How Cancer Changed My Life

Becky Bechtel, 58 year old breast cancer survivor of Indianapolis, maintains a unique perspective on her disease. An eternal optimist, Becky is thankful for her diagnosis; thankful for the second chance to discover who she is, who she wants to be, and what is truly important in life.

Four years ago, Becky began to experience symptoms including breast tenderness and nipple discharge. She immediately went to Women’s Diagnostics at Indiana University Health North Hospital for a mammogram. The results indicated she may have early-stage breast cancer and would need additional testing. In January 2011, Becky visited medical oncologist Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo and underwent an MRI guided core needle biopsy. The biopsy confirmed Becky had stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma.

As Becky prepared for the challenges to come, she leaned on her community and her Christian faith. She used the time to reflect on her life and find peace in her situation. In the six weeks before her surgery, Becky exercised every day to ensure she was physically and emotionally ready for her fight. She took spin classes, lifted weights, ran and even went cross country skiing.

“The best defense is a good offense. There is so much that is unknown when you have cancer, but having that routine and working out every day gave me a sense of control over my situation. It was good for me to feel that I was getting stronger each day.”

When Becky had worries, she knew she could rely on her care team to help her understand her diagnosis and treatment. She became close with these individuals, finding comfort in the time she spent with them. “I had such confidence in my team of doctors, their compassion and ability to be healers,” Becky said.

In March of 2011, Becky underwent a single mastectomy and a DIEP flap reconstruction, a procedure in which tissue is taken from the abdomen and used to reconstruct the breast. The 14 hour surgery was achieved without complications. For six weeks, she was not able to drive or walk for exercise.

Through it all, Becky continued to stay busy. She found comfort in the familiarity of a consistent schedule. Becky continued her pursuit of a master’s degree in school counseling and even wrote and published a research paper.

Becky also took advantage of many of the free education and support opportunities offered at IU Health North Hospital, including healthy cooking and yoga—and she still participates today. For her, it is a way to cleanse her whole system, relax and recharge.

“Cancer is a gift in so many ways. It will shake you up like the colors of a kaleidoscope and refocus your priorities in life,” she says. “Breast cancer totally changes your perspective on everything. Things that rattled me before, they don’t bother me so much now. Going through something like this gives you a second chance to really think about who you are and be yourself rather than who everyone expects you to be. I resolved all of my regrets, made peace with my sins and my choices. Before my diagnosis, I would never take the time to soak it all in. Cancer forces you to do that, and for that I am thankful.”