My first cancer diagnosis at age 31 left me unable to bear more children. As the youngest of three children, I thought three little ones would be great. That was not to be and I felt so blessed to have one child.
Life goes on. Except for periodic breast biopsies, I was healthy and active, faithful about checkups, for the next 20+ years.
At age 55, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy with axilary node dissection and radiation. Physically, I healed quickly. Emotionally it took longer, perhaps a year. Over the next two years, a number of friends were also diagnosed with breast cancer and I became a soft-of unofficial support person for them.
In 2004, I was not feeling quite “right” and called the family doctor who ordered an ultrasound. Within two hours of the procedure, I was told there was a mass in my pancreas, which was probably malignant. In a mega second my life passed before me as I thought, “I guess this is it,” having heard that pancreatic cancer was inoperable. Within two weeks I had surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The following year was filled with treatment and healing. In the middle of all this, my husband Bill and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a garden party that summer, surrounded by family and friends. It was a validation of life, our doing that. “Grab the moment. Make it work.”
(Sue and her husband Bill, pictured at right.)
Healing once again, I decided to do something new and signed up for ballet instruction. What a joy that was. In January 2007, I took weekly lessons and was so happy with the experience; it was like walking on air, the elation I felt.
A routine mammogram in May of 2007, just before my 66th birthday, brought me back to earth. A cautious radiologist suggested further testing which confirmed a malignancy. More appointments and testing ensued, followed by surgeries for a mastectomy and reconstruction. All went well until I was told chemotherapy was highly recommended. My mind simply would not, could not take it in. Not again!!
Time and reason changed that. I began treatments, which my body did not accept well. With medical guidance and prayers and encouragement from loved ones, I persevered. Eventually, my body healed and I began to “wake up” to new endeavors. This year, I have earned sufficient hours to become a certified Master Gardener.
More importantly, I believe I am serving a greater purpose that only God knows for certain. I’ll continue to live each day to its fullest and encourage others to do the same.