It’s About You: Lu Ann Cahn’s Story

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  Cahn_photo2014We would like to introduce you to our blogging series, “It’s About You.” In addition to telling you their personal story, our bloggers in this series talk about their experience with past LBBC programs and/or their anticipation for the upcoming fall conference, Breast Cancer Today: Individual Treatments, Shared Experiences. Today, NBC10 reporter Lu Ann Cahn kicks off the series by sharing her breast cancer journey and the importance of connecting with individuals who share your experiences.

I was talking to a woman who just got through her second year of survivorship. We’d made a lunch date to talk about work, business opportunities.

I’d almost forgotten she’d had breast cancer until she mentioned she was dealing with horrendous hot flashes.

“The tamoxifen is making me crazy” she said.

“How are you feeling otherwise?” I asked

” Oh fine. I just want to forget about IT and move on.”

The IT she didn’t want to dwell on was Breast Cancer…and yet we spent the last twenty minutes we had together during our meeting, sharing our experiences, listening to each other.

I wished we’d started talking about it sooner. As much as she wanted to “forget”, I could tell it was a relief for her to talk to someone who has been there; someone who you don’t have to explain too much to, so much is already understood.

Her emotions were close to the surface; which is probably why she said she wanted to “forget about it”. Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about how terrifying it’s been, the diagnosis, newly remarried, with a teen son.

I know . I remember.

It has been 23 years since I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. My daughter was four years old. The year before breast cancer, I was hospitalized for 5 months. I had to have my colon removed because of severe ulcerative colitis. I was just recovering and feeling better when I started to feel a vague mass in my right breast.

All this, while I was trying to hold on to my job as a new tv news reporter in Philadelphia.

I’d had a negative mammogram. My doctor told me the lump was nothing. I walked around with the tumor growing for 6 months, until finally my husband, who felt it, said “go to a breast surgeon and get this checked out.”

I remember the first year. I too like to “forget”…a nightmare: the chemo, the mastectomy, hair loss, reconstruction….fear. Fear for your life, fear for your family…

What if I don’t make it?

Back in 1991, there was no internet, no parades of pink ribbons, no walks, few support groups.   I had to search for survivors like me. But what turned out to be most important were the survivors I found BEYOND me.

I told my story publicly, insisting I wasn’t going down without a fight, without making a lot of noise…warning women, if you feel a lump, pursue it, find out what it is. Mammography wasn’t perfect, especially for young women.

But personally, I clung to the words and the full life of a survivor who I met who was 10 years out. I can’t remember her name now…but psychologically, she saved me. I just wanted to be HER…10 years out.

One day you wake up and you DO forget you had or have breast cancer. That is part of living BEYOND it or with it…it’s healthy, it’s natural.

But, part of that healing, and why I’m speaking and attending the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Conference this Fall is because in the sharing, in the witnessing of each other’s survivorship, we grow stronger, we find hope.   We find out we are not alone.

We need and want to be understood in a way that only another survivor can understand…even if we think we just want “to forget”. That is the real truth of it.

My business lunch ended with a hug and a stronger bond than when we first sat down. Breast Cancer had not been on the agenda, but it turned out to be the most important thing we shared that day.

Lu Ann Cahn is the author of I Dare Me, a look back on a year that changed everything for her. She is an eight-time Emmy award-winning journalist with NBC10 News in Philadelphia. In 1991, Ms. Cahn made national headlines when she publicly told her story of breast cancer treatment at age 35 after a missed diagnosis. Her 1992 special report “Breast Cancer: My Personal Story” won a national Clarion award and two Mid-Atlantic Regional Emmys.

Please join us on September 27th in Philadelphia, Pa to attend, learn and connect at the LBBC Annual Fall Conference.

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