Discovery of breast cancer gave woman some answers

Cynthia Besteman, a N.Y. real estate broker. "I kept telling myself, you got this for a reason," she said. She believes she has found it.
Cynthia Besteman, a N.Y. real estate broker. "I kept telling myself, you got this for a reason," she said. She believes she has found it.
Posted: October 06, 2012

Through Oct. 17, Philly.com/health and the Inquirer will mark breast cancer awareness month by publishing a profile a day of transformative moments reported by patients. The series culminates in a special Philly.com/Inquirer/Daily News section Oct. 18, and can be viewed at www.philly.com/breastcancer.

For Cynthia Besteman, a real estate broker in New York, the diagnosis of breast cancer came out of nowhere. She was 46, a vegetarian, with no history of cancer in her family, a daily exerciser.

She was getting her mammogram when the radiologist found a lump and voiced his concern.

A "whoosh" swept over her.

What she felt at that moment was not a fear of dying or death, but deep disappointment and aching sadness that she had not done more things she had always wanted to do - like go to Spain.

At that instant, she saw her life with amazing clarity.

She had been a woman driven in her work by fear, not love - fear that she'd lose a sale, a client, a place in the top 10 rankings of sales staff in her office.

And suddenly, with the discovery of the lump, that fear was gone, revealed for the nonsense that it was.

Luckily for Cynthia, biopsy determined her cancer to be Stage 1. She needed breast-conserving lumpectomy, but no chemotherapy. Compared with so many others, her treatment was relatively mild.

In fact, for fear of sounding a little ridiculous, she loved her treatments at Mount Sinai Hospital's Dubin Center. She didn't feel as if she was among sick people, but among those getting well.

The environment was so nurturing and supportive that she was actually sad after a year when she no longer needed treatment.

So many things were revealed to her in that year after diagnosis. Friends she thought she could count on, whom she felt were close, provided little or no support and faded out of her life.

Friends she never expected to step up did so in wonderful ways and have become incredibly dear. Her boyfriend and business partner has been steady and true, making sure she never slips back into a work-first-and-always mentality.

And she's determined to use this experience to change for the better.

"I kept telling myself, you got this for a reason," said Cynthia. "I feel like a lot of women have this 'a-ha' moment, and they go on Oprah and say they know exactly what they want to do. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I needed to make this diagnosis mean something. It didn't mean leaving my job, but it meant making changes in my life."

She searched her heart about where to find fulfillment.

And believes she found it.

"As I searched for answers about why I got this cancer," she said, "I started looking at all the things I put on my body. They were filled with poisons and terrible things.

"Now I get into making my own products. My dream is to create packages of products for women going through chemo, products with no chemicals, no preservatives, no parabens, and no scent."

During chemo, smells can set you off and make you nauseated.

"I'd love to do a not-for-profit company supplying these products," she said. "I've found what I want to do - an organic skin-care line. I hope it can become a nice balance in my life." - Michael Vitez

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