PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

Posted on Oct 4, 2013

Edna Shochat

Edna Shochat

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, throughout October we’ll be posting a series of stories about breast cancer prevention, treatment and survivors.

When Edna Shochat discovered a lump in her breast in 2010, she was about to go on a long-anticipated trip to Israel with her husband. She had already postponed this special trip for a full year to recover from a serious break to her leg and the resulting surgery.

“It was a painful dilemma,” says Shochat, a vibrant 71 year old. “I agonized over whether I should change my plans and give up what might be our last perfect vacation.”

She decided to keep her discovery secret and went ahead with the month-long trip.

“Everyone was so pleased to see how my broken leg had healed and kept telling me how well I looked,” says Shochat. “They didn’t know that I could barely sleep, worrying about the lump. I was counting down the days, trying to hold on to each hour and keep my ‘vacation from reality’ from coming to an end.”

Going Through Treatment

Once home, Shochat underwent an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation‘s (PAMF) Breast Imaging Center. The biopsy showed she had cancer in both breasts.

Genetic testing, part of PAMF’s Cancer Care Program, revealed that Shochat carries the Breast Cancer Gene 1, which indicates that she is at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer.

So, in January, 2011, Shochat had a double mastectomy. She also had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. The surgery lasted more than six hours and was performed by three PAMF surgeons. Under the care of the Oncology Department she then underwent eight chemotherapy sessions at PAMF’s Infusion Center.

“I give so much credit to the doctors and staff at PAMF for helping me through my cancer journey,” says Shochat. “The most valuable support came from my nurse educator, Jennifer Glover, R.N., who, from diagnosis on, helped me prepare for and navigate through the battle to reclaim my life.”

Coping with Humor 

“As soon as I woke up from surgery and saw the worried faces of my husband and children, I knew I had to reassure them,” says Shochat. “I said faintly, ‘I think I’m beginning to experience Empty Breasts Syndrome.’ As soon as they heard those words, they smiled and looked relieved.”

Shochat 's pastel "Two Sisters" is displayed at Deborah's Palm, a non-profit community for women in Palo Alto.

Shochat ‘s pastel “Two Sisters” is displayed at Deborah’s Palm, a non-profit women’s center in Palo Alto.

Shochat, who enjoyed a successful career as a graphic designer, coupled her playful sense of humor with photography and writing to document her cancer journey. (One of her poems is below.)

At a Breast Cancer Connections workshop, she designed a fashion line called “My Cup ‘o’ Tees: T-shirts for women who may have lost (one or two) precious body parts but not their sense of style,” and displayed them at the closing event.

Shochat is now cancer-free and enjoying immersing herself in all the things she loves, from art and poetry to “babysitting” her teenage grandsons.

“Several of my friends wondered how I could keep in such high spirits during my cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Shochat. “One of them even suggested I should give lessons on how to go through breast cancer. My response was, ‘May the day arrive when there are no women eligible to sign up for that class.’


By Edna Shochat

Today I clean out the closet.

Close the final chapter in my “Book of Boobs,”

End the saga “Breasts, Interrupted.”

The last remaining brassieres in my chest of drawers,

still in perfect shape, head to Goodwill.

May the lovely cups find a good home,

and a new B-size pair to have and to hold.