Roberta Levy was just 27 years old when she discovered she had breast cancer. An abnormal Pap smear prompted her to see an obstetrician, who discovered a lump in her breast. Since the majority of lumps discovered are not malignant, Roberta didn't worry.
"The doctors made light of it. They were like, well, your Pap smear is fine, and by the way you have a lump in your left breast," Roberta said.
Since the lump distorted the shape of Roberta's breast, the physician suggested removing it for cosmetic reasons. The lump was malignant. Roberta faced three more surgeries and six months of chemotherapy. She thought her life was over. She heard stories about "chemo" and how the patients were always sick and in bed.
"I thought my life would never be normal again."
Roberta was completely wrong. During nine months of surgeries and chemotherapy, she missed only 10 days of work. She took radiation in the morning and worked in the afternoon.
"It was nothing like I thought it would be," Roberta said. "I never stopped going."
Roberta did have bad days during therapy which left her feeling tired and nauseated. During her fourth month of chemotherapy, Roberta attended a bachelorette party and left feeling sick. She met a man there named Lee who continued to call her the next week.
"I told him that I was having a bad chemo week, but he didn't care," Roberta said. "I tried to push him away since I was sick, but the cancer did not scare him."
Lee and Roberta are now engaged.
Cancer has taught Roberta more about life than she hoped for. She said, if she could go back, she would do it all over again. Everything she learned about her life and friends was during chemotherapy.
"The only part that can really get to you is the fear factor," Roberta said. "It's out of your hands."
The unconditional love and support from her family and friends played a large role in recovering. "I never had a moment alone. They were with me the entire way. I still have the piles of hats they sent me, which is funny since I never entirely lost my hair."
Roberta uses her experience to help other young women battling with breast cancer. She now works on a survivor committee in New York that helps young women with their struggles with cancer.
Sharon Spencer Schlesinger