there was no guarantee that it would help. My husband and I left that doctor and found another who said, ‘You have a one in eleven chance, and you might as well be that one.’ His positive attitude lifted our spirits. A year later, when my treatment was done and he told us there was no sign of cancer, I thanked him for saving my life. His reply was that my positive attitude had made the difference. ‘You knew you were going to get better, and you did,’ he said. Attitude is so important on everyone’s part.”

Florence Chandler; diagnosed in 1995 at age 66;
retired motel owner; Florida

ATTITUDE INDEED . . .

“The most constructive thing I did when I learned my diagnosis was to continue to write out the invitations to my daughter’s wedding shower.”

Frances Gallello; diagnosed in 2000 at age 51;
mental health assistant; New York

“The best thing I did after being diagnosed was not to cancel a planned bicyle trip. It did more for my optimism than anything else could have done. Same thing with attending a neighborhood party on the day I came home from the hospital. I refused to hole up in self-pity.”

Judith Ormond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 49;
symphony musician—piccolo; Wisconsin

“My husband, who is my best friend, took me for a walk in the woods the day I was told I had a malignancy in my breast. He knew that was where my spirit is most at peace.”

Robin Smith; diagnosed in 2000 at age 53;
microbiologist, homemaker; New York

“I cried a lot during the two weeks between when I learned I had breast cancer and the day I had the surgery. Once all the decisions were made and the surgery done, though, I considered my self ‘on the road to recovery,’ and I was determined not to cry or feel sorry for myself. I’ve always been an optimistic person and was determined to continue being that way. I considered what was happening to my body to be a temporary condition.”

Patti R. Martinez; diagnosed in 1999 at age 54;
realtor; California

“Seven years ago, when I got my cancer diagnosis, I fell apart. I had no one to tell, my children were away at college, and I was by myself in the hills of Kentucky. I remember driving into the driveway and going straight to the barn to see my animals. My main concern was who was going to take care of them if I could not? My animals were the reason I was living in the county. They were part of my family. I went to visit a neighbor who was ninety-three years old at the time, and I had all the intentions of telling her what was wrong. When I walked in her house, though, she spoke before me. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘some days God gives us a heavy load to carry, and we must do the best we can to tote it.’ My neighbor died the following Sunday, and I still remember what she said. This is my eighth year since the diagnosis. My life has changed, and I have met wonderful people whom I would not have otherwise known.”

Antonia Rhodes; diagnosed in 1993 at age 50;
Breast Cancer Outreach person; New York

“When I was diagnosed, I had just retired, and we had many plans for things to do. I found that continuing to work on those plans helped me to realize that this was just a bump in the road.”

Monetta Lockey; diagnosed in 1997 at age 59;
retired teacher; Texas

“Even after my diagnosis, I went on a Caribbean cruise as planned. I continued with my regular schedule as soon as possible, seeing as many friends and relatives as possible so that they would know I was alive and well.”

Carol Hattler; diagnosed in 1999 at age 65;
retired nurse; Virginia

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I took six months’ leave of absence from my job. During this time, amid surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, I discovered my creative side. I began to write poetry.”

Mary Platt; diagnosed in 1998 at age 47;
radiology supervisor; South Carolina

“One strange thing. I cried when I was first diagnosed and never cried after that. Now, I cry at so many touching things. I feel that it’s okay and healthy to do this. But I don’t cry for myself. Not ever.”

Sheila Roper; diagnosed in 1995 at age 57;
homemaker; New Hampshire

“When my doctor told me that I had breast cancer, I had a good cry. Then I decided that I wanted to live and would do everything necessary to achieve that goal.”

Sandy Mark; diagnosed in 1998 at age 55;
administrative assistant; Connecticut

“When I was diagnosed, I kept three bits of advice in mind. First, stay in control. Second, be informed. Third, keep a positive outlook. After my surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, I add a fourth to the list. Be proud to be a survivor.”

Helen Ann Kelly; diagnosed in 1996 at age 43;
teacher; New Hampshire

“My husband says that he got most of his comfort from me, because he felt that I was in control both of my disease and of the day-to-day workings of our lives. That was my goal—to keep every thing at home operating as usual. The most contructive thing I did after hearing my diagnosis was to personally tell every friend, relative, neighbor, and co-worker of my diagnosis. As time passed, I kept everyone up to date with all the details, so that there would be no mystery or misunderstanding.”

Deborah J.P. Schur; diagnosed in 1994 at age 43;
sales rep; Massachusetts

“A breast cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, especially because there is a lot of waiting—waiting for the mammogram results, waiting for the biopsy results, waiting to talk to the surgeon and plastic surgeon, and then waiting for the surgery. All this waiting can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety! Slow, desperate, and out of control were the feelings I was experiencing. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to take control or I would lose control. I believe the single most powerful thing I did to get through my breast cancer diagnosis was to concentrate on truly living and enjoying every day. For me this meant simply keeping very busy, doing things I enjoyed doing. The last thing I needed was time on my own. I took every opportunity I could to simply be with people—anybody and everybody. By forcing myself to be out in the world, surrounded by others, I was forced to look beyond myself. And did I ever keep busy! My husband and I took long bike rides, we went to the mall, we went out to eat, we went away every weekend—to the beach, to the mountains, anywhere, while we waited. It sounds so simple, but by keeping busy and active, I was reminding myself that life does go on. I did not feel ill; I felt good and healthy and alive. It was liberating to feel in control of my actions and my mind.”

