Don’t beat yourself up.
We’ve heard that from family, friends and colleagues when we make an honest mistake.
Often, a mistake’s importance is blown out of proportion –– you’re sure, for example, you can’t show your face again around family after misspelling your baby’s name in a birth announcement –– but soon the foul-up becomes a beloved part of family lore.
There are times, however, when it’s not so easy to stop beating yourself up.
Years ago, I talked in Houston with a young lady paralyzed from the shoulders down. She said it had been difficult to stop blaming herself for a crippling accident.
On a houseboat, she asked on which side of the boat the water was deep enough to dive in safely.
“To the left,” a man said.
He meant his left. She dove to her left, breaking her neck.
Not until she forgave herself, which took therapy, she said, could she go forward with life.
She now works with people who need help realizing life is best lived when you see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
Today, Las Vegas real estate agent Sheri Page, 48, finds herself in much the same position as the woman once did in Houston. She’s blamed herself for a recent bout with breast cancer, but also works at realizing she’s not her own worst enemy, just a fallible soul who can help others learn from her mistakes.
She sat in a coffee shop recently and said she was only 42 when a mammogram found a problem in her right breast. She had a biopsy and remembers her physician said the test showed cells that were a “precursor to cancer,” downplaying anything serious. That “good news,” she said, may have been the worst news for her.
She remembers suggested treatment options of seeing an oncologist, the drug tamoxifen –– which may stop growth of some tumors –– or “ keeping a close eye on it.”
Given her experience two years before –– a lump was found to be noncancerous — and that her doctor didn’t seem disturbed by her cancer “precursor,” she decided to forgo the oncologist and tamoxifen. The drug’s side effects, she said, which may include cancer causation, “seemed too severe a risk considering he said I didn’t have cancer.”
It is her inaction six years ago that Page believes had much to do with her having to deal last year with a life-threatening stage 2 malignant lump in her breast.
What disturbs her about that time in 2007 is that she didn’t ask enough questions or get a second opinion –– nor did she read or have the pathology report explained that said she had “carcinoma in situ,” a pre-invasive, highly treatable stage 0 cancer often referred to by doctors as “precancer” or a “precursor to cancer.”
“If women learn from my experience, it’ll help me so much,” she said. “My life didn’t need to be put in jeopardy. Ask questions, read, write things down.”
Before surgery last year, Page read a doctor’s report from six years ago and noted, to her shock, that it said she was advised to have the carcinoma in situ removed.
Neither she nor her husband remember the advice that may have saved her from last year’s dangerous cancer.
Still, she said, it’s possible that when the doctor said she had a cancer “precursor,” they were so relieved they heard little else.
It is for that reason, she said, that she so respects Dr. Souzan El-Eid, the head of the Breast Cancer Center at Summerlin Hospital.
“She explains everything, including the pathology report –– makes sure you understand,” she said.
Even though El-Eid said the best tests showed Page needed only one breast removed and could do without chemotherapy for last year’s cancer bout, she opted for a double mastectomy and four bouts of chemo.
“I wanted to be safe as possible,” Page said, her eyes tearing up. “I want to be able to sleep at night with the decisions I’ve made. I don’t want to beat myself up.”
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.