The hardest thing in my life was believing I was strong enough. As a kid I was always afraid. I grew up in the 1960's when there was a lot of scary stuff happening. The Vietnam War where good men were killed every day. The Manson murders where Charles Manson and his ‘family’ killed people at random. I was a little kid trying to digest and make sense of it all. I was afraid.
Physically, I also felt weak. My sister is three years older and was always more physical than me. When a neighborhood boy pushed me off my bike, my sister ran after him and beat him up. I just sat there and cried.
As time went on I became more interested in music and reading and writing than physical activities. In my mind I perpetuated the belief that I was sensitive and weak.
But there were two events in my 30's that tested me mentally and physically. Since I always viewed myself as sensitive and weak, actually believing I could be strong when I needed to be was a challenging notion. I had doubts about whether I could do it.
The first incident occurred when I was 35 years old and on my way to perform as a violist in a Broadway show. I was crossing 9th Avenue when a cab hit me. One moment I was going about my business and the next I was airborne and my life was changed forever.
After I landed on the ground I couldn’t get up. Like, I literally could not get my body to obey my commands. The impact had ruptured disks in my neck, which split into pieces and poked into my spinal cord.
After a year of conservative therapy, where I continued to struggle with control of my hands and fingers, I had spinal surgery. They rebuilt my neck and put a metal plate in it. It was 18 months until I was able to resume all my normal activities. That was the first life event I had to be strong for every minute of every day because even walking from one room to the next was a struggle.
I started to realize how strong I actually was and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. One day I noticed something while I was in the shower. It wasn’t a lump, it was just different. It was so subtle that I would have ignored it if I didn’t have a routine doctor’s appointment a few weeks later. My doctor checked it out and said she didn’t think it was anything.
“It feels like you're 37 and the tissue is just changing.” She said. “You’re not 20 anymore…”
Even still she decided to send me for a mammogram to be certain. All my subsequent doctors told me how amazing it was that she sent me in for a mammogram – 95% of doctors would not have done that. It’s rare to request a mammogram for a 37 year old woman, usually mammograms don’t start until you’re 40. I’m quite convinced I owe my life to that doctor and I’ve told her that many times!
I went in for the mammogram and knew something was wrong because they kept asking for additional film and information. The radiologist interrupted her schedule to come and do more and different scans.
“Oh this is bad.” I thought to myself.
The next day I called in to get the results. I was supposed to speak with the nurse but they connected me with a doctor…
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