Julie Crandall; diagnosed in 1998 at age 31;
stay-at-home mom; North Carolina

“Being diagnosed at twenty-four, married, and taking care of a two-year-old can be overwhelming for anyone. Not me! When I found out I had cancer, I did not think I was going to die. I was just going to face the facts and beat this to the end, and that I did.”

Candice Jaeger; diagnosed in 2000 at age 24;
wife, mother; Illinois

“I have always tried to live and eat healthily. Still, I found a lump in my breast. I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Since I am the mother of two daughters and have two granddaughters, I participated in a clinical study. I thought that if my participation could help at least one other person, it would all be worth while.”

Nancy Ellis; diagnosed in 2000 at age 53;
quality technician; New York

“One year ago I was diagnosed

My life turned upside down How do I feel about that?
I don’t know.
Happy to be alive I would be dead If not for the check-up How do I feel about that?
Grateful.”

Cheryl Wilkinson; diagnosed in 1999 at age 45;
fast food; Ohio

“From the beginning, set your mind on one thought: I will beat this. It will not beat me.”

Susan Schultz; diagnosed in 1990 at age 41;
special education teacher’s aide; New York

“What worked for me? Never ever, ever thinking I would not survive.”

Eleanor Anbinder; diagnosed in 1991 at age 50;
sales manager; Massachusetts

© 2011 Barbara Delinsky Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research

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Table of Contents

Foreword VII
Foreword to the Paperback Edition XIX
1 On Diagnosis: First Things First 1
2 Losing a Breast: Practical and Emotional 21
3 Radiation: Soaking Up the Rays 41
4 Chemo and Hair: Mane Matters 57
5 Chemo and Everything Else: A Smorgasbord 85
6 Taking the Reins: Regaining Control 102
7 Family: Our Inheritance 125
8 Friends: We Pick 'Em 146
9 The Workplace: Making It User-Friendly 165
10 Support Groups: From Traditional to Offbeat 181
11 Humor: You Gotta Laugh... 199
12 Men: By, For, and About 213
13 Exercise: Making the Body Better 238
14 Recurrence: Come Again? 251
15 Religion: Bringing In the Big Gun 270
16 Pure Uplift: Wrapping It Up with a Bow 278
Acknowledgments 299
List of Contributors 303
An Invitation from UPLIFT 309
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First Chapter

Chapter One: On Diagnosis

First Things First

Where was I when I learned that I had breast cancer? You may as well ask where I was when I learned that JFK had been shot. I will never forget either answer.

In the case of JFK, I was in college, returning to my dormitory after class to find the television on in the dorm living room and my friends gathered around it. I remember feeling total disbelief -- that what had happened couldn't be so. It had nothing to do with political affiliation and everything to do with youth, vigor, and Camelot.

In the case of breast cancer, I felt no disbelief. I was working out in the basement of our home when my surgeon called to say that the results of my biopsy were in and that the tiny little granules she had removed from my breast were malignant. She told you that on the phone? Indeed, she did. It was just the right thing for me, and she knew it. She and I had been through biopsies together before. She knew that my mother had had breast cancer and that I'd been expecting it. She knew that the best approach to take with me would be the understated one. What she actually said was, "You've spent a lifetime waiting for the other shoe to fall, and now that it has, it's a very small shoe. The cure rate for this is ninety-nine-point-five percent. Here is what I recommend ..."

I listened. Then I hung up the phone and called my husband. Then I finished working out. In doing that, I was showing myself that I was healthy and strong, cancer and all. I needed to minimize the impact of what I'd learned...because just as a certain idealism had been lost when JFK was shot, so I knew that with a diagnosis of breast cancer, a part of my life was forever changed.

I was shaky as I climbed back up the stairs -- and what had me most frightened wasn't the prospect of having a re-excision and radiation. It was phoning our three sons, who were in three different states, in college and law school at the time. I went about making dinner, a crucial same-old same-old, as I put through those calls, and as I talked with each son I had the first of many cancer experiences that weren't nearly as bad as I'd imagined. "Curable" was the word I stressed. My confidence was contagious.

Making Decisions

"When I was first diagnosed, I knew pretty much nothing about breast cancer -- except that I didn't want it! By learning everything I could, I started to calm down, sort things out, and actively make decisions. Knowledge is power. It definitely makes you feel a little bit more in control of your life."
Deborah Lambert; diagnosed in 2000 at age 47;
medical secretary; Massachusetts

"The first thing I did when the doctor told me I had breast cancer was to sit down, since I was weak in the knees, then to get a pen and paper. As an educator I needed to get it all in print, to get it right. That served to calm me immediately."
Christine Foutris; diagnosed in 1999 at age 49;
teacher; Illinois

"When I woke up after a lumpectomy and learned that I had breast cancer, I was in shock. To show how little I knew, when my husband was visiting and offered me a sip from his drink, I declined, saying that we didn't know if he could catch cancer from my germs. After he left, I picked up a book that a friend had left. Opening it at random, my eyes caught the words, 'A cancerous cell is, in fact, a weak and confused cell.' That made both of us, I thought, and laughed heartily."
Carol Pasternak; diagnosed in 1986 at age 47;
artist; Ontario, Canada

"I was devastated when I got the diagnosis of cancer. I'd had my mammogram faithfully every year. I went home to prepare dinner in a sort of shock. As I stood at the stove I worried about what was going to happen and how I could handle it. Then, suddenly, a feeling of calm and peace came over me, and an inner voice said, 'You will be all right.' From that moment on, I knew I would survive."
Wendy Golab; diagnosed in 2000 at age 63;
nurse; Connecticut

"Realize that a diagnosis of cancer does not mean instant doom. You have time to investigate, reflect, get several opinions, and make careful decisions. Tell yourself this every morning, and tell everyone around you to keep telling it back to you."
Susan Stamberg; diagnosed in 1986 at age 48;
broadcast journalist; Washington, D.C.

