My reaction to my breast cancer diagnosis was probably much the same as anyone who’s experienced getting that type of news. I think it’s universal. There’s shock, feeling overwhelmed and fear…the word “cancer” is so imbued with fear. The medical profession has created a monster out of the many diseases called cancer.

In the beginning, when the news and fear were fresh, I went along with my doctor and had bone & CT scans       followed by an appointment with a surgeon to discuss my options.

The very fact that our first port of call to “discuss our options” with a surgeon is telling. We don’t really have options in the eyes of western medicine. Their  protocol is to operate and then poison.

I was told my choices were a lumpecotomy (with sentinel node biopsy) followed by chemo, or a mastectomy followed by radiation.

There was pressure to make an immediate decision during this appointment which I wasn’t comfortable with. Even though I was still feeling overwhelmed and in a state of shock, I was determined not to make decisions based in fear so I said I’d think about it and get back to them in a week. I always knew that I would refuse chemo and         radiation.

After doing some research and speaking to cancer           survivors, I chose to have a lumpectomy without a sentinel node biopsy and remained firm in my decision to forego chemo and radiation. I opted not to undergo mammography as current research shows that they are dangerous and unreliable.

Under the guidance of a naturopath I have been pursuing alternative therapies as my post-operative protocol and thermal imaging to check on my progress.

I am a firm believer in alternative medicine and think it is our right to choose which protocols are right for each of us on an individual basis. It’s a matter of researching the many different therapies available, both conventional and alternative, and trusting that we know what is best for ourselves. Your choice may be to follow the surgery/chemo/radiation route. Only you can know what is best for you.

However we all deserve more choices, information and support when it comes to making treatment decisions.

The best advice I can give anyone facing a cancer challenge is to stand up for yourself, demand information and respect for whatever choice it is that you           ultimately make. If you are struggling, make sure you have an advocate who understands and respects your           preferences and can help you when dealing with medical practitioners.

I came to realise only months after my diagnosis that cancer was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Many people can’t understand how that can be.

Before cancer I was burning myself out in my work which resulted in not having the time, energy or inclination to meet people. Six months before my diagnosis I’d moved three hours from where I used to live to be closer to my elderly father and didn’t know anyone.  Post-cancer I’ve been on several road trips to visit friends and family. I’ve joined different Meet Up groups and have met some absolutely beautiful people who add magic to my life. My social life is busier, richer and more rewarding than it ever has been. I connect deeply with people and share of myself as never before. I feel truly blessed. You really do find gifts in the struggle.

Recently I’ve been getting to know a friend better. We’ve known each other for a couple of years but not well. On a stroll along the beach recently she said “Can I tell you    something? I like the new Maria much better than the old Maria”. So do I.