Reader story: Michelle Lavitt

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I am a stay-at-home mom to a 5-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy. I have a wonderful husband and supportive family and friends. I detected the lump myself but thought it was nothing, because there is no cancer in my family. Well, now there is. I was diagnosed in March 2011 with Stage 2A breast cancer.  I had a double mastectomy and chemo. I finished radiation last week and am waiting to do two reconstruction surgeries.

Cancer sucks, but it is not the worst thing that can happen to you. No matter your diagnosis or prognosis, there are always going to be people who have it easier than you, and there always will be people who have it harder than you. Complain and be frustrated, and then stop and get on with your day. It's bad enough that cancer is trying to take over your body; you don't want it to also take over your mind and your life.

Today, I am more confident in myself and my ability to make decisions. I don't procrastinate. I am much more patient with strangers I encounter in my day (drivers on the road, salespeople in stores, etc.) because I always wonder what is going on in their personal life that might cause them to be in a crabby mood.

Two things I’m proudest of are: my ability to handle my diagnosis and treatment in such a way that my kids aren't affected too much by it (no behavioral issues at school, crying fits, etc.) and my ability to live my life in such a way that cancer can be a large part of it, but my life is not consumed by cancer. I have other things to talk about besides cancer.

Cancer patients are not freaks. We are normal people under crappy circumstances. Awkwardness is part of it. Acknowledge that, and it makes things easier.

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