"I didn't make any decisions about treatment until my children and significant other had been told. We all went to the surgeon's office together the next day. My children were all in their twenties. The home care nurse and I gave one daughter a crash course in Nursing 101 so that she could change my dressings, and they all took turns driving me to my doctor appointments and treatment. This was a reassurance for them that nothing was being kept from them."
Becky Honeycutt; diagnosed in 1995 at age 53;
licensed practical nurse; Indiana

"One of the very first things I did, after the words 'cancer' and 'radiation' were mentioned, was to get down to the local library to see what radiation entailed."
Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48;
administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts

"When I was first diagnosed, I wanted information immediately. I wanted to know which treatment plan was right for me. I rushed out and purchased the largest book on breast cancer I could find and read it twice. I sought the advice of trusted family, friends, doctors, and breast cancer survivors. I made sure I was equipped with the best possible information, so that I could be my own best advocate."
Corinne Wood; diagnosed in 1997 at age 42;
Lieutenant Governor; Illinois

"Treat your diagnosis as a business problem. Do research. Use the Internet, and go through literature at the hospital resource room. Feeling in control is pretty important, so begin with a notebook. The inside cover should have the name and telephone numbers of each of your caretakers (doctor, nurse, etc.) as they come on the scene. The notebook can be sectioned to keep track of doctors' appointments, definitions, outside advice, and so on."
Anne Jacobs; diagnosed in 1999 at age 62;
managing partner, real estate; Massachusetts

"Try to attend lectures on breast cancer. All major hospitals have these programs. Just call the community relations director. Attend lectures on the side effects of treatment and the importance of good nutrition."
Ellen Beth Simon; diagnosed in 1998 at age 41;
lawyer; New Jersey

"When I went to appointments after the diagnosis, I always had two or three of the children with me and sometimes all of them. They had so many questions to ask and also wanted to make sure I understood all the doctor was saying. After a while, I went alone with just my husband. When the doctor came in and saw only the two of us, he started hunting in all the closets and cupboards and finally said, 'Okay, where are they hiding?' We got a big chuckle out of that."
Sally Martel; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60;
wife, mother, retired accountant; New Hampshire, Florida

"The hardest part of the whole mess was deciding what I wanted to do. I struggled with the decision-making process. Finally a dear, sweet lady said, 'Do your homework, make a decision, and don't look back. You can deal with whatever is up ahead when you get to it.' She was right."
Mitzi Scarborough; diagnosed in 1999 at age 37;
childcare provider; Arkansas

"How much do you really want to know? Be honest with yourself. Once you have the answer and know what your learning style is, find a survivor who is a match with you."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

"I would have loved to talk with someone about all of this before I had surgery and treatment. The worst part was my imagination. I worried myself to death with chemotherapy horror stories. But it's a lot like pregnancy; it's livable, doable."
Joy West; diagnosed in 2000 at 34;
advertising account coordinator; South Carolina

"In deciding which option was best for me, I felt like I was looking at a Chinese menu. But what I found most comforting was that no matter who I talked to or what her own decision was, each felt confident of her decision even years later. Women even offered to show me their breasts. The idea of going to work without a bra began to sound pretty good."
Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47;
merchandiser; South Carolina

"During the diagnosis phase, go to a fertility clinic for advice if you desire to have children after treatment for breast cancer."
Alexandra Koffman; diagnosed in 1997 at age 40;
registered nurse; Massachusetts

"When you're first diagnosed, you may find yourself reading books, watching videos, getting more and more information on your options. The important thing to remember is that you need to make the decision that's best for you. No one else can tell you that what you have decided to do is wrong, because there is no wrong, if this is what you want."
Glenda Chance; diagnosed in 2000 at age 38;
homemaker, mother, and wife; Ohio

"Be your own advocate. Do what feels right for you. Don't let anyone talk you into anything."
Rhonda Sorrell; diagnosed in 1998 at age 43;
special education teacher; Michigan

"Knowledge is power. The more educated you become, the less frightening the unknown is. Read, read, and read more. It helps!"
Cathy Hanlon; diagnosed in 2000 at age 42;
school researcher; New York

"Twenty-one years ago, when I was diagnosed, many people recommended that I read a particular book on breast cancer. It happens that the author's husband had left her following her diagnosis. I remember thinking how depressing that was. My husband was there. He was worried about me, and I was worried about him, since he looked like he'd been kicked in the stomach. I never had to even think about his leaving. I knew I was more to him than a pair of breasts, and any woman with a strong relationship should know so, too. It helped him that a family friend whose wife had recently had a mastectomy made the effort to talk to him. Marty isn't one who easily verbalizes his feelings, but having a friend who'd been through it was good for him."
Lynne Rutenberg; diagnosed in 1980 at age 35;
retired teacher; New Jersey

"Research everything about your disease. Ask questions. The ultimate decisions are yours to make. If you do your homework, you will feel that you have done the best for yourself and, ultimately, for all those who love and depend on you."
Christine Webber; diagnosed in 1998 at age 55;
registered nurse; Illinois

