Sharon was a busy president of a growing medical practice when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46. Her friends rallied around her as only good friends can do. They offered to shop. They offered to cook. And, they offered to just sit with her when she needed to talk.
It made a big difference, Sharon said, to know that there were so many people supporting her, and she graciously accepted what they offered as she needed. The most important thing she asked of them however, had more to do with caring for themselves than caring for her.
In a heartfelt email update sent to her circle of friends, she wrote:
Many of you know that I am not someone who generally asks for help (I prefer to give it!) but I am going to do my best to ask for what I need over the coming weeks. Right now, my only ask is that you please call on Monday to schedule a mammogram if you have not had one in the past year. My tumor would not have been detected without this as I still can’t feel it!
Sharon said this was her way of trying to take care of her friends while they were trying to take care of her. The cancer had been discovered only because of a mammogram and because it had been discovered so early, it was readily treatable. Sharon had a bilateral lumpectomy to remove not one but three 1.0 – 1.2 cm tumors followed by 25 days of radiation; as the cancer had not yet spread to her lymph nodes, she thankfully did not need chemotherapy. Still, her ordeal still lasted for four stressful months. At the time, she was immersed in leading a growing company and cancer wasn’t in her plans. It was difficult to take the time to get the medical care she needed, and yet she realized that it was easier to treat because it was discovered at Stage One and was grateful for that.
This is what motivated her to urge her friends to get a mammogram. If any of them had cancer, she wanted them to know so that they could deal with it sooner rather than later when it might have progressed.
“At that point, the best gift they could have given me was to know that they were okay. My diagnosis impressed upon me how important this test is and we don’t always think about that or realize it. Often, we just think of it as something we know we’re ‘supposed’ to do. But I’m living proof of why it really does matter,” Sharon said.
Sharon agreed to share her story because she hopes it will help motivate others to get a mammogram and urge their friends to do so also. Although coping with cancer is frightening, it is better to find out earlier when it is more treatable and the prognosis is more likely to be good.