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Breast cancer treatment: choices from hell

 On Tuesday, 37-year-old Guiliana Rancic, the host of E!, will undergo a bilateral mastectomy. The young woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer; she told reporters that she does not want to spend the rest of her life  wondering if the cancer has returned in her breasts.

When diagnosed, women often have a choice among various combinations of surgery, radiation and/or chemo, depending on the stage and type of breast cancer. Rancic is choosing to avoid chemo and radiation by opting for the surgery.

Many women, who may be genetically predisposed to breast cancer, face the question of prophylactic mastectomy as a way to prevent the disease from occurring as well as ease the stress of constant monitoring.  FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) is a nonprofit organization for women whose family history and genetic status puts them at high risk for ovarian cancer and/or breast cancer. Their website offers women - “previvors” and survivors - a chance to access information and each other.

When I faced my own breast cancer treatment choices, I told my husband that I was so frightened by it all, I didn’t know where I would find the courage to do what I needed to do. In a gentle reply he said, “I have lots of courage, you can have some of mine.” Guiliana will be able to draw on the courage of all the women who have gone before her, who have made these choices from hell - and are now living healthy, amazing lives. I am happy to offer her my courage, too.

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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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