The East End Mend
By Donna Boyle The first question on the form that I was required to fill out asked, “What is your family medical history?” I then sat there unable to find the words to write down. The form that I held in my hand would uncover a secret that very few people in my life knew about me. The words that I jotted on the paper may have come as a shock. Let’s just say I didn’t know my family history. In fact, I was adopted.
It was early June, in 2009, and I had an appointment for a routine mammography and sonogram. This was also Monte’s birthday; and we had planned a long weekend out east in Montauk. Considering this process never took more than an hour or so, Monte decided to wait for me in the parking lot and mind the packed car which included his surfboard. Once the sonogram tech completed my procedure she placed the robe over me, and then excused herself from the room.
After leaving the office that day my life would never be the same. As I approached Monte’s car and opened the door, he could see the pain on my face as he reached for my hand. My eyes welled up with tears and the only words I was able to speak were, “I’m sick.” We remained silent during our car ride and as we approached theHamptons, the air began to clear. Monte and I decided to stop for lunch at the Indian Wells Tavern, located in the heart of the historical town ofAmagansett. Although my disposition was rather melancholy, once seated beside the window, a friendly waiter greeted us, and I felt myself gently smile at him. Monte ordered two Bloody Marys and as I glanced up at the waiter I chuckled and said, “It’s his birthday.” He replied, “Oh really! Well then your lunch is on us today, birthday boy!” It was truly the first time in hours we had both laughed and simultaneously said, “Really? Wow! Thank You!” While cheering, we promised each other that from that moment on we would try our best not to dwell on what we both knew was about to happen.
Our weekend spent on theEast Endbecame one that we would always remember. Monte and I shared a lot of quality time together walking on the beach, holding hands, along with watching the spectacular sunset at the Montauket Restaurant. We had an intimate dinner at The Harvest the night before heading back home and as promised, we spent little time talking about the inevitable. Unfortunately, what was obvious need not be said. Although we lived less than two hours away onLong Island, there was something about being on theEast Endthat felt like paradise.
Over the next seven months, I had four biopsies and one surgery only to have been diagnosed with Lobular Carcinoma, Situ. I was placed in the hands of a breast surgeon, whom I now consider my Guardian Angel. She saved my life onJanuary 20, 2010, when I survived a double mastectomy. In the eighteen months that followed I underwent four more operations. The last three surgeries were the result of an infection I developed. After each surgery, Monte planned long weekend stays on theEast End. Montauk became a place of solace for me to heal from the inside out.
While healing in Montauk, I was spending a great deal of time sitting on the beach, listening to the sound of the ocean and simply reflecting. I decided to purchase a pink marble notebook, which of course symbolized sisterhood, and began jotting down my fondest memories. This process became one that was particularly cathartic. Each morning, after watching the sunrise I would continue writing, filling the pages in my pink notebook. It was then that I realized I have lived an extremely fortunate life surrounded by fabulous people, filled with incredible experiences, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever see this coming.
I discovered that my pink marble notebook became something more than just me. I was then motivated to write my memoir titled, Life before the D-Cup. Not only had I been inspired by the many precious moments spent on the East End, my final decision came after reading my daughter’s college essay with the first sentence stating, “The most powerful figure in a female’s life is her mother.” I then knew I wanted to share my life experiences before and after the D-Cup. The irony is that this series of events gave my two daughters the inner strength I never knew existed. I think after surviving five surgeries in less than two years was the turning point in my life, and it was then that I realized that life is too short! Everyone I have ever come into contact with; doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, or strangers in the waiting room have always been so pleasantly surprised by my positive attitude and endless humor. The truth is, before this happened to me I was always the life of the party. So, I thought to myself, why stop now? To put an end to my vivacious personality would simply be out of character. I was placed in a situation that was completely out of my control, so to crawl up in the fetal position in a corner would not be me, unless of course it was because I was over-served wine and needed to get some sleep. Not only have I been given a second chance in life, it has been an unbelievable journey filled with lots of love, laughter, tears and hope that I would like to share. My hope is to lift the spirits of others who are going through or have been through a similar life-changing experience. I wish to be an inspiration to the many sisters, daughters and mothers, with whom I share company. In the end, I have learned that the old adage is true; don’t judge a book by its cover.