Life After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Hi, I’m Marilyn Balcombe. I’m an active 52-year-old professional and community activist in a rural town in Maryland who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a great husband, Jonathan, and an active, wonderful 15-year- old daughter, Emily. While we live very busy lives, we take time to enjoy ourselves and each other.

Before my diagnosis, I had spent the last eight months getting ready to run for the local county council. Working every weekend, out most nights, writing my plan, shoring up my contributions, securing endorsements, I was on schedule for what hoped to be a mid-February announcement. Needless to say, that has gone to the back burner.

On January 26, I had my annual mammogram—just another errand to check off my “to do” list. But instead of the tech coming back and saying, “You’re all clear,” the radiologist came in to explain my abnormal results. I was stunned. I got on the phone and the whirlwind began.

I had a biopsy a week later. It was a small tumor, and I was hopeful I would have the results of the biopsy in about a week. I loved my surgeon, Pamela Wright, from the minute she took my shoulders, pulled me closer, looked me in the eye and said, “Whatever this is, it is small, and you will survive this.”

I got the results the following Monday, sitting at my desk at work. I was shocked. I could not believe it. And I didn’t know what to do. Do I continue working? Do I call anyone? How do I move forward? I called Jonathan, who works at home, to share the news and to ask where our daughter was. I had decided not to tell Emily too much too soon, but now it was time to talk to her. She was very sad and scared and wanted to know if I was going to die. I told her I didn’t think I would but that I would have surgery and lengthy treatments to make sure that didn’t happen. As she continued to cry, I let her know that I really needed her to be a strong member of my team. She accepted that challenge


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