Survivor Sanctuary Survivor Stories
From birth to death we have disappointments, sickness, and pain that we have no control over, but we can survive. I am a survivor, and this is my story.
It was a hot, summer day in July - just a week after my 46th birthday. There was a lot happening in my life, the most significant of which was helping to care for my mother who was fighting cervical cancer. I still found time, however, to do the routines of life. I had gone for my mammogram as I had done every year since the age of 30. Because I work for a breast surgeon, I knew many of the healthcare professionals in the office that day. The mammogram was done and I waited like I had done every year for the past 16 years, but this time it was different. Moments later I saw the radiologist whom I knew well and the look on his face told the story. July 2000 – this is when my journey began. He told me I needed to have an ultrasound after which a biopsy was recommended. After undergoing the biopsy, the idea of breast cancer was no longer a sick and dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach, it was real and I had to deal with it. I underwent surgery to remove my breast. Because I had a choice, I declined chemotherapy; instead, I took tamoxifen as treatment for my breast cancer. I also made the choice to have my right breast removed even though there was no sign of cancer in that breast.
The fear of dying never really leaves you, but remember, I said I am a survivor – not just a physical survivor, but I am a survivor spiritually and emotionally. After surgery and treatment, I focused all my energies on getting better. I did not have reconstructive surgery right away, opting instead to wear a prosthesis. I’ll never forget being in the supermarket one day and kneeling down only to have my prosthesis breast pop out of my blouse and roll onto the floor. I was mortified, and the little boy standing in front of me did not know what to make of my dilemma. I calmly picked my breast up off the floor, tucked it into my blouse and continued shopping. Believe me, these are the moments that punctuate our lives.
I have not allowed breast cancer to defeat me. It is my gift without the bow. I won’t run from it; in fact, I’m often called to speak to groups about my experience. I have recounted my story so often that I’ve decided to turn it into a film. My book, The Empty Cup Runneth Over, and my website, http://www.theemptycuprunnethover.com, have also been instrumental to my healing and to the healing of others. Yes, my life has changed, but change for me means being a better person, surrounding myself with positive people, and living life to the fullest. I am a survivor, and my cup runneth over. By the way, my mom is a survivor, too!