In January of 2013, Paula LaManna went in for a regular mammogram. While it’s quite normal to have to wait for test results, this particular instance took longer than usual and required a second view. At first, Paula wasn’t too concerned because this process was pretty standard but once the results were in, the doctors stated that they saw something that concerned them and wanted to do a biopsy right then and there.
Once the doctors completed the biopsy, Paula describes the wait for those results as the hardest part. “I think that’s probably one of the hardest parts, you know, just waiting - and you know that something is probably not good. And the doctor was pretty sure that what he saw wasn't good.
”The first biopsy came back negative but her doctor insisted on Paula having different biopsy. It was later revealed that Paula’s tumor was very far back in her breast and unable to be detected by doctors or through a self-examination.
“I was just horrified. I mean really it was like this big hole opened in front of me and I just couldn't believe that I was hearing this and it was me that had it… and all the unknown… it was all just pretty frightening.”
Paula was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. She went through a series of test sand it was tough waiting to see what her plan would be and how to move forward.In times such as this, it is always great to have resources and support and Paula had great support. A few of her close friends had even dealt with aggressive forms of breast cancer and were able to help point her in the right direction for guidance, advice, and support.
One of the pieces of advice she received was, “Don’t spend too much time online. There’s a lot of good information online but there’s a lot of people who are very hysterical and until you really know what your story is, you don’t want to look too much.”
Early on in the discovery of Paula’s breast cancer, the doctors found that her cancer was hormone positive - which in the world of breast cancer is a little bit better because you could be given medications such as tamoxifen to help.
Paula mentions that one of the really great things throughout her journey is that she was involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life program. It made her feel good to know she and her Relay raised money for research that helped to develop the types of tests that she had to take while going through treatment. Specifically, Paula was able to use the Oncotype test which helps to determine - in the case of breast cancer- the benefits and risks of using chemotherapy. When Paula’s results came back, it was determined that she didn’t need chemotherapy. “I really felt like I had dodged a big bullet and I was really grateful.”
Paula went on to have a lumpectomy and beat cancer but there is still the world of the unknown that she dealt with everyday. Initially, when she was done with treatment, Paula felt as if the results were tentative.“It was like, okay, but I hope it doesn’t come back. It was like this anxiety that I never had before. I had no clue that was in my body. How long was that in my body? How can you really know?” She felt as is if she was waiting again and hoping the cancer wouldn't return. At the same time,Paula recognized that as a survivor, you can't drive yourself crazy.
“There is kind of that gift of cancer that makes you look at your life and say if you’re not doing the things that you want to be doing… you should just do it. Each day is a gift and when you have the slightest thought that it might be taken from you, then it’s like wow, just really enjoy it. You can’t control it [life], but really enjoy it while you got it.” Paula says that with going through her journey she's really learned to be in the moment and focuses on the little things.
“Nothing is a given and not necessarily that e cancer may come back.You just don’t know what’s going to happen or who can be taken from you. All the people in my life are really important to me. I just feel more blessed and more aware of how blessed I am and the things in life that make me happy."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Be in the moment. An inspirational thought that I believe everyone, including myself, can truly learn from. So often we are on the go and miss so many of those wonderful life moments. Our daily lives throw so many challenges and tasks at us and we forget to enjoy the small things. Thank you Paula for reminding me to be in the moment! Your story was so thought-provoking and I am grateful to have met you and humbled that you allowed me to hear your story.