In 1994, I was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. My case was presented to the tumor conference board at DeKalb Medical, and I was told I would need a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. When I was being told I had breast cancer, I heard what was being said but it just didn’t feel real.
I had the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. During my hospitalization, I was treated with kindness and taken well care of by the staff at the hospital. Then I began my chemotherapy and lost my hair, which was very upsetting. I tried to keep a sense of humor by reminding myself that you can’t have a bad hair day when you’re bald, and I focused on the fact that it would grow back.
While my friends and family were sympathetic and supportive, they didn’t know what it was like to have breast cancer. I joined the breast cancer support group at DeKalb Medical, and I was able to meet other women like myself who listened as I shared my feelings. I knew they understood how breast cancer can change someone’s life.
To show my appreciation for the help I received at the cancer center, I began to volunteer there. But, as it turned out, I was not through with cancer. In 1998, I was diagnosed with a different kind of cancer in my other breast. This time I underwent a mastectomy with reconstruction as well as six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. All of this was followed by a stem cell transplant.
On February 18, 2002, I took a job at the DeKalb Medical Cancer Center as the administrative secretary and have been there ever since. Earlier this year I found and was treated for a melanoma on my leg. Again, the physicians and staff at DeKalb Medical lovingly walked me through the process.
When you go through something like this, your priorities in life change. Some patients retire so they can enjoy life. Others focus on milestones like celebrating their last treatment or having their hair grow back. I am healthy and cancer-free at this time and believe that each day is a new beginning. Through exercise and better food choices, I am working to stay healthy and I have faith for the future. I hope that I can help others by working with cancer patients and sharing my story.