Monday, July 1, 2013

Inner Strength: The Interview

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 232,340 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in the year 2013.  There are currently 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today.  The good news is, the survival rate continues to rise with early detection, better treatment options and the decrease in use of post menopausal hormone therapy.

This article is a tribute to two women who represent the thousands of women who have been diagnosed, fought and beat breast cancer and were able to find the strength within to move forward in life. They are a living example of what strength can and will do not only for our soul but for the support it brings to others who will inevitably fight the same fight. This is a tribute to the women who are here to tell their stories, and for the women who have passed on from the disease, whose stories we now carry in our hearts.

Judy Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer twelve years ago.  She was diagnosed as she was caring for her ailing husband who was fighting end stage lung cancer.  She received the diagnosis as her husband began to decline. Judy knew something wasn't quite right with her health but her focus at that time was not on herself.  She was doing everything she could to care for her husband.  She finally went to the doctor where a lump was found.  Further testing showed it was in fact cancer.  Judy's husband died the day before she was scheduled to have her lumpectomy.

Through her disease process she struggled with grieving the loss of her husband and coming to terms with what was going on with her own health.  "When I was first diagnosed it was a shock.  I was sick.  You hear about it happening to everybody else and now it was me.  In the beginning fear settled in," Judy stated.  "I didn't know what to expect with surgery and then treatment. And with me, things were all over the place because I was dealing with the loss of my husband and my own illness at the same time.  It was overwhelming really.  I was blessed enough to have the support of my family, friends and I had a wonderful group of doctors."

Judy went through her lumpectomy followed by several rounds of chemotherapy and then radiation.  When asked how she leaned on her faith through this period, Judy replied, "I leaned on my faith as I always have. The disease didn't really change that for me. I've always had a strong faith."

What has surviving breast cancer taught you about yourself?  What has it taught you about life?
"That you are stronger than you think you are.  And that you can get through things better than you think you can.  I can't really see where breast cancer changed my life really.  I lost a little hair, I have the lymphedema in my arm so I have to deal with that.  I suppose I notice it more than anyone else does.  But I don't feel it changed my life significantly."

Is there anything you would like to share with anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is going through treatment?
"The initial fear is normal and that gets better with time.  Our minister at church asked me if I would be willing to talk with women who had been newly diagnosed and of course I was more than happy to help.  Some women were just hysterically anxious about it.  I think what helped me lose the fear is knowing how many people do survive this disease.  And those statistics continue to get better and better.  Life is whatever you make it.  This was just a little hitch."

Patty Edwards was given her diagnosis of breast cancer one year ago. She said immediately she knew she was going to be fine and started researching treatment options.  She decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. Patty stated, "For me this was the best option.  This way I didn't have to worry about reoccurring disease and treatment later down the road.  I could have this done and go back to enjoying life."

"When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I just knew that I was going to beat this.  I was very positive and looked at my doctor and said I'm not worried about this I just want to find the best place for treatment.  I wasn't tearful until I had to tell my kids. I felt like I had to be strong for myself and my family.  I waited for about a month to tell my kids because we all weren't going to be together until then.  But this was good because I had my treatment plan in place so when we all did sit down I was able to say, yes I have this disease but this is the plan on how I am going to treat it.  Even though it was difficult to tell them, they knew I had everything in place."

"There was never a time where I really felt frightened with my diagnosis.  From the beginning I knew people were praying for me and I felt so lifted in prayer.  It was the most peaceful time for me.  Even before surgery I told my doctor's that I had been praying for them.  One of them actually chuckled when I told him that.  I knew I was at the right place for my treatment and everything just felt like it fell into place and that it was all meant to be. I looked at all of this like it was a bump in the road that was put there for a reason and I needed to go through it.  I think my purpose in all of this was to be an example for others.  God gives us gifts.  Mine has always been to be positive and joyful.  That is why I work with other people.  Before I walk through the doors at work I ask to cross paths with whoever I need to for that day.  You don't struggle to find your own power in what you're doing when you know you have the power of prayer.

What did breast cancer teach you about yourself?  What did it teach you about life?
"I think it taught me that life is not always a guarantee and that we really have to treasure each day. I don't take things for granted.  That would be the biggest thing for me. I think I take more time to stop and enjoy the moment.  Whether it's just me taking time for myself to just enjoy the beauty of the day or spending more time with my husband.  It's about not getting caught up in the rush of life and taking the time to have that quality time."

Is there anything you would like to share with anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is going through treatment?
"You just have to be very positive going into it.  Know that God is in control of our life so only he knows the outcome.  I think fear blocks us from a lot of things.  When we feel fear we have to pray for that fear to be taken away."

Upon this interview, Patty introduced me to Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.  The organization was founded in 1944 and has provided support for cancer patients and their family's in supplying medical equipment, supplies, transportation, funding for medical needs among many other services most of which is at no cost to the patient.  They are not a government run organization.  They are supported by The United Way and the rest of the financial support comes solely from donations. 

Each year they help more than 2,500 people with cancer and their families.  Their dedication is in helping to alleviate the emotional and financial burdens associated with a cancer diagnosis.  To learn more about Cancer Services and how you can help go to

We have all been or will be touched by someone with cancer throughout our lifetime.  I wanted to share the stories of these amazing women and their inner strength that carried them through to their survival.  Thank you to Judy and Patty for sharing your inspirational stories of strength, courage and hope.

If you have a survival story you would like to share please do! We would love to hear from you!

As always with love,


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