I will never forget the years of 2004 and 2005, as they were marked by cancer diagnosis tempered with the joy of becoming engaged and getting married.  In July 2004 I became engaged to my now husband: a wonderful, charismatic, funny, intelligent, and I must say handsome Englishman (think Ralph Fiennes or a Daniel Craig look-alike)!

Karen talks about marriage, motherhood, and loss during breast cancer
Karen talks about marriage, motherhood, and loss during breast cancer

Not too long after announcing our engagement, my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  In October 2004, just after turning 36, I was laid off from my job; shortly after that, in the same month found out I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ: stage 0 breast cancer.  I found the lump myself, even though DCIS does not usually produce “lumps.”  Mine was more of an undefined hardness.

Bad things certainly happened in three that year.  When I thought things couldn’t become worse than Dad having cancer, and losing my job, they did when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I wound up having two unsuccessful lumpectomies in late 2004.  Over the holidays, I had to come to terms with the inevitable decision of having a mastectomy.  My fiance and I discussed postponing our wedding or eloping until I was better.  However, I wanted my Dad to walk me down that aisle, so those options were quickly dismissed.

In February 2005, I had my right breast removed with immediate reconstruction using a Latissimus dorsi flap.  I wound up having augmentation done as well, much to the delight of my fiancé!  (Ask him about Dr. Alexander’s “boob book”!)

Despite all of the stress, I was very lucky.  I was estrogen receptor negative, which meant I didn’t need to take tamoxifen, and I didn’t need chemo or radiation.  My husband and I were able to keep our wedding date of May 2005 as well.

I am now expecting my first child in January 2008, which I consider another stroke of luck at conceiving without fertility treatment at the age of 38!  I wish that by the time my daughter has to be screened for breast cancer that more advances have been made in finding a cure.

Sadly, Dad’s three year battle with lung cancer ended in September 2007.  I will sorely miss seeing his tradition of laying his new grandbaby on his chest and watching her fall fast asleep while listening to his deep voice and the strong ka-thumping of his heart.

What have I learned and gained from all of this?  Certainly a different perspective on life, the ability to stay calm in stressful situations, to walk away from people who put out too much negative energy, and not to let things bother me as much as they used to.  After all, life is too short!