I Am More Than the Sum of My Two Breasts by Bonnie Chizek

I am a woman, mother, sister, wife, grandmother, and friend. I am a two-time breast cancer survivor and the daughter of a breast cancer survivor. I am also the mother of two cancer survivors. My oldest daughter, age 47, Jill had breast and ovarian cancer. My daughter, Tricia who is 46, is a breast cancer survivor.

In January 1992, at the age of 44 and after 17 years as a single parent, I was diagnosed with my first breast cancer. I had just met my future husband, Larry and seven weeks later I was diagnosed. I had a lumpectomy and axillary dissection. I also had 33 radiation treatments. I had the best support system with my children, mom, sister, and future husband. Soon life returned to normal. Larry and I became engaged, my son got engaged. But, in September 1994, I had my six-month mammogram, and a lump was found. The biopsy two days later showed cancer again, the second primary, with no metastasis.

I was devastated and frightened. I got several opinions and after discussions with my family and Larry, I chose to have a bilateral total mastectomy with no reconstruction. This was the right decision for me. Larry had said I was more than the sum of my breasts. We were married on Valentine’s Day, 1995.

Because of the high incidence of breast cancer in our family, my daughters asked me to be BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 tested. I was negative.

My oldest daughter was going to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in 2004. She tested negative for the BRCA genes and her mammogram, and the ultrasound was negative also. They ordered an MRI of her breasts, and breast cancer was discovered. She had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Five years later, she was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer in April 2009.

In September of 2009, my other daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having the disease, myself was hard enough, but to watch my two daughters go through this was awful.

I am grateful to be writing that we are doing well. We don’t take anything for granted. Stop and smell the roses. Use your best china and cook fabulous meals. ENJOY LIFE!

Breast cancer can be curable, if found early. Get your checkups and your mammograms and make sure your family and friends do the same. The best weapon we have in our war against breast cancer is education. Ask questions, listen to your body, and use all the resources available to you.

My daughters and I feel blessed in many ways. Surround yourself with good and loving people. Appreciate everything. Hug your kids and your husband, yell less often, and tell those you love them. Every day I am reminded of two things when I look in the mirror, I am a woman without breasts, but more importantly, I am a woman who survived breast cancer.

Bonnie Chizek

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