The Power of Survival
· Infiltrating ductal carcinoma of the right breast
· Carrier of a BRAC2 mutation, designated XG1377ins
· 85% change of getting breast cancer in your lifetime
· 50% chance of diagnosis of secondary primary breast cancer
· 27% of developing ovarian cancer in your lifetime
· Increased chance of developing melanoma, colon, throat, and pancreatic cancers
These were the irrefutable facts presented to me by my oncologist and genetic counselor 14 years ago. There were no tears. I felt nothing. No questions came to mind. I numbly nodded my head in silent agreement, as a treatment plan was agreed upon. Dr. George Leight spent 8 hours removing the existing cancer, and decreasing my chances for reoccurrence. Dr. Paul Kelly Marcom would oversee the administration of my chemotherapy now, and help me navigate my new normal. After multiple procedures, Dr. Michael Zenn was responsible for putting my body back together. Dr. Andrew Berchuck would be tasked with convincing me to undergo more surgery to protect me from the risk of ovarian cancer.
An enormous binder filled with various dividers allowed me to organize my overflowing papers. Daily, I would need to consult my complicated medical history. My sole identity was found in the medical jargon contained on each page. This was my reality, and I refused to see a future where I was not governed by these horrible truths. Victimized and broken, I helplessly witnessed the continual crumbling of my world. I feared if I took my eye off the enemy, cancer would return with a vengeance. Adopting a defeated posture should keep me hidden and protected.
As of January, it is estimated that there are 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is projected to increase to 21.7 million by 2029. Medical advances are indeed saving lives. I am beyond grateful to be one of the individuals represented in those statistics. A few years ago, I recognized that I was surviving BUT I connected with a deep desire to thrive in spite of this disease. My binder has a new home on a high shelf in the back of my closet. I folded my genetic results and sealed them in an envelope…on the outside I boldly wrote…God is Greater than any Gene or Cell. Unfortunately, cancer will forever be a part of my journey. However, I intentionally choose not to be a perpetual patient. A survivor continues to LIVE after a disaster, accident, or illness…and so every single day I make a choice to embrace this precious gift.
The power that is born from YOUR survival needs to be displayed…so that others can witness your courageous light and find freedom from their own struggle.