Dawn Schiff

First post: Sep 3, 2017

It was 13 days after my 31st birthday.  I had been going through a rough time in my life. I was thinking and contemplating what I thought at the time were issues I may never get resolution to. So there I stood, in the shower after my 4:30am workout and it dawned on me out of the blue that I hadn't had my yearly woman's exam. What a random thought to interrupt my life's woes. At that moment I ran my hand down the front part of my breast bone and there it was. A small little lump. Nothing that I would have noticed on any given day. What made me do that I still don't know. I had never in my life given myself a breast exam, and that day I did. In the back of my mind I told myself it was nothing. Probably a new muscle that I didn't know you could create. Being a gym rat, why wouldn't I resort to that. But something in the back of my mind wouldn't let it go, all day I couldn't stop thinking about it. 

Seven months prior I had transferred departments at the hospital. My new job (In the Cancer Center mind you) was to read and gather records of all the new patients that were referred to us for treatment. I would create timelines if you will, with all the supporting documentation. Again, was this a coincidence? Every breast cancer diagnosis was either discovered by a yearly mammogram or  coincidentally by the patient. I have read these reports a hundred times over. For this reason only, I could not let it go. So, I did the responsible thing and called my doctor. I got in the next day. June 27th. It was a tuesday. I met with my PCP and explained the situation nonchalantly. She examined me and to my surprise found another mass. Right away I was referred over to the Center for Women's Imaging at Penrose. The same day, these wonderful people that I had known from working in radiology for the last 3 years got me in immediately and with the best of care ran multiple diagnostic pictures. 

When the radiologist entered the room with a group of staff I knew the news wasn't good. They found 4 masses. Through all the tests I scored a BI-RAD 5. What does that mean? 

"Highly suggestive of malignancy – Appropriate action should be taken
The findings look like cancer and have a high chance (at least 95%) of being cancer. Biopsy is very strongly recommended"

That is the highest score that you can get without a proven positive pathology. At that moment, I already knew. I am 31, this can't be. Im a mother of two kids, not me… No way! 

Everything that followed happened so fast. Two days later my biopsy was done, and only a couple days following we knew the Inevitable. Breast Cancer. 

Because of the tumor sizes I wasn't even given the option for any breast preservation. A double mastectomy was in my immediate future. Also, because my cancer is ER PR (Estrogen and Progestin) positive I would have to have an oophorectomy as well. (The removal of my ovaries which produces those hormones in women) 

There are no words to describe the devastation you feel when given this diagnosis. The uncertainty of your future, truly, you can't see beyond the moment at times. 

I will tell you this, through the last couple months, there are so many things I have come to understand that I would have never otherwise. There is so much collateral beauty to a life with uncertainty.  You are given the gift of today. The gift of appreciation of what is around you that we all miss as we rush to the next important task that consumes us daily. Its true, we all miss so much. And we care about all the wrong things. Many of which, have no purpose in shaping a happy fulfilling life. 

So this is my story, as I trudge through the inevitable. As I make the daily decision to be a warrior. To wake up, every day and be thankful for what I have as I fight what 250,000+ women will fight on any given year. This is my story, my collateral beauty. 

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