Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Sue D. on March 7, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Breast Cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
March 7, 2001
Employment Status:
Currently self-employed
Type and Description of Treatments:
6 treatments 3 chemicals;Bilateral mastectomy;6 more chemo with 3 chemicals;radiation;Femara;Faslodex injections;chest wall surgery;radiation with Xeloda;more Faslodex injections;Presently, Xeloda,higher dosage, with Zomeda or Denosumab infusion. (Clinical Trial)
How do you feel today?

I feel great! Even though I am taking Xeloda, one week on and one week off, I am doing well. My feet are burning just a bit, but since today was my first day off again, within a few days, I will be fine. I am presently going through lymphadema therapy and have a huge compression bandage on my arm, but it is only for 2 weeks, so I'll get through it.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I have always been a very happy and positive person with a very strong faith and dependence on my religion. I now have learned not to take anything for granted, enjoy everything, and be beyond thankful for each day. I try and make every moment count. I have tried to give back all of the love and care that was given me during my most difficult treatment.

What is going well for you right now?

Life is going well for me. I am presently undergoing lymphadema therapy, Xeloda every other week, and an infusion once a month of Zomeda or Denosumab. Because it is a blind clinical trial, I'm not sure which one I really receive. I am so grateful to be alive that I am afraid to even utter a small complaint. All of my treatment has caused various effects and limitations, but hardly anything stops me from leading as normal a life as possible.

What is not going well for you right now?

Weight gain. Since I was diagnosed with cancer almost 6 years ago, I have gained 20 pounds. I wish I could lose it, but that is the biggest difficulty I have at the moment.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

I have found that the most challenging thing about having cancer is convincing my husband that their is a blessing in all challenges in life.He has been a wonderful source of comfort and sympathy and this has been very hard on him. I have always been very honest with my 4 children and teaching them to face all challenges head on and do everything that can be done to solve the situation. I do have to admit that cancer is on my mind daily and it is a scary thing. Most people don't want to die and going from a very healthy state to almost constant treatment is quite a change, but I will be eternally grateful to everyone involved in my life for their love and care.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

I can honestly say that I have never been overwhelmed. We have a very close family and many wonderful friends. They have all bent over backwards to help me out when I needed help. I have considered myself the chemo queen, because people have come out of the woodwork to help me in any way they could;meals, transportation, gifts, you name it, I received it. So blessed I have been.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

My goal in life at this point is to be able to help someone in need from my experiences. I have been so blessed with so much that if I can be of assistance and uplifting to someone in their lowest moments, I will feel that my life was well-spent on this earth.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

I do much more computer work out of our home. I also do all telephone work out of the home. I do quite a bit of volunteer work for church on weekends. I am the church organist and I am the head of the Sunday School and Youth Groups. That is my most fulfilling work.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

I want to continue with my life in the most normal mode as possible. When I was receiving the heaviest infused chemo therapy, I was unable to do much at all, but now that I am taking the oral chemo, I can function almost normally barring the side effects don't become too bothersome.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

1. Educate yourself as to insurance benefits and company policies.
2. Be honest with your supervisor as to what your limitations are and what medical supervision you must be under.
3. Be specific with your supervisor: Don't leave out details that could possibly jeapordize your job because you can't perform.
4. Find some outlet that provides relaxation;whether it be yoga, pilates, reading, walking, chatting with a friend. We all need an outlet that is separate from the work place.
5. Seek out all that is available to a cancer patient that doesn't necessarily cost money. The American Cancer Society provides wonderful classes to us.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

How I have dealt with side effects of treatment really depended on the treatment. Since I have experienced all kinds, I have had to use anti-nausea pills, pain pills, salves, exercise, positive thinking, and a lot of prayer. Talking with other cancer patients has also helped considerably. I am being treated at a Cancer Care Center that is very proactive with us and is ready to help us in any way.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

I am much more positive about cancer treatment than I was that first day of diagnosis. The word, "cancer" denotes an immediate fear and impacts one's life as long as life is lived, no matter how positive one is. Life changes in all aspects one way or another, however, I would not have changed a bit of my treatment and if necessary I will continue with whatever is going to prolong my life. I love life and I love my family and friends. What ever it takes, I am going to be there.