How did you first find out you had cancer?
1982 – Woke up in the operating room to learn I had a mastectomy and breast cancer at the age of 30.
1992 – Went in for a biopsy and learned I had breast cancer again in the recovery room; this time I was able to sort out my options before preceding with surgery.
1996 – A small bump under my arm turned out to be a metastasis from the first cancer. I got the news from my husband who had heard from my surgeon.
How did you react when you heard the news?
1982 – I was clueless as breast cancer was talked about in whispers. It was a much different world back then. I did not even know what a mammogram was. It truly was a blessing that I went in for my yearly physical exam and the tumor was very small and non-invasive.
1992 and 1996 – I was no longer clueless and felt like someone had put me inside a snow globe and shook it as hard as they could. I would never have believed the knot in my stomach would go away and that the life ahead would hold so many amazing things.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
1st time – chemo. 2nd time – chemo and radiation. 3rd time – radiation and hormonal therapy. Today there are so many new medicines that were not originally available to me and today they would have started me on hormonal therapy much sooner.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
A nurse told me to not think of chemo as my friend not my enemy. She said to visualize it as a magical elixir bubbling up inside to get rid of any weak or damaged cells. It surprised me how much this image helped me get through the treatments.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Take it in little steps. Our brains get way ahead of ourselves and if you just focus on the current moment it becomes much more manageable. Also there is not a right or wrong way to face cancer except to try and go it along. There are so many places to turn and people who care and want to help.
How long have you been cancer free?
This past summer I became a 30 year cancer survivor and it has been 16 years since my last breast cancer diagnosis
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
No one likes living under the cloud of cancer but it can actually be a better way to live. You forgive more easily, you love more freely, you laugh more often, you seize the moments, you focus on what is really important and you never ever take one single minute of each new day for granted.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
When I found out I had breast cancer, my husband and I were waiting to adopt a baby. We shut the door to our totally decorated nursery to focus on my health. After I finished treatment and with our doctor’s blessings we went back on the list. A few months later we got the phone call we never thought we would receive telling us we were the parents of our wonderful daughter who is now 29. My message is simple – Enjoy the priceless ride of being a Mom.
Joan Katz, is a 3 time breast cancer survivor. Joan Katz is a community volunteer who is active in causes and organizations that have personally touched her life. Her priorities always revolve around her family, friends, faith and trying to make a difference. Being a breast cancer advocate is certainly at the top of this list as she was first diagnosed 30 years ago. She is the co-founder of Komen for the Cure, Greater Fort Worth and is very involved with the Breast Center at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth. In addition, Joan has been active with The Gladney Center for Adoption, Trinity Valley School, The Junior League of Fort Worth, Cook Children’s Medical Center, Jewel Charity, El Tesoro de la Vida, The WARM Place and The Learning Center of North Texas.
More from GEM