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In the mid-nineties, my wife was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, which had metastasized to her lymph nodes. The essay “Coping with Breast Cancer” details what happened in the wake of that diagnosis. We decided to release this composition in the hopes of helping other couples confronted with this terrible disease.

In the fall of 1994 we were living the good life. We’d just bought our dream house and moved in the previous July and were looking forward to our first holiday season in our new home. Only one thing placed a cloud over our lives at that point in time. My wife had a mysterious bloody discharge from one breast. She had also lost a considerable amount of weight and I was beginning to become concerned.

My wife was reluctant to agree to go to a doctor but finally I managed to elicit a promise from her that she would go to see a physician the day after Thanksgiving. That morning we got into our car for the drive to the doctor, never suspecting that our lives were about to be forever changed.

I sat in the waiting room while my wife saw her gynecologist. I saw her come back out just a few minutes after she had been escorted back to the examination room. She was pale and said that the doctor had told her we had to go to the hospital at once for a mammogram and that the doctor was calling ahead to get her worked in that day.

She broke down and cried on the drive to the hospital and expressed her sense of dread saying, “The doctor says she’s afraid it might be breast cancer.” That was the first time I heard the words breast cancer in relation to my wife.

The doctor was true to her word and the people at the hospital were expecting my wife when we arrived. She was immediately hustled back into the radiology area where she underwent her first mammography at age 35.

Tensely I waited, not yet comprehending what was happening. My mind seemed numb, almost as if I had consumed a vast amount of alcohol. I guess I was in a sort of state of shock. I nervously thumbed through some brochures sitting in a rack in the waiting room. As I did so I told myself that there had to be some mistake. My wife couldn’t have breast cancer. Not my Sue.

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