Rachel Garlinghouse, an author and blogger, shares the lessons she's learned about life after undergoing a double mastectomy
When Rachel Garlinghouse found out she had breast cancer, she first refused to accept it. Denial was her way of coping, but she didn't allow fear to paralyze her. She recounts the shock of the diagnosis as well as her road to healing in an article published on Babble. In the article, she writes about how, after discovering a lump in her right breast and undergoing a mammogram and ultrasound, the doctor gave her the "soul-shaking" diagnosis.
The 35-year-old mom was then beset by an overwhelming anxiety. What about her four kids? What would happen next?
She did her research and found that less than 5 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 40. Surely there had been a terrible mistake, she writes. Thinking herself healthy and with no family history of the disease added to her disbelief.
After a few weeks, she scheduled a check-up with a new surgeon, who offered her two options:
- a lumpectomy, which needed to be followed by six weeks of radiation therapy.
- a bi-lateral mastectomy, which would remove both her breasts.
The former option would still leave her with a moderate risk that the cancer would recur, while the latter would leave her cancer risk at 1 percent. Naturally, she chose the double mastectomy.
She realized cancer hits even the "young and healthy"
This ordeal challenged her preconceived notions that "bad things happen to those who are older, less vigilant" than young hands-on parents like her. Sadly, she writes, "cancer does not discriminate."
In the weeks following her surgery, she recalls crying more than she ever did in her entire life, her tears a mixture of "sadness and relief, grief and thankfulness, fear and hope."
She still counts herself as lucky, because the cancer didn't spread to her lymph nodes. Presently, her doctor remains optimistic about her recovery.
Staying thankful and living in faith
Throughout her recovery, she remains thankful for the support of her husband, children, friends and family. Proudly considering herself a woman of faith, she values life's little miracles.
The greatest lesson she learned out of all of this, she writes, is the value of a woman's intuition or what she calls a "still, small voice," which must be listened to and heeded in the most dire situations. Thanks to her gut instinct and her resolve to face her fears head on--no matter how frightening--helped her become who she is today. She emphasized the importance of not wallowing in denial and acting in faith. Today, she looks forward to life's adventures with her loving family by her side.