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A Five Year Look Back: My Personal Epiphany

I know what you are thinking . . . not another post from an elder law attorney about Medicaid’s five-year lookback period and the need for long term care planning. While I constantly preach the gospel of that message, this blog post has absolutely nothing to do with government entitlement programs, planning, or the law. If nothing else, this should encourage you to continue reading. 


This is not my typical blog infused with humor and self-deprecation. However, it will prove to be the most personal. I have been considering this post for the past year. I decided to release it in October 2023, in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. After five years in remission, it’s time. 

I was squished, squashed, and surveilled for decades. I had cysts excised, removed, and tested. My rather petite external body parts acted like, and were treated as, ticking time bombs. (Replace the “m” in the last word with an “o” for a chuckle.) Then, during a routine mammogram, a cyst seemingly exploded, setting off a chain of unfortunate events from which I would thankfully recover. The diagnosis was serious but not fatal. 


The ensuing nine-hour surgery to doubly remove and reconstruct proved successful. But unbeknownst to all were the lurking of a plethora of pesky pulmonary emboli. You see, two weeks into my recovery I started to experience swelling in my lower extremities. A Doppler revealed nothing. 

But a few days later, a feeling of malaise set in, peppered with intermittent shortness of breath. During a follow up visit, my surgeon sent me straight to another round of imaging which revealed the presence of life-threatening pulmonary emboli and pleural effusion. The look on the technician's face was alarming. Go immediately to the ER I was told. I was readmitted for another week of tests and treatment. 

That week saved two lives. What? To clarify, testing revealed a mutation on the prothrombin gene. Had that been known, I would have been prescribed blood thinners prior to surgery. That would have eliminated the risk of clotting. My children were sent for testing. While my son tested negative, my then 22-year-old daughter (who approved this post) tested positive. As a young woman in childbearing years, this mutation is especially dangerous. Note that birth control pills, coupled with a blood clotting disorder, could prove fatal. And an unknown mutation could wreak havoc during any future pregnancy or surgery. 


Now do you understand my life-saving statement? Discovering the genetic mutation was the blessing brought by breast cancer. That was my post-surgical epiphany. 


So much is written about breast cancer. The disease affects innumerable lives, especially here on Long Island. Sadly, so many are not here to share their journeys. I recognize how fortunate and blessed I am to have the right family, friends, teammates, colleagues, clients, and most importantly, the best surgeons. 

After five years, I am healthy and able to share the blessings which emanated from my experience. 

But wait, there’s more. After my recovery period, and upon returning to the office, I vowed not to work as hard. A friend and colleague recently reminded me of that proclamation. Indeed, haven't I learned about the fragility of life? Somehow, I lapsed right back into form, thanks to my work ethic and circumstances beyond my control. After much recent reflection, I am doubling down to achieve personal and professional goals.  While doing so, I am committed to spending more quality time with friends and family and not obsessing on inconsequential matters. I intend to be more selective about the invitations I accept and meetings I attend. I need to curate my days with purpose and passion. Life is too short and precious. 


So these are my short musings on perspective, gratitude, and lessons learned. I just need to comply with my own prescription. As someone who often second guesses decisions, I will never look back and question those that I made five years ago. 


You are free to share my story with those in your world. Please stay well and be proactive about your health care. 


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