Keeping Abreast Foundation

Marilyn Gleaton

Believe in Miracles every day

I am greeted each morning by the words, "Believe in miracles every day." They hang on my wall as a source of inspiration and strength, right next to a mirror that used to be the very opposite.

For nine years, I spent my days helping others as the branch director and director of nursing for the home health agency, Nursefinders. So naturally, I was sure to have annual mammograms. Because I'd had problems with fibrocystic disease in the past, I was not initially surprised when I got a call to come back in for another mammogram, but was shocked when I heard the words "core needle biopsy."

That was the beginning of a lengthy period of diagnosis that caused me so much stress that, as a part of my treatment, my doctors prescribed me antidepressants and antianxiety medications.

When the biopsy came back inconclusive, I required a surgical biopsy in the form of a lumpectomy. While waiting for a result that would eventually be high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ, I decided to take control of my situation. I went online and researched forms of treatment and came across bilateral nipple sparing mastectomies, a process that removes all or most of the underlying breast tissue but preserves the breast skin and nipple area for further reconstruction. My doctors told me I would be a good candidate for this form of treatment, so I decided to go on vacation, celebrate my birthday, spend some time with friends and family, and then had the surgery.

Three days before my surgery, I walked in American Cancer Society's "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" as one last outing with my old breasts. This year I will be walking again, but this time I will be sporting a special T-shirt I received as a gift, that reads, "Heck yes they're fake; the real ones tried to kill me."

I recall the lowest point of my diagnosis being the first time I looked in the mirror after surgery and saw the incision scars and the skin where my breasts used to be. From that moment on, I began remodeling not only my breasts through reconstructive surgery, but also my life through a career change and new drive to help others by volunteering for breast cancer awareness. Today, I help others facing end of life decisions as the executive director of Emerald Coast Hospice.

©2018 Keeping Abreast Foundation