This is my story of how being diagnosed in my thirties with breast cancer forever changed my life. I just turned 36 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I was a healthy mother of two young boys (ages 2 and 5) and had no risk factors for developing breast cancer. Everyone deals with cancer in different ways. For me, having a positive attitude was so important in dealing with cancer.
I remember one day at work, a co-worker asked me about my diagnosis. I explained it to her as I explained it to anyone who asked. I remember when I told her that I felt lucky that my cancer did not spread any further that it did (3 cancerous lymph nodes of the 29 removed), she was surprised and said, “Wow, I can’t believe you just said that you feel lucky.” I really did feel lucky and I knew that I was going to get through any adversity that I may face throughout treatment. At that point, I was determined to not let anyone bring me down or feel sorry for me, so I surrounded myself with people who had positive attitudes.
My children kept me focused on getting through all the treatments and adversities. Although this may sound very simple, my goal throughout treatment was to be able to read books to my children every night before bed and except for a few days that I was hospitalized, I accomplished my goal.
I hope that I can use what I have learned to provide support and comfort to others going through similar situations. I received a Friends Like Me care package from the PBCC shortly after my diagnosis and my husband and I spent an evening looking at everything in the package. I have since referred several newly diagnosed women to the PBCC for information.
I know that my breast cancer experience has made me a very strong person. My life is not all that much different than before breast cancer except that I do not worry as much about small stuff, and I find joy in many more things than I used to.
I feel honored that I am now one of the women who represents Cumberland County in the PBCC’s 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania traveling photo exhibit. For the past three years I attended the Penn State Lady Lions Pink Zone basketball games. Those games have been an awesome experience and what an amazing increase in support I have seen in just 3 years!
It has been three years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I know that whatever the future holds, my family and I will be able to handle it. My experience with breast cancer has taught me to never take ANYONE or ANYTHING for granted and that life is about family and friends: love them and spend time with them while you can! I know that early detection saved my life!
Kathy Clarke is one of two Survivor Story winners from our September Pink Link contest. Look for the other contest winner’s story to be featured in the December Pink Link.Tags: survivor