Sherri Winther’s mantra, “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything,” was put to the test in 2015. Ten years after she had undergone a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for early-stage breast cancer, Sherri’s gynecologist felt a lump in the scar tissue that had formed after the procedure. A biopsy and additional tests revealed stage 1 cancer that had a high risk of recurrence. Doctors recommended 14 weeks of chemotherapy, more than six weeks of radiation, and removal of her other breast and ovaries, as a precautionary measure.
“At first I was scared, but I tried to have a positive attitude”, recalled Sherri the mother of two. “Always look for the silver lining.” Her positive attitude buoyed her spirits but it’s what she did in her kitchen that helped her cope: baking cookies, from double-chocolate Oreo squares to chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. “I tried meditation and yoga and didn’t find it relaxing,” she said. “When I felt stressed out, I’d go to the kitchen and bake cookies and share them with my doctors and nurses during treatment or give them to my neighbors.”
Now in remission, Sherri, 58, wants to alert women who have undergone a mastectomy to ask their doctors to continue to check them for breast cancer. “So many women on Long Island have mastectomies [for breast cancer] and think they’re done,” she said. “They don’t realize you need to screen annually for cancer with an MRI or ultrasound after a mastectomy and breast reconstructive surgery. You have to be an advocate for yourself.”