"Everyone handles traumatic situations differently. What is right for one can be wrong for another. I did everything I could not to dwell on my situation. I chose my doctors, got a second opinion, contacted the National Cancer Institute for the latest information, then I left it at that. A friend mailed me a book she had painstakingly highlighted to make the information she thought I needed more accessible -- I never read it. People sent me articles, which I never read. I dressed up for every appointment, so my doctors and nurses would see what I looked like well and consider me a person who would be well. I was not in denial about having had breast cancer. Whenever I had a chance, I mentioned it to people. That was the promise I had made, the 'bargain' for my life...that I would spread the word that women had breast cancer and lived."
Jane Vaughan; diagnosed in 1991 at age 53;
writer; Texas

"I strongly recommend to anyone newly diagnosed that they join a clinical trials study. It is like having the undivided attention of a complete support system at all times."
Jacki Anthony; diagnosed in 1998 at age 48;
nurse; Massachusetts

"The four words that I live by: This too shall pass."
Suzanne Almond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 60;
secretary to the Special Services Director; New Hampshire

"Remember to thank your healthcare team as you navigate through the system of treatment. You would be surprised how much they worry about you as they plan your course of treatment."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

Helpful Little Tricks

"Take another person with you to your doctor appointments to act as your advocate. They can ask questions you forget to ask and can make sure things are well explained. Also, take a list of questions with you, so you don't forget to ask the doctor something important. I know a woman who used to fax her questions in advance to her oncologist. Tape recorders are good for remembering the answers."
Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52;
registered nurse; Connecticut

"My mother and my husband were with me at every doctor's appointment after my diagnosis. My mom kept a spiral notebook with her at all times to take notes. When we went for the first consultation to discuss the results of the pathology report, my mother had written down all the words that could possibly describe a tumor. When the doctor began, Mom just started circling words. This helped all of us to concentrate on what the doctor was saying. It was also helpful when reviewing later and doing research."
Jennifer Wersal; diagnosed in 2000 at age 30;
marketing; Texas

"After my diagnosis, my dear friend and neighbor, Diane, came to the rescue. Because my husband and I were numb and couldn't 'hear,' Diane went with us to see three surgeons, a radiation oncologist, and a reconstructive surgeon. She took notes, and we discussed my options later. One surgeon also taped our consultation. I suggest to others that they take a tape recorder to all appointments, plus a 'Diane'‹someone who loves you but can distance themselves."
Marianne Rennie; diagnosed in 1988 at age 39;
cancer information specialist; Ohio

"Take a little tape recorder with you when you have your initial consultations with the surgeon and oncologist. Even if you have a friend or family member with you, there is just too much information to remember. I was able to replay the tape for my mother and sister, and it helped to answer questions that I had later on. There is just too much emotion going on to have to rely on your memory for technical terms and procedures."
Deb Haney; diagnosed in 1996 at age 48;
administrative assistant, artist; Massachusetts

"When I was first diagnosed, a friend suggested I keep a journal of everything that was happening to me -- what the doctor said, when and what the treatments were, and so on. I began doing that but found it to be too consuming. I was a pretty well-informed patient, and I didn't think I needed to concentrate on my cancer this way. Instead, I decided to keep a 'grateful journal.' Every day I wrote down five things that I was grateful for. Granted, some days it was difficult to meet that goal, but every day for nine months I wrote something. It was such a positive exercise during a difficult time in my life. When I read those journals now, they lift my spirits."
Susan Kowalski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 50;
college executive staff assistant; New York

"Form a phone tree. Then you only have to give an update to one person. Otherwise, the phone rings off the hook!"
Stephanie King;
friend of two survivors; New York

Finding Early Support

"My husband was at home when I got the news. Our children were racing in the door from school, and at the same time the radiologist on the phone was confirming to me that I had cancer. I hung up and felt swallowed in confusion. My kids were rifling through the cabinets looking for snacks, and my husband was looking at the terror on my face, knowing in his heart what had just been said on the phone without hearing a word. Our children were eight and ten, and we decided that they needed to know. I made appointments with their teachers and explained the circumstances. With four months left in the school year, I knew I would need their help and support. I felt like I was assembling a team to go to war; it was empowering to have people on my side. When it came to the kids, we took them through each step separately so as not to overwhelm them‹first surgery, then chemo, then radiation. Having information gave them the power to talk about the experience as we all went through it."
Cindy Fiedler; diagnosed in 1988 at age 40;
registered nurse, mom; Massachusetts

"I never hid my diagnosis. I cannot stress enough the importance of being open. It is amazing how many people will be there for you. The support of others is one of the greatest healers around."
Dee Pobjoy; diagnosed in 1999 at age 41;
sales clerk; Wisconsin

"At the time of my diagnosis, there were several other women in town who'd had breast cancer. One of them was a good friend and tennis partner of mine. She called and gave me a lot of support and advice. This helped me tremendously."
Polly Briggs; diagnosed in 1987 at age 41;
secretary; Mississippi

"On the day of my diagnosis, I phoned a friend who had gone through breast cancer three years before. She was very busy with work, but she gave me the time I needed. She told me that until I determined what my treatment should be, I would feel that I was totally out of control, but that once the decision was made, it would feel like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. She was correct. I will always remember her last words. I said that I appreciated her time and long pep talk, and she said, 'You know, this is therapy for me, too.'"
Caroline C. Hudnall; diagnosed in 1992 at age 55;
retired legal tech in the Supreme Court of Alaska; Montana

