As a teenager, Barbara Bartoszak watched as her mother fought and ultimately lost her battle with ovarian and uterine cancer. So, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29, she thought, "No chemo."
"My children were four and six at the time, and I didn't want them to have to go through watching me get so sick," she says. At first, it looked like she'd be able to avoid chemotherapy. After a partial mastectomy, the pathologist told her he'd gotten all the cancer.
Sadly, he was mistaken. Barbara had an aggressive form of breast cancer, and without treatment, her odds of surviving even two years were 50/50.
She opted to enter into a study involving a new combination of chemo and radiation. "I told my oncologist that my goal was to see my sons grow up and graduate from high school, and he promised he'd do his best to give me that chance."
Beating her doctor's most optimistic prognosis, Barbara not only saw her sons graduate from high school; she also was there for their college graduations and weddings. “And I now have the wonderful experience of watching my granddaughter grow up."
Although her battle was difficult, Barbara says that it brought her family closer together than she'd ever imagined. "Something like this can either make or break a marriage, and it made ours even stronger."
Barbara also learned that she was stronger than she'd ever imagined. "When my boys learned to scuba dive, I said no, I'm afraid of water. And my son said, 'Mom, you beat cancer. You can do anything.' "
He was right. Each year, when the family goes on vacation, all four of them dive in together.