A Survivor’s Perspective on Living Life Fully After Breast Cancer Re-Diagnosis
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The EmPOWER Her Series with Mary Ann L.
We are so grateful to share a blog post from our EmPOWER Her Series. Today’s guest is one of our very own Board Members & Overnight House Managers Mary Ann L. Mary Ann was originally diagnosed with Breast Cancer back in 2011 and then after almost nine years of remission she was told her cancer came back. Today, she calls herself a survivor and shares the beauty of finding joy in each and every day.
Mary Ann L. was originally diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2012 and after nearly nine years of remission she was told that her cancer was back for a second time.
“I was very angry when the doctors told me because I was so close to that official date of being cancer-free. I went almost ten years without a recurrence – I was so close! It was not a joyous moment, but now I’m learning to live with it.”
When asked what survivorship means to her today, Mary Ann shared her wisdom graciously.
“Survivorship means to enjoy each and every day. It means stop worrying about all the little things. Look outside, find the beauty in the everyday. Sure things will go wrong, but I’m alive to fix the things that go wrong and I’m alive to enjoy the things that go great.”
She also offered an optimistic perspective in terms of facing life with cancer for a second time as she said, “I’m grateful for the big things and I’m grateful for the things that go wrong because I can learn from them. I’m able to see life as one big learning experience now, and I take every moment as it is and go from there.”
Mary Ann’s Advice: Be Honest with Yourself
“The three scariest words to hear are, ‘you have cancer’. There’s so much breast cancer in my family lineage but all of us are survivors because we got screened early. The only way to become a survivor is to test, to stay on top of your mammograms and colonoscopies, and everything else that your doctor tells you to do. Be proactive. You are in charge of your health and in control of your body. If I had decided to ignore my doctor’s advice to get another mammogram, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be here. Early detection gives you a better chance of surviving, so stay on top of it.”
Mary Ann also expressed the importance of finding a support system as a woman living with cancer or as a survivor.
“Your body is not the only thing affected when you have cancer. You have to take care of your mind, body, and soul. Talk to your family and friends, take advantage of support groups and counseling. You have to take care of yourself, your emotional and mental well-being are just as important, in addition to your physical health.”
As our conversation came to a close, Mary Ann gave light to an often misconstrued concept.
“When I tell people that I volunteer at Mary’s Place by the Sea, they always say ‘oh that must be so sad to be around women with cancer all the time’ and that’s not true. Women who have cancer are the most amazing women I have ever met in my life. We laugh harder, we cry harder, we tell our stories together. And everytime I walk out of Mary’s Place after volunteering, I walk out with hope and joy in my heart and with a smile on my face. It is the most rewarding thing that I do. Even before I was diagnosed for a second time, volunteering was a wonderful experience, but now after being diagnosed again, it’s helped me put my life in the right perspective.”