"My surgeon told me I had breast cancer at 5 P.M. on a Monday and gave me until noon the next day to decide between mastectomy and lumpectomy. I knew what a mastectomy was, but I knew nothing about a lumpectomy. Frantic, I called two of my girlfriends, each of whom had a friend who'd had breast cancer. Both of these women called me that night. They offered no opinions but did give me the knowledge I needed to make the right decision for me. They were absolutely wonderful with their support before, during, and after the surgery. They also helped me understand the process of radiation. This is a scary experience, Without their help, it would have been much more stressful."
Rose Marie Clark; diagnosed in 1996 at age 50;
retired; New York

"When I was first diagnosed, I e-mailed a few friends to let them know. One friend who was not on my initial list e-mailed me to say, 'We're your friends in the bad times as well as the good!' After that, I gave my two closest friends permission to pass on my e-mail to anyone they felt it would help. The list grew over the next six months from fourteen to over two hundred. Discovering that people truly care about me was wonderful."
Deb Haggerty; diagnosed in 1999 at age 51;
professional speaker; Florida

"My feeling when I learned my diagnosis was, 'Why me? I have been a good person and had such a nasty marriage, and things are finally good in my world. Why now?' I was scared and cried in the parking lot. My boyfriend, Jerry, held me tightly and kept reassuring me that my cancer was curable. After surgery, the cards and phone calls were not to be believed. My bosses sent flowers and two huge live lobsters, which I loved!"
Sharon Daniels; diagnosed in 2000 at age 49;
hairstylist, wig store owner; Massachusetts

"Sleep didn't come easy for me after my diagnosis. Instead of sleeping pills, my husband and I started having a glass of wine before bedtime to help me relax. Every night while we drank wine, we talked, we read to each other, and we played games. This became a special time together when we shared our feelings, fears, and hopes for the future."
Julie Crandall; diagnosed in 1998 at age 31;
stay-at-home mom; North Carolina

"We had gotten two kittens a few weeks before I learned I had cancer. They were confined to the guest bedroom. Whenever I was feeling down, I would go in and lie on the bed with them. They would climb all over me, cheering me into a better mood. My husband referred to my going in there as 'opening a can of kittens.'"
Jeanne Sturdevant; diagnosed in 1990 at age 45;
artist; Texas

"Being a mother, wife, and nurse, I'd always been in the position of caring for everyone but myself. So I made an appointment with the social worker who was affiliated with the breast center I went to. Now, I must confess, I'm not one to share my feelings with a perfect stranger, but somehow I felt this was the healthiest thing to do. Though it was awkward and uncomfortable at first, I visited this social worker regularly. This helped me keep things in perspective. As time passed, I looked forward to our visits as a place where I could speak of what I feared or sing of my accomplishments."
Cindy Fiedler; diagnosed in 1998 at age 40;
registered nurse, mom; Massachusetts

Growing Bold

"When I awoke in the hospital after my mastectomy, the operating room nurse sat by my bed. A breast cancer survivor herself, she had been sent by my surgeon. Her advice was, 'When you need something from someone, ask.' My generation of women was taught to 'suffer silently,' not to complain or impose. An hour or so later, my husband called from his office a few blocks away to see how I was doing. I told him that I needed him, and he came immediately. Before the nurse's advice, I would have told my husband that I was okay‹and then been miserable. Her advice has improved everything in my life!"
Jane Vaughan; diagnosed in 1991 at age 53;
writer; Texas

"Write all your questions down before your doctor's appointment. Make sure your doctor listens to you and doesn't talk down to you. If necessary, change doctors until you get the right one."
Ellen Beth Simon; diagnosed in 1998 at age 41;
lawyer; New Jersey

"If you think that something isn't right or hasn't been answered or resolved to your satisfaction, hang in there until you are satisfied -- at every step of the way! When I had doubts about the way a technician was setting me up for radiation, I asked that he not work with me in the future. My request was respected. That was important."
Anne Jacobs; diagnosed in 1999 at age 62;
managing partner, real estate; Massachusetts

"The mammography technician who helped prep me for biopsy surgery was so kind that I have requested she do my mammograms each time I have gone back for followups. As a result, she and I have become friends."
Jeanne Sturdevant; diganosed in 1990 at age 45;
artist; Texas

"If a needle wire localization is being done before biopsy or lumpectomy, ask if it can be done in the supine position. Most modern breast centers can do this. I had to sit up for the first round, only minutes before my lumpectomy. Between the discomfort of the procedure and anticipating surgery afterward, I passed out cold! My surgery was canceled, and I had to return for it a week later. The second time went much better. It was easier being able to lie down."
Donna Barnett; diagnosed in 1999 at age 40;
registered nurse; California

"I refused to go back to the first radiation oncologist I saw, because he made me feel like a piece of meat. The second one was very sensitive to my feelings. He made a note on my radiation card that no male techs were to take care of me, and the female techs made of point of being busy with other things while I was undressing, thus making me feel less exposed. You have to speak up for yourself and let people know what your comfort levels are."
Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52;
registered nurse; Connecticut

"Get a second opinion if you are unhappy with the first one. Do some reading, and speak up for what you want."
Mary Raffol; diagnosed in 1998 at age 44;
teacher; Massachusetts

"At no other time in your life will you have so much power and control over your own destiny; choose your health team well."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46;
insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon

"I became bold enough to leave my first surgeon and radiation oncologist, because I didn't feel comfortable putting my life in their hands. At least, I still had some power."
Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47;
merchandiser; South Carolina

"My first oncologist asked whether I wanted to take treatment, since there was no guarantee that it would help. My husband and I left that doctor and found another who said, 'You have a one in eleven chance, and you might as well be that one.' His positive attitude lifted our spirits. A year later, when my treatment was done and he told us there was no sign of cancer, I thanked him for saving my life. His reply was that my positive attitude had made the difference. 'You knew you were going to get better, and you did,' he said. Attitude is so important on everyone's part."
Florence Chandler; diagnosed in 1995 at age 66;
retired motel owner; Florida

Attitude Indeed...

