It was a rainy November day when I learned that a biopsy was necessary to determine a course of action for what appeared to be breast cancer. After my diagnosis and mastectomy, extensive chemotherapy and radiation followed. I learned so much after surgery and during treatment. For me the healing was a bit slow with lots of infection, but the six months of chemo and radiation were not painful, depressing or devastating in any way. In fact, I did miss a week of work after my surgery, but then I was back at Miami Dade College-professor/administrator and loving every minute of it.
One of the greatest gifts I received was my heightened gratitude for my husband and my son. They were clearly in my corner every step of they way and even beautifully tolerated my bald head that was my ‘look’ when I came home from work. My son Chris called me his “beautiful swimmer” and my husband Mike planned countless fun evenings and was inspired to do lots of helpful things I hadn’t seen him do before. I decided the wig was necessary at the college because I felt fine and didn’t want to alarm anyone who might not be comfortable seeing me as a “baldy,” but the minute I walked in our door it came off.
Another very meaningful gift was the support I received from family, friends, our neighbors, college colleagues and my beloved students. Hundreds of nice things were done for me and with me. The primary emotion I felt was joy and the beautiful memories of their many kindnesses will last forever.
After finishing chemotherapy and then radiation, I became aware of a third gift I was fortunate to receive, and that was the knowledge and experience of the dedicated doctors, nurses, and support staff who were part of my life before during and after treatment. My gratitude was immeasurable for these professionals truly cared and worked tirelessly in pursuit of improved treatments and patient care.
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A few years later I retired from full-time work at the College and immediately joined the Woman’s Cancer Association (WCA) of the University of Miami. I now had time to contribute to this important non-profit organization and support their primary goal of providing funds for cancer research at the UM Miller School of Medicine. On May 10, 2009 I was installed as WCA’s president and I consider it a privilege and an honor to work with this wonderful all-volunteer group of women (and men! and juniors!) to support cancer research, cancer education and patient care.
My journey continues, and now it is my time to give back. My hope is that every single person who is diagnosed with breast cancer will continue to live his or her life fully. We need you to share your gifts with us, and we need to share ours with you. Together we will beat this awful disease.