“I knew something was up! I felt my left breast, something was happening, I could feel it…”
I looked for appointments in surgical units, but was surprised to find that I would have to have tests first to see the doctor, even though I had explained that I had something in my chest. They informed me that the doctor will not accept me unless I have had a mammogram and an ultrasound. There was no time to think more about it.
The next call I made was to the Breast and Women’s Center at Metropolitan Hospital. Straight away as soon as I explained that I have something in my chest, they made an appointment for me. When I visited the doctor, Mr. Maroulio Stathoulopoulou and she examined my breast, she informed me that what I felt in my breast is indeed suspicious. Immediately, I had a mammogram followed by an ultrasound. After seeing the tests, the doctor informed me that there is a tumor of about 2 cm in the left breast and it should be biopsied immediately, to find out its exact characteristics, because this would also determine the therapeutic management.
Through our conversation, she found out that I hadn’t had a mammogram in about 5 years. I am a businessman and my daily life is full of intense stress. Unfortunately, I thought what almost all women think. That all bad things happen to those around us and not to us.
The biopsy is done and within 3 days the answer comes. It was evil! The doctor had already prepared me that she didn’t like what she was seeing and that all procedures had to be followed. At first I was cool. In fact, the doctor thought I didn’t really understand what she had just told me. I understood that they never announce anything without having a complete picture, as they do not know the psyche of the person they have in front of them and do not want to scare them. There was still a long way to go in this case. When I left I didn’t even know where my car was. What worried me the most was how I would tell my family. How would I tell my husband and kids? I didn’t want to disrupt our lives.
All the necessary procedures were done and the disease was staged. Then I told my family, trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation and not show how scared I was about the treatments that would follow. Everyone was shocked. They couldn’t believe it. They thought I was the person in the family who had everything under control. They thought that something out of my control couldn’t possibly be happening to me. Surgery was perhaps the easiest piece of this “puzzle” that the experts decided I should follow based on the data.
When my cycle of treatments was completed, the doctor characteristically told me that I was a soldier. Indeed, I was. I wanted to have everything planned out, to know the next step beforehand. To know even the slightest side effect that was likely to occur, at each stage of treatments and how I will deal with it. Even before the surgery, I was looking for every detail to be able to make it easier on myself. I was looking for information on the internet about very small and trivial things, but I couldn’t find it. Trivial to others of course. For me, who was living it, it was important to know everything.
I started to get a metallic taste when I was doing the chemo treatments, where with an electric toothbrush I dealt with the nausea and the urge to vomit. The doctor was by my side even in this very small detail. He understood my anxiety and fear very well. She didn’t want me to have any questions about the side effects of chemotherapy which, while not her field, she had vast experience with her patients over the years. We were in constant communication, talking about anything. He knew that this all has an expiration date and he encouraged me constantly. He was trying not to let me experience panic, which was not a good counselor at all, especially in a situation like this, where while I knew I wasn’t dying, I was afraid of everything. How right he was!
He explained to me that it is very important how the partner and the family environment participate in all this and support me, that I must allow them to do it, that they take care of me this time, as I have always done for everyone. The most important thing I was going through was realizing how much I had neglected myself. I had opened the door for this disease to enter. There is no explanation. There is nothing you can do to avoid it. If it happens or is going to happen, at least you have found it as early as possible. When I grabbed my breast I was shocked and realized that if I had caught it earlier I might have been spared chemotherapy.
When I finished the treatments, I started a public awareness campaign. I love to call myself a “former patient and healer”. I even called my doctor the therapist and me the one being treated. Now I’m not sick, I don’t have cancer. Cancer is not something that can be cast off. On the contrary, if you leave it and neglect it then it becomes a demon that can destroy you.
My mindset and attitude to life changed completely. Wherever I am, I try to inform people. The way we treat ourselves and those around us after the disease is very important. We give the right to be seen as weak. Cancer is a disease that only when it finds you vulnerable can it defeat you.
There are certainly very difficult cases that not everyone can deal with. However, breast cancer has many lines of treatment and early diagnosis is very important, because this in turn leads to a complete cure most of the time. Now, the women of 2023 do not die of breast cancer, as long as they take care of themselves and never forget this experience, which makes them stronger for the future.”
This heartwarming story is true and concerns a woman whose life changed radically after an accidental palpation of her breast. The events that followed led her into a world of uncertainty as she found herself facing the harsh reality of the disease.
The process of diagnosis and the struggle with the treatments, were faced with great effort, organization, contradictory feelings but also with a huge will to understand herself and regain control of her life. This groundbreaking story, which tells the process of discovering, dealing with and curing breast cancer, reflects how our lives can change overnight and how we react to that change.
“This story is a valuable lesson for all of us, highlighting the importance of self-care, family support and cooperation with medical staff in dealing with the disease. An important source of experience and wisdom that shows us how much we can learn from dealing with difficult moments in our lives and how we finally come out stronger through them” says Mrs. Maroulio Stathoulopoulou, Director of Breast Surgery at Metropolitan Hospital, while continuing to say: “And that’s when they fight the big battle, their own personal battle to come out victorious and at the end of the journey, most of them succeed. But that is not enough, through this experience they need to love themselves and change their lifestyle, because we respect breast cancer, we don’t fear it!”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. When detected and treated early, it is usually curable. Breast cancer deaths have declined over the past three decades. This is partly due to the implementation of screening, as well as early and targeted treatment.
*We thank Mrs. E.P. who shared her story with us and Mrs. Maroulio Stathoulopoulou, Director of Breast Surgery at Metropolitan Hospital who helped us communicate with her patient.
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