It was a couple of days before Christmas 2009 and almost time for Deborah Lewis' annual mammogram. As Deborah, then 58, stood holding her 6-month-old granddaughter in her arms, she felt a pain in her left breast.
A mammogram and biopsy revealed stage 1 breast cancer. "I was really shocked and surprised," said Deborah, whose sister had breast cancer and a mastectomy at 28.
When deciding between removing the tumor or the whole breast, she chose the latter. "I had heard of some women having the lump removed and the cancer coming back, and I didn't want to deal with that."
After her mastectomy, she underwent chemotherapy every two weeks for a year. "In the beginning I got sick. I lost some of my hair, some of my eyebrows, "Deborah recalled. "I was fatigued."
Ten years have passed since Deborah learned of her diagnosis and she remains cancer-free. She says she is grateful to the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition in Lindenhurst, which provided transportation to and from her treatments, and the Amityville-based The Sisters of Greater Long Island. Both organizations provide services and support for breast cancer survivors.
Deborah, who calls herself a "spiritual person," says her religion helped her cope, especially during the many rounds of chemotherapy. She is most grateful to God, she says, for providing her with the strength she needed to battle the disease. "God is our healer," she said, "and he will help us in our struggles."