"The most constructive thing I did when I learned my diagnosis was to continue to write out the invitations to my daughter's wedding shower."
Frances Gallello; diagnosed in 2000 at age 51;
mental health assistant; New York

"The best thing I did after being diagnosed was not to cancel a planned bicyle trip. It did more for my optimism than anything else could have done. Same thing with attending a neighborhood party on the day I came home from the hospital. I refused to hole up in self-pity."
Judith Ormond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 49;
symphony musician -- piccolo; Wisconsin

"My husband, who is my best friend, took me for a walk in the woods the day I was told I had a malignancy in my breast. He knew that was where my spirit is most at peace."
Robin Smith; diagnosed in 2000 at age 53;
microbiologist, homemaker; New York

"I cried a lot during the two weeks between when I learned I had breast cancer and the day I had the surgery. Once all the decisions were made and the surgery done, though, I considered myself 'on the road to recovery,' and I was determined not to cry or feel sorry for myself. I've always been an optimistic person and was determined to continue being that way. I considered what was happening to my body to be a temporary condition."
Patti R. Martinez; diagnosed in 1999 at age 54;
realtor; California

"Seven years ago, when I got my cancer diagnosis, I fell apart. I had no one to tell, my children were away at college, and I was by myself in the hills of Kentucky. I remember driving into the driveway and going straight to the barn to see my animals. My main concern was who was going to take care of them if I could not? My animals were the reason I was living in the county. They were part of my family. I went to visit a neighbor who was ninety-three years old at the time, and I had all the intentions of telling her what was wrong. When I walked in her house, though, she spoke before me. 'You know,' she said, 'some days God gives us a heavy load to carry, and we must do the best we can to tote it.' My neighbor died the following Sunday, and I still remember what she said. This is my eighth year since the diagnosis. My life has changed, and I have met wonderful people whom I would not have otherwise known."
Antonia Rhodes; diagnosed in 1993 at age 50;
Breast Cancer Outreach person; New York

"When I was diagnosed, I had just retired, and we had many plans for things to do. I found that continuing to work on those plans helped me to realize that this was just a bump in the road."
Monetta Lockey; diagnosed in 1997 at age 59;
retired teacher; Texas

"Even after my diagnosis, I went on a Caribbean cruise as planned. I continued with my regular schedule as soon as possible, seeing as many friends and relatives as possible so that they would know I was alive and well."
Carol Hattler; diagnosed in 1999 at age 65;
retired nurse; Virginia

"When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I took six months' leave of absence from my job. During this time, amid surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, I discovered my creative side. I began to write poetry."
Mary Platt; diagnosed in 1998 at age 47;
radiology supervisor; South Carolina

"One strange thing. I cried when I was first diagnosed and never cried after that. Now, I cry at so many touching things. I feel that it's okay and healthy to do this. But I don't cry for myself. Not ever."
Sheila Roper; diagnosed in 1995 at age 57;
homemaker; New Hampshire

"When my doctor told me that I had breast cancer, I had a good cry. Then I decided that I wanted to live and would do everything necessary to achieve that goal."
Sandy Mark; diagnosed in 1998 at age 55;
administrative assistant; Connecticut

"When I was diagnosed, I kept three bits of advice in mind. First, stay in control. Second, be informed. Third, keep a positive outlook. After my surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, I add a fourth to the list. Be proud to be a survivor."
Helen Ann Kelly; diagnosed in 1996 at age 43;
teacher; New Hampshire

"My husband says that he got most of his comfort from me, because he felt that I was in control both of my disease and of the day-to-day workings of our lives. That was my goal -- to keep everything at home operating as usual. The most contructive thing I did after hearing my diagnosis was to personally tell every friend, relative, neighbor, and co-worker of my diagnosis. As time passed, I kept everyone up to date with all the details, so that there would be no mystery or misunderstanding."
Deborah J.P. Schur; diagnosed in 1994 at age 43;
sales rep; Massachusetts

"A breast cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, especially because there is a lot of waiting -- waiting for the mammogram results, waiting for the biopsy results, waiting to talk to the surgeon and plastic surgeon, and then waiting for the surgery. All this waiting can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety! Slow, desperate, and out of control were the feelings I was experiencing. It didn't take me long to realize that I had to take control or I would lose control. I believe the single most powerful thing I did to get through my breast cancer diagnosis was to concentrate on truly living and enjoying every day. For me this meant simply keeping very busy, doing things I enjoyed doing. The last thing I needed was time on my own. I took every opportunity I could to simply be with people -- anybody and everybody. By forcing myself to be out in the world, surrounded by others, I was forced to look beyond myself. And did I ever keep busy! My husband and I took long bike rides, we went to the mall, we went out to eat, we went away every weekend‹to the beach, to the mountains, anywhere, while we waited. It sounds so simple, but by keeping busy and active, I was reminding myself that life does go on. I did not feel ill; I felt good and healthy and alive. It was liberating to feel in control of my actions and my mind."
Julie Crandall; diagnosed in 1998 at age 31;
stay-at-home mom; North Carolina

"Being diagnosed at twenty-four, married, and taking care of a two-year-old can be overwhelming for anyone. Not me! When I found out I had cancer, I did not think I was going to die. I was just going to face the facts and beat this to the end, and that I did."
Candice Jaeger; diagnosed in 2000 at age 24;
wife, mother; Illinois

