Meet Susan Basmajian

Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed with breast cancer?
A: I was 51 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
Q: What was/is your diagnosis?
A: I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ and lobular (DCIS/LCIS) carcinoma in situ in (DCIS/LCIS) my left breast.
Q: Can you describe some of the feelings that came with your diagnosis?
A: Initially, I was filled with fear and anxiety because I didn’t really know anything about the specifics of breast cancer. Once I educated myself, the fear and anxiety subsided.
Q: Are you still in treatment? Or how long did treatment take?
A: I am no longer in treatment.
Q: What type of treatment did you go through?
A: My treatment was bilateral mastectomies with TRAM Flap reconstruction. The final pathology report showed I also had DCIS and LCIS in my right breast (not seen by two mammograms). Having bilateral mastectomies was a good choice for me because I had clear margins and needed no further treatment. My other option was to have a partial mastectomy, radiation on the left breast and five years of Tamoxifen (a hormone blocker with not so good side effects). Also, I would most likely be dealing with breast cancer in the future.
Q: Tell us how you felt during treatment. In real words.
A: I finished treatment with my bilateral mastectomies/TRAMFlap reconstruction. The recovery was very hard. I spent three days in the hospital and 4 weeks recovering. The reconstruction impacted my abdominal muscles and core strength from which I have never recovered. At times I felt frustrated. I also felt grateful that I didn’t have to do radiation or hormone-blocking therapy.
Q: Did you have any cravings?
A: I had no cravings.
Q: Did anything completely turn you off?
A: There was nothing that turned me off.
Q: Describe your support system during your journey.
A: My husband was a good support for me, especially the first several weeks. He took me to the doctor and even helped me with drains. He cooked all my meals. I made a new friend, Eva, who had just been through it and she continues to be a great friend. I had great support from Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Comprehensive Cancer Center. I became a Patient Navigator and helped other women through their mastectomy/reconstruction journey. This was a very important part of my healing journey. Two years after my final surgical procedure to finish the reconstruction I became certified to teach yoga and continue to share my practice with others who are experiencing breast cancer. I think it is vitally important the women (and men) who are diagnosed with breast cancer get educated about the disease and their options so they can make the best decision for their treatment.
Q: Have any of your relationships changed since experiencing breast cancer?
A: There were a couple of people who “disappeared”. I had so much love from others, that it did not matter to me.
Q: Have you gained new friends since your diagnosis?
A: I continue to make meaningful connections with others through my volunteer work with Image Reborn Foundation and navigating women who are diagnosed.
Q: Use some descriptive words to describe your breast cancer experience.
A: Life-altering, in the beginning paralyzed with fear and anxiety, I realized just how resilient I am, filled with love
Q: How has your life changed for the better since your diagnosis?
A: I spend more time helping others which has been a powerful journey of self healing and awakening to my potential to help others heal themselves.
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