Published On: Wed, Oct 4th, 2023

A boob and a half

By Marci Shatzman

I thought that would get your attention.

I hope so. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I’m a 23-year survivor so far. I never take that for granted.  

I’m not about to cite statistics, but there’s still so many of us, most people know somebody who had breast cancer.

So much progress has been made, I never share my experience. People don’t get that sick or lose their hair anymore. More live.

I couldn’t even blink a day or two after chemo. I had my head shaved so it wouldn’t make a mess when it fell out. I was bald for nearly a year. I bought a wig I never wore. I always wanted to be a redhead, but none of those colors looked good.

So I wore scarves and hats during treatment. My fellow reporters called it “the chemo fashion show.” That’s reporters’ usual sense of humor.

When I was diagnosed in October 2000, I was more concerned about my job than I was about my future. I had just been hired at a daily newspaper, and I was worried how that would be accepted only two months after I started. 

I shouldn’t have worried. I was allowed access to the newsroom to do my work, as long as I could finish on deadline. To say my editor Susan Bryant and colleagues were supportive would be an understatement. After a year of treatment, they gave me a spa weekend.

I had a lumpectomy, not a mastectomy, which is where the boob and a half comes in. I never had to wear a prosthetic. My hair grew back a lot straighter.

My husband’s sense of humor really helped. “Do you want a black or a green throw-up bucket?” he asked. When it came time for radiation, I told him I’d have to be tattooed so they could hit the right spot every time. “It better be my name,” he said.

He even shaved his head, and the photo taken of us together went viral, or what passed for it then. 

We went oncologist shopping and chose Dr. Sunil Patel. He was on top of the latest meds then and for a decade afterward. I owe my survival to him. 

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