Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Story:
Project Pink: 2-time survivor also had to grapple with Hurricane Dora
By Betsy A. Smith, Florida Times-Union
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We asked readers to recount how breast cancer has touched their lives. Here is one of those stories ...
Go back with me in time. It is now September 1964. I am 33 and have been diagnosed with breast cancer. As a wife and a mother of a daughter (9 years) and a son (6 years), for me to hear I must have a radical mastectomy of my right breast was devastating. My surgeon, Dr. Ash Williams, made preparations for my surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Remember, not much was known about dealing with breast cancer. Radical mastectomies were about the only option. Chemotherapy was unheard of and, of course, support groups were nonexistent. You were on your own.
At the same time, I was admitted to St. Vincent's for surgery, Hurricane Dora raised her angry head off our coast. Surgery was delayed until this hurricane left our area. I passed the time watching our St. Johns River encircle the hospital. The water receded and I had my surgery.
I did well physically and, in time, my mental attitude improved tremendously. My deep faith in God as my refuge and strength made my recovery successful. My husband and children, family and dear friends gave me much love and support.
It is now September 1967 and I have been diagnosed with cancer in my left breast. I would have to return to St. Vincent’s for another radical mastectomy. This time, I was aware of what to expect physically and mentally.
After my surgery, I began to think about my future and how I wanted my life to be. I wanted my husband, Carl, and me to enjoy a long life together. I wanted to enjoy our children and be a part of their life as they grew up. I also wanted to continue to have an active life.
By 1981, treating breast cancer was making many advances. Surgical implants were now available. Much to my surprise, I became a candidate to have implants. After three operations, my implants were in place. I felt good about myself; however, sometimes things don't work out. After 14 years, both implants raptured and were removed. I chose to use prostheses again. There were more prostheses to choose as well as plain bras and fancy lace bras. What a change from what was available in 1964.
With God's blessing, I am accomplishing what I wanted my life to be. I have lived 81 years. Carl and I have been married 61 years and our children are grown and live near us. I do have an active life: participation in my church, garden club, Beta Sigma Phi sorority and fitness class. Plus, Carl and I do enjoy occasional travel.
I feel as if I have been a pioneer as a breast cancer survivor. Medical technology and treatment have come a long way and are improving every day.
Breast cancer awareness is important for all women today.