"I have always tried to live and eat healthily. Still, I found a lump in my breast. I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Since I am the mother of two daughters and have two granddaughters, I participated in a clinical study. I thought that if my participation could help at least one other person, it would all be worth while."
Nancy Ellis; diagnosed in 2000 at age 53;
quality technician; New York

"One year ago I was diagnosed
My life turned upside down
How do I feel about that?
I don't know.
Happy to be alive
I would be dead
If not for the check-up
How do I feel about that?
Grateful."
Cheryl Wilkinson; diagnosed in 1999 at age 45;
fast food; Ohio

"From the beginning, set your mind on one thought: I will beat this. It will not beat me."
Susan Schultz; diagnosed in 1990 at age 41;
special education teacher's aide; New York

"What worked for me? Never ever, ever thinking I would not survive."
Eleanor Anbinder; diagnosed in 1991 at age 50;
sales manager; Massachusetts

Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research

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Interviews & Essays

An Exclusive Interview with Barbara Delinsky

Barnes&Noble.com: Did you ever question your decision to "go public" with your experience? To relinquish your privacy to some extent?

Barbara Delinksky: Not once. Part of my motivation in putting Uplift together was to let those millions of women who read my books -- and see me as a healthy, active, vibrant woman -- learn that I'd had breast cancer and had not only survived but emerged better than ever. I felt that if I could be a role model for women now grappling with breast cancer -- if I could be a source of hope for them -- my career success would be turned into something even more positive than it is.

That said, I may have "gone public" about my own bout with this disease, but I haven't lost my privacy. My life hasn't changed, and it won't. I choose how I live -- another message in Uplift.

B&N.com: Do you think you were inspired to undertake the Uplift project because you never joined a support group yourself? Is it perhaps filling a void -- a need for comradery?

BD: I'm the mother of twins. When they were born, many people recommended that I join a support group for mothers of twins. But when? I didn't have the time. I was too busy being a mother of twins to go out talking about being the mother of twins. I did read books on mothering twins. I could do this during the few minutes when my twins were napping or at the end of a particularly hair-raising day. These books were all the support group I needed -- or had the time, strength, and stomach for.

From the start, I imagined that Uplift would fill the same void. For those women like me who had neither the time, strength, or stomach to attend a group meeting, Uplift offers an alternative.

For me, putting this book together wasn't about my own need for comradery. Given my writing schedule, I still don't have the time or strength for it. Rather, Uplift filled a need I had to reach out to the millions of women who read my fiction every year. They have been wonderfully supportive and loyal to me. I wanted to give back something to those among them who needed more than fiction.

B&N.com: You stress the importance of being positive. Is keeping a positive outlook as easy as it sounds?

BD: Yes and no. Being diagnosed with cancer is serious stuff. We wouldn't be human if we didn't have down moments. Surgery hurts; radiation is tiring and chemo nauseating; the waits are interminable, the unknown terrifying. We have earned the right to cry from time to time.

The important thing is making sure that it's only "from time to time." Self-pity does nothing but make you feel worse. Same with denial, even anger. Being positive is the single most productive approach. It's a state of mind that permeates the lives of survivors such as those in Uplift -- and, yes, it takes work sometimes. It definitely takes work. But if we think of breast cancer as a life-changing experience, becoming a more positive person has to be high up there on the list of most desirable changes. In that, it becomes self-perpetuating.

B&N.com: As I read each contribution I read the name, age, and date of diagnosis. After a few chapters I recognized the same people and almost felt that, in a way, I had come to know them. It gave the book a wonderful sense of continuity -- almost akin to characters you encounter in a novel. Was this intentional?

BD: No. I had initially assumed that one person would make one submission. I had also initially told submitters that they could be credited in the book any way they chose, whether by name or anonymously.

This wonderful sense of continuity emerged during the submission process, when I began to feel that I personally knew these people myself. But isn't that how support groups work? You do get to know the members, and they have different things to say on different topics. As I came to see just how much of a support group Uplift could be, I realized how important it would be for submitters to let me credit them by name, age and date of diagnosis, occupation, and home state. I felt that it would give validity to their words and authenticity to their person.

I sent a special mailing to submitters asking their permission for this, and I fully expected that there would be many who preferred anonymity. I was floored when permission slip after permission slip came back with every piece of that information provided, along with a big enthusiastic, "Yes!"

B&N.com: How has the Internet changed women's experiences with breast cancer?

BD: For one thing, the Internet offers plenty of information on breast cancer. I was one of those who only wanted to know what my doctor told me, but there are other women who want to know everything there is to know about the disease. Thanks to the Internet, these women can gain reams of knowledge and, therefore, feel empowered at a time when they might otherwise be feeling helpless.

For a second thing, the Internet enables women to communicate with many people at one time. This can be particularly helpful in giving medical updates to far-flung family members and friends.

For a third, women are finding mentors and email pals via the web. This is a new kind of support group -- and an important kind for people who are too busy juggling family, work, and cancer to attend traditional support group meetings.

B&N.com: I was stunned when I read contributions from women diagnosed at 27, 24, even 18. But at the same time I was buoyed to read contributions from women who were diagnosed at later ages and are now in their 70s and beyond. I agree with you that our awareness of women surviving breast cancer is not what it should be. But it also struck me that our awareness of young women having the disease is equally lacking. Do you agree?

BD: Yes, I do agree. Oh, we do hear about young women having the disease, but we usually hear about this because they've died. We don't hear about the many, many young women out there who have dealt with the disease and moved on with their lives.

