A Cancer Diagnosis Becomes a New Lease on Life

After her family doctor back home insisted Lissa do breast exams, she started doing them regularly at the beginning of each month. Four years later, still in her 20s, she felt something, and went in immediately to have it checked out by Dr. Shivani Duggal.

The tumor was cancerous, and the type of cancer was aggressive. She went for chemo, surgery, a bilateral mastectomy, and radiation. One of the most valuable things Lissa has gained from her experience is a brand new perspective on life. 

“What could have been the worst thing ended up being one of the best things. Nobody wants cancer. But I do think it provides this necessary perspective shift. I thought I had all my priorities straight. And I think the moment someone says to you, ‘You have cancer,’ it’s like, ‘Whoa! I need to be doing things a lot differently!’ Part of the perspective shift for me with cancer was not delaying gratification for so long. I’m very responsible – I’m that kid in the M&M study that will wait years before they eat the M&M. I want to make the right choices. And so my husband and I didn’t allow ourselves to do a lot of things until we reached our professional goals. So I was recently licensed as a therapist. My husband got his restaurant and we moved here, we were ready to start a family. And then I found out I had cancer.”

So before she began chemo, Lissa and her husband chose to take their one shot at having kids by undergoing an accelerated round of in-vitro fertilization. The results were better than expected, and in about a year, Lissa’s doctors say she can begin to start her family.

To learn more about women’s health, visit ahn.org/specialties/womens-health.