Nancy Bourke

10/15/2009 4:00 PM

10/15/2009 4:01 PM

“I AM A SURVIVOR!!” These are words that have become part of my daily vocabulary because I am a breast cancer survivor. The day, almost 6 years ago this November, the doctor came into the exam room and told my husband, Ken and me that I had breast cancer (Stage IV) was a day that will never be forgotten. My life, as well as my family’s lives as my co-survivors, has changed so dramatically these past six years, but the changes have been all for the good. We decided as a family, we had two options – give up and let this aggressive, no-mercy disease win or we could band together and fight it together as a family. I chose to fight it with my family. We also decided to look at the positive things and laugh throughout our journey with this devastating disease.

I was diagnosed right before Thanksgiving and I went in for a radical mastectomy several days before Christmas. Christmas was spent separated as a family because I had to be in isolation in the hospital (the implants that were put in after my mastectomy became infected and had to be removed). After this, my real fight began. I endured rounds of grueling chemotherapy that left me sick, tired, and bald, but still full of hope and courage, and never without a smile on my face. My husband, Ken, as a show of support, was with me every step of the way, even shaving his head the day we decided to shave mine. He learned how to care for my drains after all of my surgeries (which have been 19 surgeries in five years!), and he learned how to give me shots I needed to have along with the chemo. My husband quit his job so he could stay at home and care for me full-time, and raise our youngest daughter, Katelyn, who was six at the time.

Several months after my surgeries and rounds of chemo that almost killed me (I developed a blood clot in my lungs from the chemo), we found out I had cancer again, this time in my lymph nodes. I went in for more surgeries, more rounds of chemo, and this time, rounds of radiation. I am thankful, proud and grateful to be able to say I am now cancer-free. Throughout all I have had to endure, I have always been upbeat, positive and full of love and life. I have learned to stay positive no matter what life brings my way.

We have met so many angels along this journey and I and my husband have become very good friends with so many wonderful people-people I would have never met if it hadn’t been for that dreadful diagnosis of breast cancer. We have heard a lot of people say cancer is a curse, but to me, my diagnosis of breast cancer has been a BLESSING. It’s made our family stronger, and we take each day as a gift-a gift we have the chance to do something positive with. As a result of my breast cancer, I, along with my family, have become very active in helping to find a cure for this disease. We are very active with Susan G. Komen and the Race for the Cure, where we have been guest speakers several times. I have become a motivational speaker in the community, and I have helped countless women who are beginning this journey of breast cancer in their lives.

My husband, Ken, and my daughters, Ashleigh, Kathryn and Katelyn, as well as my parents, John and Mildred, have given me endless love and support as my co-survivors, and we know that together, as a family, we can overcome anything.

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