Surviving Well: Liz, Breast Cancer

Liz Yo discovered a small lump on her breast almost by accident.

“I was standing, with my arms wrapped around myself, and I noticed that something was different,” Liz said.

She immediately went to see her primary care doctor who scheduled a mammogram. What they found was a mass so small that it only showed up on an ultrasound. Liz then had a biopsy at Rose Medical Center to determine if the lump was cancerous.

“For me, the worst part of the whole experience was waiting for a diagnosis,” Liz said. “There is a terrifying period of limbo from finding out you have a lump to finding out if it’s cancer. I had a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.”

Liz’s radiologist, Dr. John Lewin, called her to tell her the results of the biopsy. The mass was cancerous, and needed to be taken out. Liz said her first reaction to the news was denial, then disbelief.

“I remember thinking ‘Is this really happening to me?’ It wasn’t until later that the news hit me harder,” she recalled. The news also came as a shock to her husband.

“He was so amazing the whole time, but I think that my having cancer was harder on him than it was on me,” Liz said. “I think sometimes it’s easier for the person who has cancer than for their loved ones.”

Soon after the diagnosis, Liz had outpatient surgery and was back home and walking her Bernese Mountain dogs two days later.

“My surgeon, Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg, was great about walking me through everything beforehand, which really helped,” Liz said. “She described what was going to happen so I could visualize it. I had practically no pain afterwards.”

Liz says that doing research after her diagnosis was what helped get her through and let her play an active role in her treatment process.

“My doctors gave me the treatment plan and thanks to my research, I felt that the options they presented to me seemed like the right course of action,” Liz said.

Liz had several rounds of radiation, and six months after her diagnosis, was declared cancer free.  Every three months she goes back to see her oncologist, and she has a mammogram every six months.

Liz says that her experience made her realize how lucky she was.  “I realized how fortunate I was to have a job I loved and also a great family.”

Appreciating life was just one of the things that cancer taught Liz, who offers this advice to women.

“Know yourself, so that you can tell if there is a change. If you find a lump, be patient and don’t freak out. Educate yourself so it’s less scary and finally, keep a positive attitude.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” Calendar is a 15-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians, and some inspirational stories from our patients. Liz is our survivor for October, which is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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