Survivor Stories 2013:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I accidentally brushed or bumped the side of my breast while showering. I was like, “what is this?” A day or so later, I felt a sharp, piercing pain at the site, then another pain the next day. I called my GYN. After a brief meeting with her, she said I should see a surgeon. I actually knew at that point and followed through. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had had my annual mammogram two months before and nothing showed up. I called for an appointment with the surgeon and was told I couldn’t come in for a month or so. My reply was, “I’m on my way! I’ll wait until the last patient has been seen.” A biopsy was done and I returned alone for the devastating results.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I cried out, “Oh, no!” Even though I suspected it, I was devastated. I cried hysterically.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
A complete lumpectomy, four treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, 36 treatments of radiation and 5 years of Aromasin.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
How absolutely terrible it was. Yes, it was! Everyone reacts differently. During the chemo treatment, I felt like the life had been drained out of every part of my body. I couldn’t function. It was a challenge to get out of bed, to shower and even dress myself. It was a challenge to eat anything and even drink water that I desperately needed. I started feeling better the week before the next treatment, but after each infusion, I experienced the same thing. Radiation wasn’t as bad in the beginning, but later I felt so tired and slightly burned.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Get a second opinion and educate yourself, your family, and caregivers. Take someone with you to your appointments and make notes. Keep a journal of appointments, medications, treatments, and information. Ask for and keep your pathology reports. Read. Be able to discuss your own treatment, side effects, clinical trials, etc. effectively with your physician. Stay as positive and stress-free as you can. Become your own best advocate. Learn to say “no” and mean it.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
Eleven years, six months.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
How awesomely blessed I am. Life isn’t always easy. There will be disappointments and hardships. But through them, pray, remain strong, empower yourself, and be proactive and grow stronger. Never, ever give up. Inspire hope.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Breast cancer is not a death sentence. Find someone you can talk to and share information. The key to survival is regular exams and treatments, early detection, prayer, and faith in God. Be an advocate for a cure.
Diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer in March 2002 at age 52, Gloria is married and the mother of one son and she has one grandson. After her diagnosis, she retired from a career in retail and industrial purchasing. She is a former local grants chair for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and continues to volunteer with local breast cancer organizations. She “pays it forward” by participating with Living Beyond Breast Cancer–a lifelong commitment for her.