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Bayer Scapes

Keep Calm and Conquer Cancer

By Alexandra Borchard, Director, Internal Communications, Consumer Health NA

“You. Have. Cancer.”

These are words you never want to hear. When you do, life is not the same anymore.

I got my diagnosis on Monday, August 21, 2017. My radiologist called and delivered the news in a matter-of-fact way. That’s when everything changed. As you can imagine, hearing the news was difficult. I was 43 years young, in great health and had no family history of breast cancer.

So many thoughts entered my mind — why me, what did I do wrong, where do I start, what does this mean for me, what do I tell my kids, how will I manage my illness and work? It was all so overwhelming. It wasn’t long before I realized the most important question of all: What do I need to do to beat this?

After reviewing test results with my doctor, I learned I had early stage (1A) invasive breast cancer and, thankfully, my prognosis was excellent. Understanding my cancer from my doctor (and not Google) was important to me and kept me positive instead of panicked. We used all the data from various tests to develop a treatment plan that was right for me. It started with surgery to remove my lump. A few weeks later, I began chemotherapy, which took place every 21 days for a total of four cycles. Once this was complete, I started radiation therapy, which included 34 doses.

My first chemotherapy session. I kept ice packs on my fingers and toes to prevent long-term numbness. This seemed to work. One of the hardest side effects for me was hair loss, which happened within a week or two of this session.

Throughout the journey, I felt lucky. Lucky that I caught it early, had a terrific medical team and was able to continue my “normal” work/life routine without much disruption. I was also extremely grateful for my wonderful family, friends and colleagues who supported me throughout this journey. All of this fueled my positive attitude about beating my cancer. As I began sharing my news with others, I quickly learned this diagnosis was all too common. They had a story to share with me too — about their own diagnosis or the impact on someone they knew. I wasn’t alone. About one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime1. Think about that — one in eight of the women you know will receive this diagnosis. That’s why it’s so important to take a proactive approach to mammogram screenings and self-exams.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’ve been thinking about making an appointment for your mammogram, do it today. Don’t let it drop off of your ‘to do’ list. It can mean the difference between stage one and stage four, and you want to catch it early.

More treatment options and targeted therapies have improved breast cancer outcomes compared to years ago. Millions of women are surviving breast cancer and that is awesome. I have great admiration and gratitude for all the researchers and scientists around the world and at Bayer who work tirelessly to develop oncology treatments — giving patients and survivors more options and a better quality of life.

If you receive this diagnosis, stay calm, stay positive and ask yourself: What do I need to do to beat this?

Have faith that you will conquer whatever it is you must face.

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