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.
Paula Holland De Long
My name is Paula Holland De Long and I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 37, One day I was living my life. Three weeks later I was sitting in a hospital minus my left breast, wondering what the hell had hit me, afraid I was going to die. I remember the pain and fear of not knowing what was going to happen. The tediousness of chemo, keeping my “I’m fine” face on and my wig straight in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. Feeling guilty about not being superwoman during a time when I often could barely get out of bed. My focus was on reaching that magic time when somehow this cancer stuff would end and my life could go back to normal.
August 23, 1971 was a bittersweet day for my mother. After giving birth to 3 baby boys during the past 9 years, she finally gave birth to an 8lb, 19inch baby girl. Along with this joy also came fear. My father, who was from Eluthera Island, Bahamas, had 2 daughters, from a previous marriage, who’d both been diagnosed with cancer, one with breast cancer at the age of 33 and the other with ovarian cancer at the age of 33. Cancer took both of my sisters’ lives. Ever since the day of my birth, my mother fearfully awaited a diagnosis of one of these cancers for her baby girl, knowing that there was a strong family history present. June 5, 2009 was the day……the day that I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I was 37 years old. My mother immediately began crying, as her nightmare had become a reality.
I am here. I am alive, I am healthy and I am happy. I changed from victim to victor. I became a warrior. I faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds, but I took control of the situation in order to survive.
Many doctors, friends and family helped me through the darkest days, the days immediately following diagnosis. One cancer survivor in particular made me realize it was my responsibility to believe in myself. Her words resonated in my soul. "You will live. You simply must believe in yourself!" These powerful words became my lifeline. I grabbed the rope and began pulling myself up, hand over hand, until I came out of my black hole of doubt and self-pity.
Winston Churchill wrote. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Patricia San Pedro
I’m Patricia San Pedro, Author, Public Speaker, and breast cancer survivor. Though unique in our personal stories, breast cancer survivors have walked similar paths, celebrated similar successes, and encountered similar challenges. What we do have in common stacks higher than what we don’t, and just from that knowing, we are strengthened and empowered.
On April 10th, 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis shook my foundation and brought nearly all external life-processes to a screeching halt. In the moments after hearing the diagnosis, I was reminded that I had the power to choose my attitude for how I would handle the situation.
My story is one of unexpected life challenges and glorious triumphs. About ten years ago, I had a kidney transplant. This was a difficult time for me and I thought it would be the first and last time I would experience such a serious health issue. Then in 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I first suspected that there may be a problem when I felt a lump on my breast while attending a wedding. No, I don’t usually make a habit of giving myself breast exams at weddings (smile), but this particular day I did - let’s just say it was divine inclination. Seriously, I am fortunate that I grew up in a time that encouraged women to be conscious about their health and abnormalities in their bodies.
Devastating and incomprehensible are the only words that come close to describing the genesis of my journey. By the end of it I understood the meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.
February 2006 I received the diagnosis that no woman wants to hear. I had breast cancer. Just two months prior, I had thrown myself into the planning of my only daughter’s wedding. Samantha was to be married in March 2007.