Profession: Retired Corporate Executive now a Composer & Author
Type of Breast Cancer: Metastatic HER2+
Number of years as a survivor: 15 years
Relationship to Susan G. Komen: Komen Supporter; Anonymous Donor
I have been battling metastatic breast cancer for 15 years, outliving an original prognosis of 6 months, have undergone several recurrences, surgeries, radiations, and chemotherapy protocols. While still in the battle, I can tell you that being a Survivor means taking a proactive role in one’s healing. The doctors and the medical community do their part, but we, the patients, must do our own by not giving power to the illness. While we must listen and respect our doctors’ recommendations, and bless them every day for the wonderful work they do, we must take ownership by choosing our thoughts well, by focusing on the people we love, on doing the things we treasure and living our present as a gift. This is how I have come this far, continuing to pursue my work and my personal projects with the same enthusiasm as always, which has kept me grounded and motivated.
Certainly my family has kept me going throughout my journey, in particular my spouse and my kids; plus, the support system of having dear friends, several siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, and wonderful in-laws. Further, having a person with whom to share your life, someone who accepts your flaws as much as values your virtues, is a fundamental element to getting me through this journey, especially given the physical transformation breast cancer represents.
I would say cancer has been a gift; might not have been a welcomed gift at first, but with time I realized I needed to turn this diagnosis into something good and constructive for my life. Besides giving me a reality check to value even more my life’s blessings, cancer impulsed me to do many things I would probably not have pursued otherwise. I published my memoir; I awakened my dormant musical passion by launching an inspirational album; and have led yearly artistic photographic breast cancer awareness campaigns to encourage other patients to transform their fears. I’ve always thought that if we focus on serving others, we downplay our own problems; and while I am no expert in medical matters, or a preacher of any kind, I just hope that through my experience I can convey my strong belief that difficult circumstances in life are better dealt with by having a positive attitude as well as a pragmatic outlook about things. We might fall many times, but as one of my songs expresses, the key is ensuring we always Stand Up!