Would you rather share a glass of Merlot with someone or encourage them to get a mammogram to possibly save their life?
Or perhaps you are the one who is overdue to see your doctor or have a routine exam, please stop reading and schedule it now. Everything in your life can wait – you can read this piece later – make yourself the priority.
Last spring, I noticed a ‘bruise’ at the top of my left breast. We have 20+ pound dogs and I thought we had been too playful. Ten days later the ‘bruise’ was still there and I scheduled an appointment the next morning at Planned Parenthood. Thank God I did.
Fast forward through a left breast mammogram/ultrasound, right breast mammogram/ultrasound, double breast biopsy and two appointments with doctors before the referral to UCSD Moores Cancer Center. What we believe is the cancer began due to estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors, which is a good thing as it can be treated long-term.
I had stage 2 breast cancer, the ‘bruise’ on my left breast was malignant, my right breast had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) that in the future could have developed into cancer and some lymph nodes had to be removed to see if the cancer spread anywhere else. In July, I had double lumpectomy surgery.
Prior to the surgery, in 16 days we planned a beachfront wedding with family and friends flying in from across the country. I highly encourage you to cancel a meeting in the next week and spend the time with people you love.
The news from my surgery was mostly positive as my margins were clear and there were only traces of cancer found in my lymph nodes. It hadn’t spread to other parts of my body, but chemotherapy was highly recommended. I knew there was a possibility that I would never taste wine the same again and I knew not having to wonder about cancer in future years mattered more. What do you do if you love wine and know you aren’t going to be able to drink it for months? I kept my existing TexSom conference registration as I knew there were going to be outstanding presentations and wines from around the world.
If you have enough space and like wine you are probably holding on to some wines waiting for that special moment to open them. Start creating reasons to open your special wines – dinner parties with family and friends or take someone out to celebrate your friendship.
On September 3, I had my last sip of wine, Sake actually, at a sushi restaurant (another thing you have to give up during chemo). I had four chemotherapy treatments, three weeks between each one. During this time, I benefited from meals made by family, friends and wonderful women in my wine community. I went to the gym to build my stamina. The support I received allowed me to mentally and physically be strong enough to not delay a chemo treatment. On November 16, only nine days after my final chemotherapy treatment I attended SommCon, a wine conference in my own hometown of San Diego. SommCon was fabulous, the presenters were excellent, I learned a ton and I couldn’t even taste the wines!
If you have a multi-month project, treatment, house remodel, etc. create a goal with a date as the deadline at the end. You can always be pushing towards that date, the light at the end of the tunnel.
In my first meeting with my oncologist, I shared with her that I had a graduation ceremony in London in January. I told her that it was my goal to be there. Because my body did well during chemotherapy treatments, I was able to begin radiation treatments a couple of weeks earlier than the normal schedule. I had five radiation treatments each week for six weeks. On January 11, I had my final treatment and I practically skipped into the room as it was my last physical treatment. That evening I had a glass of wine, my first since September 3rd with dinner.
On January 22, I walked into Guild Hall for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) graduation ceremony for the 400 of us from around the world that completed the WSET diploma in the past year. The video link below is when I walked onto to the stage. Ian Harris (CEO of WSET) is announcing and Steven Spurrier is in the middle for the baton/diploma picture.
It was a double graduation in London and I realize it was a moment some people with a cancer diagnosis will never reach. And there are millions of people around the world that have conquered this disease and I know they celebrate each day also. Earlier this month, I began my hormone treatment, primarily a pill a day. Last week I had my follow-up mammogram and I’m excited to shared that everything looks wonderful.
I’m telling my story in hopes that it helps someone else. There are a lot of resources for someone battling breast cancer. I benefited from Susan G. Komen, American Cancer Society, Livestrong at the YMCA ad I’m sure other groups who supported cancer research. Thank you to the people who are involved with these organization, UCSD, my family, wine community and friends for all your support. I looked forward to celebrating life with you!