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Simona Lazinsk: Crossing a Bridge of Hope & Courage

My journey with Breast Cancer that lead me here!

I’m Simona and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer less than one month from my fiancé proposing to me center court at an NBA Basketball Game on Valentine’s Day! It was one of the happiest times of my life and, yet following the diagnosis, was also one of the worst times of my life.

It all began just one month earlier during a business trip to Chicago. It was cold and snowing and a group from work and I stayed at the Hilton. While in the shower I realized I had forgotten by loofah sponge this meant I had to use my bare hands for the shower. While touching my breast I discovered a tiny lump just under my skin. Terror shot through me immediately as I was overcome with emotions of what this could be.

I had heard outlets on the news discussing a lump on the breast and what it could mean. Scary thoughts began swirling and scenarios started playing in my head. A sense of paranoia and panic began to set in. I instantly started Googling signs of Breast Cancer, but most of the searches cited more severe symptoms. Fortunately, I didn’t have any of these so I started to calm myself down. To be safe though, I thought it would be best to schedule an appointment with my Doctor once returning home. I didn’t want to tell anyone or discuss with anyone; there was no reason to worry those around me needlessly, right? Then, more bad news: my doctor could not see me for a month. In my state of mind a month might as well have been an eternity.

During the time awaiting the appointment with my doctor, I began to get a little pain where the lump was located. Finally getting the chance to attend my Doctor appointment, I was assured that she didn’t think anything was wrong. She believed I was too young to have Breast Cancer, but agreed we should take precautions and sent me to get a mammogram. Unfortunately, the mammogram looked suspicious, so she then rushed me in for a sonogram. That result was even worse.

My Doctor, still unsure what was going on, cautiously scheduled me to have an MRI. The panic I thought I had in the shower of the Hilton bathroom came back in full swing. I went for the test where I was filled with fear and could not stop crying. I felt trapped, powerless, and terrified. The machine was scary, the thought of having Breast Cancer was even scarier, and the change to my seemingly great world was unsettling. I just kept thinking, “How could this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?”

Then, the results of the MRI came back with my worst fear. They confirmed it was Cancer.

Upon hearing the news, I felt my world falling apart. I had no idea what to do. I just kept thinking about all the things I wanted to do in my life that I have not yet had a chance to do. Why did I wait?

My next stop was to see an Oncologist. In this devastating meeting, the Oncologist explained to me how I would have to begin Chemotherapy Treatment, but the news was somehow even less troubling than his delivery. He was so frank about it, so cold, so heartless. He suggested I have a Double Mastectomy or a Lumpectomy with Radiation and said: “You’re going to lose all your hair, but you’ll be fine. It’ll grow back.”

I kept asking the Doctor why do I need Chemotherapy, but he couldn’t give me a good answer. After having lost my Mother to Cancer at a young age, the thought of this treatment was devastating. I knew firsthand what Chemotherapy could do to the human body.

I remember going home and crying. I did not want to participate in any of these treatments. I was so busy with work, life, and so I thought, preparing a wedding. I didn’t have time to be sick, nor did I have any time to take these terrible treatments. I knew I needed to find other options and someone else to speak to.

During a conversation with my dear friend Linda, she told me I should get a second opinion, something I hadn’t even considered while trying to process this shocking news. She suggested seeing a Doctor she had heard about in Gainesville. My Fiancé and I went there, as well as to several other Doctors, to explore different philosophies and treatment styles at different hospitals.

After several meetings and appointments, I found the exact Doctor I was looking for close to home. She spoke to me like a human being. She explained the entire process about why I needed Chemotherapy, the good and the bad of the treatment, and gave me the courage to move forward with a treatment plan we both could agree on.

And so my Journey began.

First, they started me on Chemotherapy. They were potent dosages, and the side effects were very tough. There were days I couldn’t even walk, I couldn’t take the dog out, and I couldn’t even stand. I remember lying in bed just crying and not being able to eat. Food began to taste horrible, I lost my hair, my skin dried out, and my body was leaking from places I didn’t even know it could leak. On my last round of Chemotherapy, I felt like my body was shutting down.

I pushed through this arduous experience until, finally, some good news. The Doctors told me the treatments had worked and the Cancer had disappeared.

The months of tension, physical hardship, and emotional turmoil washed away and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could breathe. I was beyond grateful, I was ecstatic; I couldn’t believe it. Then, another choice was presented: I could continue treatment for another year on a milder form of Chemotherapy and have a Double Mastectomy, or I could stop and hope it would not return.

In one of the most difficult choices of my life, I chose to continue treatment and proceed with a very challenging surgery of the Double Mastectomy. I never wanted to go through this again.

It took me years to recover, but I learned so much from this experience. I learned to never take life for granted, enjoy every day to the fullest, and that sometimes the little things are the most meaningful. I am so grateful to have survived this terrible disease, as I know not everyone has the chance to.

Cancer is a terrible illness. It destroys not only lives, but hopes and dreams. However, with love and support, and my own will power, I was so grateful to come out of this alive.

Now, I feel like it’s my mission in life to give back to others for the opportunity I have. So, from this journey, it has inspired me to write my book, The Bridge Method, committed to help men and woman cross the bridges that are put in front of them on a daily basis, the same way I have had to cross mine with Breast Cancer and other challenges I have faced in my own life.

The road to wellness and recovery is a long and difficult one. The constant, unrelenting fear was indescribable, but the idea for this book is to help alleviate some of that stress for others. The feeling of being alone in a diagnosis adds to the extreme depths of the experience, which is why this book exists is to help others push through and cross The Bridge.

You are not alone.

And I want you to allow me to aid you in your Journey.

-Simona Lazinsk

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