Survivor Stories: Sonja Faulkner
How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was nursing my 9 month-old and felt a hard lump near my left nipple. Breasts tend to be lumpy and bumpy when you’re breastfeeding, but this felt different. My tumor was very hard and round, like a marble. I saw my OB/GYN first, who then sent me to the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Los Angeles.
How did you react when you heard the news?
I was remarkably calm, in large part because I already had a feeling that it was breast cancer. I only got emotional when I saw my baby after returning from the doctor’s office. The irony was not lost on me: I had struggled for years and years to get pregnant, and then suddenly the universe was making me face my mortality. To quote Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a lumpectomy first, then a double mastectomy and reconstruction. As soon as I was healed from the major surgery, I started six cycles of chemotherapy. I’m now on Tamoxifen for five years, and when done, will switch to an aromatase inhibitor for five years.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
What surprised me was how good it felt psychologically. That may sound counter-intuitive, but I had a great sense of empowerment to face the disease head-on, which was a welcome change from the waiting game that typically comes after initial testing and diagnosis.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Of course, everyone must process the information in their own way, but I’d say as soon as possible, get the wagons to circle ‘round. The healing power of social support is truly extraordinary. It makes the journey a little lighter and more manageable if you allow those who care about you to offer help and support. Also, food is medicine, so I’d encourage someone recently diagnosed to either consult a dietician or incorporate super cancer-fighting foods into their diet.
How long have you been cancer-free?
About 2 and ½ years.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I was reminded how much I love the people in my life and that I want to nurture those relationships—let people know how much I treasure them and how grateful I am to have them in my corner. Also, good health and life are fragile, both of which can get turned upside down quickly. I’m trying to be mindful and thankful for even the littlest things now.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there, what would it be?
If you are the acquaintance, co-worker, friend or loved one of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, know that you have the power to make a significant difference in her life. Take time to reach out often and encourage her warrior spirit. She’ll be grateful for the rest of her life.
Born and raised in Maine, Sonja earned her psychology degrees from Northeastern University (B.A.), Central Michigan University (M.A.), and the University of Toledo (Ph.D.). She works as a consultant and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and young son.
The love and support of friends and family sustained Sonja during her diagnosis in August, 2009 and subsequent months of treatment. Now in recovery, her loved ones continue to fill her heart with their generous spirit. She wrote The Best Friend’s Guide To Breast Cancer and is “giving back” via Pink Lotus Breast Center and its outreach. and its “giving back” outreach. (A portion of proceeds (20%) from sales of the book, which is available online at Amazon (in paperback or as a Kindle e-book), iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are going to support Pink Lotus Petals, a non-profit which provides free screening, diagnosis, surgical treatment and post-surgical treatment to women who are medically uninsured and are unable to pay for such care on their own behalf due to financial hardship, socio-economic circumstances and other emergencies.)
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