On a winter morning, Diane warmed herself in the steam of her shower. Sliding her fingers over her right breast, she met the resistance of what felt like three raw peas. She froze. Fumbling for the soap, she rolled the bar in her hands and slid her fingers over the area again, desperate to deny what she felt.
A radiologist diagnosed the shadows on her mammogram as lymph nodes. She sought a second opinion. The cancer in her breast was among the most virulent her oncologist had encountered. Diane underwent a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy.
The aggressive nature of the cancer and a twenty percent chance of reoccurrence in her left breast convinced her to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. Though the removal of a healthy breast is a controversial measure, she sought any preemptive strike against the cancer's return.
Confronted with life-altering decisions in the days following her initial diagnosis, she desperately sought a sense of what lay ahead. What she found were clinical images of faceless torsos, conflicting advice, and life-affirming bromides she distrusted. She allowed me to document her experience to provide others with the signposts she herself sought but could not find. Sharing her story provided both of us with a means of focusing feelings of helplessness and frustration into something concrete, a means of fighting back against an enemy we could not see.
Diane's Story was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize