When my surgeon asked me on Dec. 23, 2005, “Did you come alone?” I knew instinctively what she was going to tell me. After five mammograms and two needle biopsies, I wasn’t hopeful about the verdict. When she said, “You have breast cancer,” it sent a chill through my body, as if the finger of death had touched me. Though stunned, I left her office at Deaconess Hospital that afternoon, determined to win this battle and live. Having lost a 28-year-old daughter-in-law to breast cancer, and several friends, I knew the terrible effects of the disease. I cried most of the way home. But I got a grip on things, fixed my makeup, and headed straight for Barnes & Noble and bought Breast Cancer for Dummies. Education always has been my first line of defense against any kind of personal crisis. I chose the aftermath of the diagnosis as a time for reading the Dummies book and considering what I would hope to accomplish in an uncertain future. I also chose to be vocal and spread the message that this is a disease women, and men, can overcome with early detection. The incredibly painful tests were administered. The invasive surgery was performed in mid-January 2006, to remove the large cancer cell. My surgeon, Dr. Teresa Shavney, one of my daughter’s best friends, was ecstatic when I came out from under the anesthesia, and told me, “We saved the breast.” The breast is still dented and the surgical scars are still present. I opted not to have reconstructive surgery. With a very loving and supportive husband, it just didn’t seem that important. But I am alive, working at my favorite craft of writing, and functioning very well. I was lucky not to have to experience the trauma of chemotherapy. I went straight into radiation for almost eight weeks, mentally escaping each Monday through Friday 4 p.m. session by closing my eyes and time traveling to many of the wonderful places around the world I’ve been. I took three-minute trips to Paris, London, Austria, Santa Fe and Carmel often. I also learned you have to shed your modesty when you have breast cancer, especially when you have young, caring male radiation therapists. By mid-March, 2006, I graduated from radiation and am now on a daily Tamoxifen pill, which should thwart any recurrence. All breast cancer survivors mark their calendars for the five-year date when they will, hopefully, be free of a possible recurrence of the disease. My calendar tells me I have about three years to go. I mark it daily. And I am grateful for the privilege to put a small “x” on each day.