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Buddy to Buddy: Learning to adapt when things keep changing

For many breast cancer patients, the initial diagnosis and treatment plan may change many times. A survivor shares how she learned to roll with the punches.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — When Carla Dube was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she was told that it was a single, small tumor; that it was caught early, and that it should be treatable with a simple lumpectomy.  But further testing after the surgery revealed another tumor in a different area of her breast.  "So I had to have another biopsy and it was a couple of days before Christmas where I had a phone call that, again, I have cancer," she explains, "And my daughter was in kindergarten and that was a tough Christmas. You just don't know, you know?  You're like, am I going to be here? What's this going to be like?  And so with the second diagnosis at Christmas, they said I needed to have a double mastectomy."  

It was quite a blow.  "It feels like the rug gets pulled out from underneath you," she says.  But as it turns out, it wasn't the only curveball she would be thrown.

As Dube was gearing up for chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she received word that those treatments would not be needed after all.  But instead of feeling relieved, Dube says she felt angry. "Not that I wanted to have it," she says, "But I felt like I would die if I didn't have it."

Dube didn't die.  In fact, she just marked the seven-year anniversary of her mastectomy.  But she had to clear one more hurdle when the protocol for her medication changed. As she was looking forward to the end of a five-year stint on the anti-cancer drug Tamoxifen -- with some rather unpleasant side-effects -- new research emerged that suggested that a ten-year run on the drug is more effective. So once again, Dube dug in and adjusted.

Dube says she hopes her story will reassure others that the road to recovery often includes a detour or two. The reward for her resilience, a new perspective on life.  "Well," she says with tears in her eyes, "You don't take anything for granted."

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