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My first breast cancer diagnosis was in 1995 when I was only 32 years old. I had three young daughters; 9, 8 and 3. I was in total shock and I was terrified that someday one of my girls may have to face my same reality. There was no history of cancer in my family and I was so young. Lumpectomy was not an option for me so I had a (R) side mastectomy with lymph node dissection and later reconstructive surgeries on both breasts. Having lymph node involvement, I was told I needed chemotherapy. I did the standard four treatments and opted to do four more when my oncologist persuaded me to participate in a clinical trial of a new drug called TAXOL. I also took five years of tamoxifen. I tested negative for the BRCA gene.
The second time I heard the words “You have cancer” was 14 years later in 2009. This time I was 47 years old and my girls were 24, 22, and 17. I also now had a granddaughter who was 6. My Oncologist called this a chest wall recurrence, same side as my mastectomy. I had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. This time I tested positive for the HER 2 gene……..information and treatment they didn’t have 14 years before, so I did Herceptin treatments for 1 year. Another 5 years of tamoxifen.
On June 18, 2010, my longtime love proposed as I sat there with barely any hair and still so frail from all my body had been through. We were married in the Bahamas on 12-11-10, the date we had met, 9 years before.
In April of 2011, I decided to have a (L) side mastectomy as a preventative measure, followed by several reconstructive surgeries.
I see my oncologist every three months and as each of my daughters turns 25, he has requested that they be screened and examined as a precaution, which gives me some piece of mind as well.
I never gave up hope during either battle with breast cancer. I was so lucky to have the unconditional love and support from my three BEAUTIFUL daughters (and grand girl), my devoted parents and extended family, my friends, my husband and my coworkers. I am so blessed to have such a large network of support and love. I wish it was that way for everyone who faces this scary disease.
Angels bring me peace, comfort, and hope, and remind me of my ever present guardian angel. I have collected angels since my first diagnosis in 1995. Through all the pain and devastation that I was going through, I had a great sense of peace and a heart full of hope that all would be okay.
The most important part of this journey has been the gifts and lessons learned. All we can do is make peace with the past, learn from it and embrace every beautiful moment of it. I have learned about acceptance. I’ve learned just how fragile and short life is and that chronic stress is a KILLER. I’ve learned that we all need to listen closely to what our bodies are trying to tell us and be mindful not to dwell on negativity.
Live every day as if it were your last, it just might be! Tell the people you love that you do, look for the extraordinary in the ordinary and above all TREASURE YOURSELF!
My girls, my parents (ages 75 and 78) and I have participated in the Race for the Cure for 18 years now. It is always such a special day. We remember, we reflect, we laugh, we cry and we thank God for every year we get to share together. Looking forward to many more cancer free years and praying for that cure we are all longing for!
Susan G. Komen
1450 Ute Avenue
Aspen, CO 81611