A simple test keeps a full life going

NOTE: Also printed in special “Pink” section

By Brenda Maguire

For Marsha Goldstein, life was good.

She enjoyed her job at the now defunct Hartford Area Training Center and she spent plenty of quality time with her husband and three children.

Goldstein had a healthy lifestyle. She was a runner and a vegetarian. She did monthly breast self-examinations and scheduled yearly clinical exams and mammograms.

Despite that lifestyle, at the age of 48 Goldstein’s world was flipped upside down.

In October 1993 Goldstein had a mammogram conducted by a physician and everything was normal. But just two months later, while performing a self-exam, Goldstein found a lump.

“My nature is not to panic,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’”

After seeing multiple doctors, it was decided that chemotherapy and radiation would be the best treatment for her because the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

As she pulled up to the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital for her first day of chemotherapy, Goldstein saw the large words “Cancer Center” on the building.

“To walk in there and know that you have cancer, that was the moment that got me,” Goldstein said.

She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment for six months. Afterward, she took tamoxifen, which is given to patients to reduce the risk of relapse.

Throughout her treatment, Goldstein tried to remain upbeat. She said when she learned of her diagnosis she tended to think of the fatality of the disease. But she then concentrated on being positive.

“I think anybody would be shaken,” the Newington resident said, later adding, “It’s all about hope and to be optimistic and to know that just because you’re diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t mean you’re going to die.”

She found support groups and noted that her family helped to keep up her spirits.

Goldstein said she learned to “live in the moment” from her experience.

“You learn that you’re so much stronger than you think,” she said.

Now, at 67, Goldstein is an 18-year survivor and works with the New Britain-based CT Breast Health Initiative to help support breast cancer research in the state.

“After my treatment it led me to be involved as a breast cancer activist,” Goldstein said. “I was going to do something that mattered.”

She has worked as a spokeswoman for the initiative and is on its board of directors. She believes it’s important to contribute to research because even now, 18 years after she went through treatment, the process is much different.

“I’m so proud with being involved with the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative because all of the money stays in Connecticut,” Goldstein said.

She said that if she hadn’t done her monthly self-exam then she might not be enjoying the highlights of her life, like going to the gym and spending time with her nine grandchildren.

“I think it saved my life,” she said. “It would have been a whole year for another mammogram.”

Goldstein urges women and men to be vigilant when it comes to breast cancer. Annual clinical exams and self-exams should regularly be conducted, she said, and after turning 40 it’s important to have a mammogram done.

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