Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
My journey began in 2004. I was experiencing extreme fatigue. My current doctor could not find a solution that gave me comfort, so I opted to change doctors. The new doctor chose to begin with a physical exam. After examining my fibrocystic breast, he referred me for a diagnostic mammogram. The mammogram was suspect; so I was immediately referred for a biopsy. The biopsy confirmed Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (Breast Cancer).
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
My response was typical of the past when my faith was challenged. I prayed, “God, this is a steep mountain. My faith is in You to either grant me the strength to climb, to remove the mountain, or to remove me.” I continually prayed that God would allow me to glorify Him in this experience, regardless of the outcome.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I chose mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Medically, I was prescribed four rounds of Intravenous Chemo; and post-therapy was 3 different trials of medications, settling on Aromasin.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
My surprise came 5 years and one month later. I was exercising and noticed a sharp pain in my chest, right above the other breast. It took appointments with three different doctors for me to convince the third doctor to run further tests. Subsequently, a biopsy revealed cancer (for the second time) in the chest wall, a brand new tumor, totally unrelated to the first. My second course of treatment was six rounds of intravenous chemo, 28 treatments of radiation, one year of Herceptin, and post treatment to continue with Aromasin. My greatest shock was to be diagnosed for the 3rd time, three years later, with metastatic breast cancer to the sternum, liver, lungs and bone. One year prior to this diagnosis, God blessed me with Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern (CTCA) opening its doors for operation 15 minutes from my home. By the grace of God, I began treatment for the 3rd time at CTCA. This time, instead of a vigorous assault on my body alone, my spirit, my mind and my body was engaged and the whole of me joined forces to combat the enemy, and I am finally at peace. I begin EVERY DAY with a spirit of gratitude and seek opportunities to empower others along their respective journeys, giving God the glory every step of the way.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Being diagnosed with a terminal illness can be a blessing, if you embrace it as God’s gift of a second, third, or how ever number of chances He blesses you with. God’s gift to us is the blessing to be a survivor; our gift to God is to become a Thriver. The difference is being a person who sits in wait for his time to expire, or evolving into a servant who demonstrates gratitude by walking along side others on the journey, fighting for those who lack the strength, speaking on behalf of those who do not realize they have a voice, and making a positive difference at every opportunity. It can be your opportunity to begin life anew.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I don’t think I will ever be cancer free; but as of February 9, 2014, tests revealed there were no active cancer cells in my body, which to me means His spirit within me has spoken “Live as you have never lived before my child. It is not yet time for you to rest from your labor.”
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I have learned many lessons over the past 10 years; and I glean knowledge daily as I cross paths with many wonderful women (and men) who are also on this journey. There is one lesson that I learned long ago, but it took my breast cancer experience to truly realize it. “Our ultimate life purpose is to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.” To love God requires a spirit of obedience and submission. I am able to do that on a daily basis; and where I come up short, I know Jesus has me covered. When I discovered I was not “truly” loving others is the day I discovered I did not “truly” love myself. As I have learned to accept and appreciate my individual self, I now celebrate the whole of me as being perfect in God’s creation, and I have learned to love the person within. I am now able to demonstrate my love to others by accepting them as being perfect in God’s creation, and I celebrate their joys and weep in their sorrows as though they were my own. CTCA both embodies and acts as a channel for this expression, and I am eternally grateful to God for their existence.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
I speak to women in general. You are created in the image of God, uniquely fashioned; there is no other like you. Embrace this truth and accept it, not only for yourself but as it pertains to every woman that crosses your path. Don’t wait to be diagnosed with a terminal illness to be grateful for life. Live each moment as though you are investing in God’s retirement plan – because in essence, you are (and it is totally out-of-this-world)! God forbid you to have to travel this pathway on life’s journey. Should it happen, I want to share a secret with you – “We are all terminal.” We who have been diagnosed are just reminded of this fact each day. Breast cancer is a journey where you will either find or define your intimate relationship with the true God. He alone can carry you if you are too weak to stand – but remember, He will have many prepared and will grant you permission to invite them to walk along beside. As long as He is with you, you will be a majority.
RuPearl Sharpe, 3x Breast Cancer “Thriver”
57 years old; wife of Rick; residing in Sharpsburg, GA
Mother of 2 sons: Craig Johnson 34; Adonis Sharpe 27
Grandmother of 4: Briana, Seth, Kobe, Adonis, Jr
Employment: Bryan Cave, Account Billing Specialist, Atlanta, GA