The first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer was in 1990, at the age of 37. I had radiation and chemo and worked the entire time. I’m a social worker by profession, but I’m also the Executive Director of South Shore Association for Independent Living (SAIL), a non-profit mental health agency in Nassau County. Working was my own therapy.
Five years later, in 1995, I was diagnosed again with a different type of breast cancer on the other side. I again worked full time while receiving radiation. I also joined a support group at Adelphi University (and scared some of the women in the group with my story of now being a two-time survivor). The group ran for 8 weeks, but since that time most of us continue to meet for dinner once a month. In 2002, I survived my third bout of a third type of breast cancer after major surgery (double mastectomy) and very aggressive chemo. I was only married a little over a year at this point, but also continued my “therapy” of working full time at the same job. My husband rearranged his work schedule to get me back and forth for chemo treatments.
Today, I am cancer-free and a true survivor. My philosophy each time was to think of myself as Rocky Balboa – I knew I would be beat up along the way, but I would also end up a winner. Our “group” still goes out once a month, but instead of cancer stories; now we talk about our marriages, divorces, new grandchildren, retirement, etc. And at work, most people who know my “story” also know that I will always be there to lend an ear if they have a family member (or themselves) suddenly diagnosed with any type of cancer. Having good doctors are extremely important to your treatment, but also knowing you have support and a positive attitude are two of the most important parts of your survival.