by Donna Pinto
Even with a stage zero, pre-cancer diagnosis such as DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), somehow the word CARCINOMA is all we hear and focus on. With that one word, we imagine the worst, the “what if…” This feeling is often reinforced by the (well-intentioned) people who work in the mainstream cancer industry (oncologists, radiologists, mammographers, surgeons, nurses, pathologists, etc.) Even loved ones unintentionally add fuel to what feels like a collective DNA of FEAR around the “C” word.
I experienced this FEAR first-hand on January 19, 2010. I had a wide excision (surgical) biopsy a week earlier. “You have DCIS,” said Susan, the Breast Specialist RN. “And although it is considered pre-cancer, we treat it as if it is CANCER.” She quickly sketched out a picture and continued… “Here are your treatment options: Partial mastectomy and 7 weeks of daily radiation OR mastectomy.”
Total shock is an understatement. I could not wrap my mind around the whole thing. Something didn’t feel right – but what choice did I have? That evening I decided to send an email to all my friends and family. Subject line: Good news/bad news. I explained that the bad news was I had been diagnosed with DCIS, but the good news was that it was “stage zero/pre-cancer” and treatable with very positive outcomes. I revealed what I was told were my options/next steps.
The next day, I received a call from Adriana, my dear friend who also happened to be a holistic-minded nutritionist. With her Colombian accent, Adriana insisted, “no-no-no…. you mustn’t do these invasive treatments. You must come see me immediately.”
Adriana gave me a crash course in detoxification, alkalizing the body, organic foods, supplements and the body’s ability to heal when given the right environment and resources. She talked with me about what cancer is from a cellular perspective and assured me that DCIS was NOT invasive cancer and NOTHING to be in FEAR of. From her perspective, it was the FEAR that was the worst part of a DCIS diagnosis. Adriana told me any decision made from FEAR was not a good decision. She continually reminded me to stay calm, breathe deeply and investigate. And I did just that. Please see my blog post “An Angel Called Adriana.”
Over 3 years have passed since my initial DCIS diagnosis. Despite the fact that I chose not to have the recommended radiation or mastectomy, the FEAR that I once felt is completely gone. Why? Because I took the time to understand and analyze my particular DCIS diagnosis; I sought out expert 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions; I found support from other women with similar feelings about potential overtreatment of DCIS; and I became empowered with information.
Overcoming the FEAR of cancer initiating, progressing or recurring is truly the greatest hurdle following a diagnosis of DCIS. I hope by sharing my story, insights and resources, I may offer comfort, support and a guiding light. (To read more about my story, please see: “Donna’s Journey.”