My New Journey
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
A few of my close friends encouraged me to share my breast cancer story. I spent some time debating if I should disclose my diagnosis. Not because it pains me to talk or write about it, but I would consider myself a private person. However, if my story would encourage a woman to schedule her mammogram appointment, it would be worth it.
In October of 2018, I received that dreaded phone call that no one wants to get. My breast MRI was performed three days earlier; I knew the results were coming, but I had anxiety nonetheless. "Mrs. Coyle, I'm afraid to tell you that you have breast cancer - Stage 0 (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) or it could be Stage 1 (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma). We won't know the final diagnosis until you receive treatment. It could be Stage 1 because of the tumor size, plus you have multiple small cancer areas in your breast."
How could this happen? I've been a vegetarian for 13 years. I'm in great health. No medications - I don't smoke and I exercise. This is absolute bullshit. Wonderful! I have an art show to set-up for the next day (Friday) and it goes until Sunday. Two long days of selling my paintings. How am I going to sell and talk about my work when I just received my diagnosis?
Needless to say, I didn't sell much.
I prayed the final diagnosis was DCIS because the cancer cells were contained in the milk ducts. The DCIS was a high grade with comedo necrosis, cells were rapidly growing and dying. The next step for the cancer cells was to escape the milk ducts and invade surrounding areas which could happen in months or years.
I decided to remove the potential of breast cancer from ever returning, at least I pray for that every day. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. My prognosis is very high -98%, I'm doing well.
The day after my surgery I felt broken, but I was determined not to feel broken for long. I lifted my arms and took this image and titled it - Diagnosed. I look at this image now and it makes me emotional. I have accepted my new journey without breasts.
This photo was selected by juror Patty Carroll for the regional juried exhibition, "PhotoSpiva", in Joplin, MO.