One of the submitters to Uplift, the significant other of a survivor, both of them in their late twenties, said that they found a wonderful support group for young people like them, a group that could focus on the issues that were foremost in their minds. I think groups like this are terribly important. Young women with breast cancer face different issues and different decisions than women who are even ten or twenty years older.

B&N.com: You, as well as many of the women whose comments are featured in Uplift, talk about having a family history of breast cancer and "waiting for the other shoe to fall," as your doctor put it. Some women with breast cancer in the family describe having bilateral mastectomies as preventative measures. What would you say to women who are, as of now, undiagnosed but waiting for the diagnosis that seems inevitable?

BD: First, I would stress the word "seems." Studies show that women consistently overestimate their chances of getting breast cancer. The familial connection is actually not as great as it was once thought to be.

Second, I would stress early detection. Yearly mammograms are a must for woman with a family history of breast cancer. These woman need to make their doctors understand that for them, the regular mammogram, plus as careful a reading of it as possible, is crucial to their peace of mind.

The bottom line, of course, is that different women handle the threat of cancer in different ways. I did not want genetic testing; another woman might want it. I had a bilateral mastectomy after cancer was found in each breast; another woman might opt for lumpectomies. Though the details might vary, we must each do what gives us the greatest comfort. Much like the woman who decides to change jobs because she wants less of a commute, this is a quality-of-life issue.

B&N.com: I found your chapter on men particularly reassuring; I think it really conveys the message that the majority of men out there love us for more than our breasts. I was also surprised about the willingness of men -- not just husbands, but fathers, grandfathers, and sons -- to discuss this sensitive issue. Were you surprised by this as well?

BD: I was totally touched! These men are wonderful! I was also deeply gratified. I have always felt that the federal government would pay attention to breast cancer only when enough of those men in power had a woman in their life who developed the disease. This is beginning to happen, but money is an impersonal thing. For the men of Uplift to have come forward as they did, offering thoughts that were private, honest, and often gut-wrenching, still boggles my mind. In part, this reflects the openness of our society; discussing things to do with a "breast" is easier than it used to be. In larger part, though, it reflects a changing attitude toward breast cancer itself. Rather than being perceived either as a source of shame or a death sentence, it has become something to fight and overcome. Knowing that men are up for the fight is awesome!

B&N.com: In your layperson's opinion, as a survivor and as someone who has heard from countless other survivors, what are the main preventative actions that women should be taking?

BD: Oh Lord. In my layperson's opinion? I believe in mammograms. Early detection is crucial, and mammography is currently our most widely used tool for that. I believe in careful readings of those mammograms and follow-up testing of suspicious spots. I believe in breast self-examination, and quick follow-up when something is felt, no matter how small. I believe in eating properly, in limiting fat intake, in exercising regularly. I believe in making positive lifestyle choices.

All in my layperson's opinion, of course...

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2010

    Only read this book if have a great support system

    If you do not have a strong network of friends, this book can be very depressing and discouraging. It is full of entries about how family/friends helped out with their cancer journey. I found my self crying each time I opened it because it pointed out to me how the important people in my life had let me down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Great Gift

    I keep a supply of this book on hand. As a 16 year breast cancer survivor, I wish I had this book in 1993. When I hear of someone facing BC, I send a book. Sometimes I don't even know the woman well...but we are sisters in this...........The thank you notes I get are inspiring..they know I made it... and they can to. I previewed other books before deciding on this one. I recommend it...to the patient and anyone who like me "doesn't know what to say" but wants to help.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    I was diagnosed at 30 shortly after losing my sister to 'The Beast'. While I had well meaning friends and family, most had no idea what I was truly experiencing. Reading tips, tricks and coping strategies of other survivors helped me feel less alone. More importantly Uplift reminded me that Breast Cancer is not a death sentence and that it can't change who I am. A perfect gift when you don't know how to help.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    Practical, encouraging advice for breast cancer survivors

    This book contains helpful tips and suggestions on such matters as breast reconstruction, dealing with nausea from chemotherapy, and maintaining emotional health from breast cancer survivors themselves. I give it to anyone I know who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2003

    Every Breast Cancer Survivor Should Read This

    I may be biased because I contributed to the recurrence chapter in this new edition. I was so moved by the first edition that I wrote to share my story. I buy this book ten at a time and give them to anyone who is newly diagnosed. I have also given copies to the Breast center where I have my mammograms, my surgeon and my oncologist. I feel that this the most helpful book for anyone dealing with this diease. It's completely non-threatening. There is no technical stuff. Just pure support and encouragement.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A special author donates funds for this worthy cause

    Known for her strong dramas and her incredible publication rate, Barbara Delinsky has written her best work ever with this uplifting work of nonfiction. UPLIFT: SECRETS FROM THE SISTERHOOD OF BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS is a lot more than just a self-help guide though that is a major part of the book. Ms. Delinsky and friends provides 'secrets that their respective doctors and others never told them about in their personal fight with breast cancer, a disease that played on the psyche of most of the participants. In the case of Ms. Delinsky she also had the haunting memory of her mom's death from this potential killer.<P> Part angst, part strategy, part belonging (an open invitation to join this courageous survivor's club) the book is loaded with anecdotal tales from survivors of the war. The optimistic tips will buoy the individual ready to do battle on how to take control of one's life instead of the physician, well meaning family members, or the illness running the show. Delinsky and the other veterans earn purple hearts as they furbish a triumphant uplifting inspirational tale that gives hope not just to breast cancer victims, but anyone facing the horrors of a devastating potentially deadly disease.<P> Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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