The Power of Positive Thinking: Dianne Hill’s Surviver Story
Each one of us reacts differently to a potentially life-altering situation. Some ignore it, hoping it’ll go away, resolve itself, all work out for the best, “it’s nothing.”
But deep down, some part of us knows it’s not OK and that it is going to be serious. You know the feeling. It’s like you’ve been punched in the stomach and all the air is knocked out of you.
Simpsonville resident and cancer survivor Dianne Hill experienced exactly those emotions in May 2008.
“I found my lumps while I was applying lotion one morning,” she says, “I felt some knots at the top of my left breast.” She was later to learn that doctors call that area the 12 0’clock position.
Dianne continues, “I had a sinking feeling right away, I have had several benign lumps removed in the past, but I could tell this one was different. I immediately thought of cancer.”
Dianne is the mother of two grown children, Leanne and Eric. She didn’t immediately go for any help.
“I had a (gynecologist) appointment in August and it wasn’t until then that I told my doctor about the lumps. I was married at the time but I didn’t tell my husband or my children. I just decided to put it out of my mind and would deal with it in August.”
Even three months later, “dealing with it” almost didn’t happen. When Dianne saw her doctor, that doctor initially didn’t feel the lumps, Dianne had to ask her to feel for those lumps again because the doctor initially didn’t reach up far enough under Dianne’s armpit,“ Her reaction was concerning.
But it was that reaction that finally got the treatment process rolling.
“She made an appointment for me to have a mammogram done, and that led to an ultrasound. I took my films back to my doctor and she called the surgeon. That was on a Friday and I had to wait until Monday to see the surgeon. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck.”
Dianne finally broke down and told her family, one by one. “I decided to call my daughter, Leanne. I hated to be the bearer of bad news, because she and her (now husband) Justin were in the middle of wedding planning. Then I had to call (my son) Eric while he was four hours away at college. I hated to tell him over the phone, but I didn’t have a choice.”
Dianne told her family she had been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and she had four positive lymph nodes out of the 27 that were removed.
After her surgical and treatment options were explained, Dianne first chose to have a double mastectomy, but after her doctor gave her additional information that seemed to make a great deal of sense, she changed her mind. “She explained if I chose to have a double mastectomy and my cancer were to come back, that it wouldn’t have any breast tissue to attach to and it would go somewhere else.” So Dianne opted for a lumpectomy. “I liked the idea of a faster recovery time and being able to keep my breasts.”
Her next crisis came when she began losing her hair after chemotherapy. “That evening, Leanne came over and we shaved my head. I cried and stayed in bed for three days. I would talk to family and friends on the phone I just wanted to stay in bed. On the third day a friend called to check on me. We talked though my tears, and then she said to me, in the nicest way, ‘Dianne get over it, it is just hair and it will grow back.’ I didn’t even get mad, I hung up the phone, and got out of bed, took a shower and left my house.”
The family and friends Dianne kept in the dark for so long at the beginning of her journey swooped in to help when she finally broke down and shared her problems. In fact, she credits them with her recovery: “Having my family with me every step of the way helped me to stay positive. I was sure to remind myself that someone else is enduring a much worse situation with cancer right now. I know without a doubt that my faith in Jesus was a tremendous help as well.”
Dianne also got some good advice from other cancer patients undergoing treatment in the chemo room. “One lady told me not to eat any of my favorite foods going through chemo or radiation because they would not taste good. Another lady told me not to use metal utensils because the utensils would make you have a metallic taste in your mouth. I still have plastic spoons and forks all these years later. However, one piece of advice that did not work for me was being told not to eat before a treatment, I got very sick when I did not eat before my treatments.”
Dianne is one of many people who believes things, even bad things, happen for a reason, and now she says the most important aspect to emerge from her odyssey, was “to have met so many dear friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I enjoy sharing my story with others. And my going through this can possibly help someone else. Also, I volunteered for clinical trials in an effort to provide help for future breast cancer patients.”
“Keeping a positive outlook is a good way to start the fight,” Dianne advises, “ A positive attitude goes a long way, along with exercise. But be careful not to overdo it. Most importantly, listen to your body. It can give you many answers on what’s going on with your treatment plan.”