My Story: A Birthday Gift to Cherish

Insight Articles
June 25, 2014
Marlene Snyder, for LBBC

Published in the Summer 2014 issue of LBBC's Newsletter, Insight

I am a Stage I breast cancerinfo-icon survivor. On June 6, 2011, my 56th birthday, I learned I had cancer and now consider that diagnosisinfo-icon the best birthday present of my life.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer after having a routine mammograminfo-icon. At the time, I felt fine and life was good. I was heading out on a vacation with my son to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I had three other cancers and a bone marrow/stem cellinfo-icon transplant. I knew the routine, so I put on my big-girl panties and off I went for care. My chin was up as tears fell from my eyes. I was in kill-the-cancer mode, but had no idea what would follow.

Although scared for my life, I knew I had to be strong. I rounded up my support team and off we went to the many scheduled oncologyinfo-icon and surgeryinfo-icon appointments. My support team took notes, listened closely when my ears felt as if they were closed up, and asked the questions necessary to proceed through this frightening ordeal. They held my hand when I was afraid.

I had a hard time understanding how I could be in remissioninfo-icon for almost 13 years from the last cancer, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and now be dealing with breast cancer. Yet, I moved forward, through an 11-hour bilateralinfo-icon mastectomyinfo-icon with reconstruction and six more surgeries to finally get my reconstructed breasts. It seemed that complications arose each time the plastic surgeoninfo-icon tried to fix the existing problem. I was scared of being anesthetized each time, since I was so weak. Dying was not an option.

I’ve always had a silly sense of humor that helps get me through tough times in life. I also always look at the glass half full. Now was no exception. I focused on moving forward and envisioned all the things I would do when I was well again. This gave me an incentive to get well and motivation to stay well.

I love giving of myself and helping others. This is my way of saying thank you for the opportunity to be well again. I am now done with all my treatment. Pain from the surgical sites remains, but I love to show off my new ‘girls’ as they look very flattering under my swimsuit. To help ease pain, I do aqua exercises.

Throughout my experience of being treated for breast cancer, I gained a real sense of satisfaction that I hung in there even though the pain during healing was unbearable at times. Before each surgery I prayed and attended services at my synagogue to ask G-d to watch over me during these challenging times. I amazed myself at my strength, not only while dealing with breast cancer, but throughout my entire cancer journey since 1992.

My birthday is quite a special day to me, and I celebrate each year by doing what I love most, taking a sewing or quilting class and having dinner with my family. I am blessed to be alive. I stay on top of my appointments and tests so I will be able to enjoy each birthday for many years to come.

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