The greatest challenge of Eileen Condra’s breast cancer journey was accepting her physical appearance after a double mastectomy in 2012 at the age of 58. “I couldn’t look at myself,” recalls Condra, who had to wait a few months to prepare for breast reconstructive surgery, often a two- or even three-stage procedure. “It was very hard. I didn’t feel like a woman until I had my implants.”
But in the long run, it was a decision she felt comfortable with, even though doctors initially recommended a lumpectomy for her Stage 1 breast cancer. “Everyone has their own choices, which are private and individual,” says Condra, of East Northport. “All I wanted to do is to get rid of the cancer, and I knew I didn’t want to go through this again.”
Now 62, the four-year survivor is determined not to be defined by her diagnosis. “With this disease you must be very positive and surround yourself with positive people,” she says. For Condra, that meant sticking close to her boyfriend, family and close friends, attending support groups sponsored by Huntington Hospital and reading books about finding humor in adversity like “Cancer, Schmancer,” by actress Fran Drescher.
Before her diagnosis, Condra was an avid traveler, skipping from one exotic locale to another and having breast cancer hasn’t changed that. In the years since, she has visited Austria and Germany and is planning a trip to Sicily next year.