Mina Greenfield is a 39 year old living right outside of Washington, DC. While she grew up in Maryland, she considers herself to be a Brooklyn Girl at heart as she lived there for 10 years. She is a speech-language pathologist who works with kiddos on the autism spectrum, a jewelry designer, a yogini, a knitter, a runner, a Unitarian Universalist, mother to Nigel the Cat, and a sarcasm and snark enthusiast. She began her blog, Cocktails and Chemo, shortly after her breast cancer surgery as a way to keep loved ones in the loop.
Tell us about your diagnosis.
My Primary Care Physician thought my right breast felt “lumpy” when I went in for my annual physical. She recommended that I get a mammogram a year early (I’m 39) to get a baseline. After mammograms, ultrasounds, and needle biopsies, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 ER+/PR+ breast cancer in the right breast.
What was your reaction considering many women have lumpy, or fibrocystic breasts?
I was terrified. Surprisingly, I didn’t think I was going to die, but I was paralyzed by my fear of the unknown. Did I need chemo? A mastectomy? Radiation? Was my tumor aggressive? What was my prognosis? I felt like my future had a big Stop Sign in front of it.
What treatment options were presented?
A mastectomy was recommended for the right breast due to multiple tumor sites. I chose a bilateral mastectomy for health and cosmetic reasons. It was initially thought that chemo would not be needed because no tumors were found in the lymph nodes during the surgery. However, dissection of those nodes revealed a 5mm tumor in a lymph node on the right side.
Considering that a tumor was found within a lymph node, what additional treatment was suggested?
Chemotherapy and radiation were recommended. I’ve completed four rounds of Adriamycin and cyclophosphamide (AC) and one round of Taxol (T). I have 11 more rounds of taxol to go and radiation will begin 6 weeks after that.
How has your breast cancer diagnosis affected your currently lifestyle?
I was pretty active before my diagnosis. I was a runner and I practiced yoga – so transitioning to a sedentary lifestyle (out of necessity – due to recovery from a major surgery and fatigue from chemo) has been extremely difficult. While my mobility has not been officially impacted, dealing with fatigue is a major part of every day.
Fertility has been a primary concern for me. I’m 39 years old and I want children so I’ve been receiving Zolodex injections to “freeze” my ovaries by putting them into peri-menopause and protecting them from the chemotherapy drugs. My oncologist is confident that they will return to normal functioning when chemo is completed, but I’m not counting on it.
I was dating before my diagnosis, but have made my health my top priority because who has energy to date? I am nervous about re-entering the “dating world” post-mastectomy.
Has your diagnosis moved you forward in your everyday life?
It’s hard to say as I am very much “in it” right now and I’m not even halfway through chemotherapy treatments. While rationally I know there will be an end to this difficult time (my prognosis is excellent), it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Since my diagnosis, however, writing the beginning of my new story has involved just that…*writing*. I used to be a sporadic journal keeper at best, but blogging has been an amazing therapeutic outlet for me (and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, which is always nice!). It has helped my loved ones understand what’s going on in this chemo-addled brain of mine and I hope it helps people who are newly diagnosed. I’ve never considered myself a “writer,” but I’ve been pleased to see the development of a skill I didn’t know I had.
I do wonder how I will look back on this when it becomes that “blip” they promise it will be. I know I will be changed, but how? For now, I’m writing my new story by embracing and entertaining the maybes. For example, “maybe I’ll get a dog when this is finished” or “maybe I’ll move somewhere else” and “maybe I won’t be so attached to having children.” I try to remember to ask for help even when it makes me uncomfortable and trying to honor where my body and mind are in each given moment.
Do you see any roadblocks in entertaining those maybes?
While I wish and hope that I come out of this scared of nothing, it is possible that I’ll emerge with more fear in the form of “what’s going to happen next?”. Something *will* happen next….that’s what life is. My goal, however, is to live the life I want despite that fear.