5 things I learned after my breast cancer diagnosis

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2017, I was so stunned initially that I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do, where to go or who to call first.   Thankfully, the momentary sensation of panic passed, and since then, I’ve learned a few things. Here are five of them. 1. Choose the breast cancer experts I didn’t have any breast cancer symptoms prior to being diagnosed. I only learned that I had cancer during my very first mammogram. I’d gotten the scan to set a baseline for future mammograms, so the news that I actually had breast cancer seemed pretty unreal. My gynecologist referred me to a local surgeon. She said we’d caught the cancer early, so it was considered stage 0. That meant the abnormal cells were still confined to my milk ducts and had not spread beyond them. It turned out that my cancer was more advanced, but I didn’t learn that until I went to MD Anderson. A family friend insisted I go there before starting treatment, so I made an appointment. And as soon as I walked in the doors, I knew I’d made the right decision. At MD Anderson, Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian redid all of my scans and found a suspicious lymph node in my left armpit. She also found two separate growths in my left breast. The tumors couldn’t be felt by hand because of calcium deposits in the surrounding tissues. But the fact that my cancer had already spread outside of my breast meant it was beyond stage 0. I actually had stage IIB breast cancer —...