Sharon Irons Strempski; diagnosed in 1997 at age 52; registered nurse; Connecticut
"Get a second opinion if you are unhappy with the first one. Do some reading, and speak up for what you want."
Mary Raffol; diagnosed in 1998 at age 44; teacher; Massachusetts
"At no other time in your life will you have so much power and control over your own destiny; choose your health team well."
Kathy Weaver-Stark; diagnosed in 1991 at age 46; insurance adjuster, instructor; Oregon
"I became bold enough to leave my first surgeon and radiation oncologist, because I didn't feel comfortable putting my life in their hands. At least, I still had some power."
Kathi Ward; diagnosed in 1994 at age 47; merchandiser; South Carolina
"My first oncologist asked whether I wanted to take treatment, since there was no guarantee that it would help. My husband and I left that doctor and found another who said, 'You have a one in eleven chance, and you might as well be that one.' His positive attitude lifted our spirits. A year later, when my treatment was done and he told us there was no sign of cancer, I thanked him for saving my life. His reply was that my positive attitude had made the difference. 'You knew you were going to get better, and you did,' he said. Attitude is so important on everyone's part."
Florence Chandler; diagnosed in 1995 at age 66; retired motel owner; Florida
"The most constructive thing I did when I learned my diagnosis was to continue to write out the invitations to my daughter's wedding shower."
Frances Gallello; diagnosed in 2000 at age 51; mental health assistant; New York
"The best thing I did after being diagnosed was not to cancel a planned bicyle trip. It did more for my optimism than anything else could have done. Same thing with attending a neighborhood party on the day I came home from the hospital. I refused to hole up in self-pity."
Judith Ormond; diagnosed in 1996 at age 49; symphony musician -- piccolo; Wisconsin
"My husband, who is my best friend, took me for a walk in the woods the day I was told I had a malignancy in my breast. He knew that was where my spirit is most at peace."
Robin Smith; diagnosed in 2000 at age 53; microbiologist, homemaker; New York
"I cried a lot during the two weeks between when I learned I had breast cancer and the day I had the surgery. Once all the decisions were made and the surgery done, though, I considered myself 'on the road to recovery,' and I was determined not to cry or feel sorry for myself. I've always been an optimistic person and was determined to continue being that way. I considered what was happening to my body to be a temporary condition."
Patti R. Martinez; diagnosed in 1999 at age 54; realtor; California
"Seven years ago, when I got my cancer diagnosis, I fell apart. I had no one to tell, my children were away at college, and I was by myself in the hills of Kentucky. I remember driving into the driveway and going straight to the barn to see my animals. My main concern was who was going to take care of them if I could not? My animals were the reason I was living in the county. They were part of my family. I went to visit a neighbor who was ninety-three years old at the time, and I had all the intentions of telling her what was wrong. When I walked in her house, though, she spoke before me. 'You know,' she said, 'some days God gives us a heavy load to carry, and we must do the best we can to tote it.' My neighbor died the following Sunday, and I still remember what she said. This is my eighth year since the diagnosis. My life has changed, and I have met wonderful people whom I would not have otherwise known."
Antonia Rhodes; diagnosed in 1993 at age 50; Breast Cancer Outreach person; New York
Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinksy Charitable Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
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