Reflections 4 Years After Breast Cancer Surgery

Banner: Reflections 4 Years After Breast Cancer Surgery

This post was shared by Emily Rich on 4/12/23 on Instagram.

4 years ago today, an incredible team of surgeons led by this hero of mine, Dr. Rao of Columbia, removed the tumor from my right breast. And today I'm going to celebrate by taking a walk! Sounds boring, I know. But here's why:

Entering the cancer world is scary and it takes a lot away from you but that tumor was one thing I was happy to part with. Surgery was my first giant leap into treatment, so this was a big day.

When the time came to wheel me into surgery, they brought me all the way to the OR and stopped the gurney outside the doors. Dr. Rao came up beside me and asked, "can you walk into the room?" Wait a minute – you want me to WILLINGLY walk into that room and up onto that table where you're going to cut into my body and change it forever? I asked her – "Why??" And her answer was simple and definitive. "Because you can."

On the surface, you'd think she was just being practical. I hadn't been anesthetized yet and it would be easier and faster for me to hop onto the operating table than for a team of people to hoist me from the gurney to the table.

But Dr. Rao is different. Her bedside manner was unparalleled. She was masterful at helping me process those early days of my diagnosis all the way through my surgery. She helped me balance the facts with the feelings - a skill that served me well in the months that followed and still today.

So in that moment right before surgery, I think she knew that I'd hear those three words differently. She knew in that moment that I needed to feel strong. And that a strength like that could only come from me.

So when the time came to get the show on the road, I didn't really have a choice. But I did have control. And walking into that OR on my own two feet would be my first step toward taking something *back* from cancer. And my first step into survivorhood. Which was a powerful fact AND feeling.

So, I did it. After a deep breath and an encouraging nod from Dr. Rao, my feet hit the floor and off I went. It was the most terrifying but empowering few steps l've ever taken. But damn it, I did it.

So today, I'm going to take a walk and celebrate my strength. Because I can.

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