Cancer Survivors

by Maryann Pisano on February 5, 2011

Three women share their personal and touching stories with emme about beating cancer and teaching others about how to keep fighting.

Kim, Mullica Hill, NJ

Age: 36

I noticed a lump on my breast one evening when I was in the shower and I decided to get it checked out to make sure it was nothing.  I went for a mammogram on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31, 2007) and the technician made me take an ultra sound. The technician told me that the lump was either going to be a cyst or something else.  The doctor was hoping for a cyst because anything else would be hazardous to my body.  After the ultra sound, the technician was very quiet and told me that it wasn’t a cyst.  She tried to sugar coat it and explained to me that it was probably nothing, but I wasn’t very optimistic.

That evening my husband, Michael and I had a big New Year’s Eve party and the entire night I kept thinking about how 2008 was going to be a hell of a year.  Trying to stay positive, I went for a biopsy two days later and got news on a Tues. morning that I had breast cancer.  I was not crushed.  My husband and I were more worried about which doctors to work with and what to do next to defeat cancer.

I had the lump removed with surgery on Jan. 25 and was told that my cancer was in stage2B which meant I had to take 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  During chemo, I never wanted to eat anything and I felt like I needed to vomit all the time.  My weekly chemotherapy schedule went like this: Thurs. had I chemo, Fri. I was given a shot and by Sat. I couldn’t even lift my head off my pillow.  I have three little kids which was difficult to have energy for their needs. My mother watched my two-year old while my husband occupied my two oldest children.

Throughout this experience, my children really were able to learn that cancer is not scary and is not a death sentence.  They are more accepting of sickness and watched me fight cancer and beat it.  I have an amazing support system which includes my family and friends.  My husband and I have grown much closer and I have really learned to take care of myself better.

During chemo, I could barely walk around the block without having to stop and take a break.  So when I had my energy back, Michael and I decided to get back in shape.  We decided to do a 64 mile bike ride from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.  From there, Michael and I began running marathons.  I was told that if I was in pain while running, I should quit.  Fortunately, that never happened and I was able to run like the way I used to when I was in high school.  (I was the captain of my cross country team).  One of Michael’s friends from college got wind of my story and was writing a book about what motivates people to run marathons.  He sponsored Michael and I to run a marathon in Paris so he could feature my story in his book.  Michael and I finished the race and had a wonderful time in Paris.  Without beating breast cancer, this opportunity of running in Paris and becoming healthier would not have presented itself.

Angie, Park Ridge, IL

Age: 51

One evening, as I was putting on my pajamas, I felt hardness in my breast.  My husband and I both thought that I might be feeling my ribcage, but I still decided to get an examination with my doctor just in case.  I wasn’t worried about the results because I had always been an extremely healthy person.  I was never overweight, I tried to eat organic and I was never on birth control.  My doctor first thought the hardness was fibroadenoma.  I took a biopsy and then it was sent off to be tested.  I still remember the day that I heard the results:  I had just gotten home from work and my coat was still on when the phone rang.  I was sitting on my bed when my doctor informed me that I had breast cancer.  On the initial moment of hearing the news, I did not cry.  I called my husband to come home from work and told him the news and then I did fall apart.  But, for the most part, I was very together and positive upon hearing the news.  I wasn’t thrilled but I wasn’t afraid.  I realized that I needed to do whatever I could to beat this so I used my energy into setting up meetings with doctors and I needed to be strong for my daughter.  There was never a thought in my mind that wasn’t going to be okay.

During radiation I always tried to move on and push through it.  Chemotherapy was not so bad at first but near the end I did not feel well.  My husband always joked around with me when I lost my hair to keep me laughing and positive.  Of course, I broke down a few times, but I never had a ‘woes me’ moment.  I always tried to use my humor and upbeat personality beat my blues.

During this time I really learned to allow others to help me.  The women I work with rallied for me and did a Mother’s Day walk to raise money for breast cancer awareness.  The families that I worked with also started a cooking program for me.  Every night a different family would cook a new meal for me.  I really realized how many people including my family and friends are truly there for me.  My connection with God also grew.  I had such strong faith when I went to church and I realized God would give me the strength to get me through this.

After I was told that I was in remission, I now live a much healthier lifestyle.  I have to take Vitamin D supplements and I buy almost all of my food organic.  I also make sure that the cosmetics I use do not contain harmful chemicals.  I really grew to realize that without your health, you have nothing.  Having breast cancer showed me that my health and my family are the most important things in my life.  If someone has a fancy house or car, it means nothing if they do not have a loving family.  I wake up every morning and I thank God for a beautiful family, daughter, happiness and my health.

Toni, Elmwood Park, IL

Age: 87

In 1992, when I was 59 years old, I had to have an operation on my gallbladder.  While getting an X-Ray for my gallbladder, my doctor told me that I should get my chest examined as well.  Much to my dismay, the X-Ray revealed that I had lung cancer.

During my gallbladder operation, my doctor was able to take out the cancer in my chest.  However, I had to go through platinum chemo for six months.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure.  I almost didn’t take my last treatment, but my husband urged me to go through with it.  Something as hard and traumatic as chemo I could never go through with it again.  There were several times when I wanted to give up all together, but my husband kept my spirits bright.  I wanted to fight to survive because my six grandchildren were all still very small and I wanted to see them all grow up.

When I was in remission, I had never been so appreciative of life.  I was able to watch my grandchildren graduate from high school and college.  The experience made me feel closer to God.  Every night when I go to sleep I thank God for another day.  Life is so precious, and until you’ve endured something like cancer, then you finally realize it.

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