My mom and sister told me today that they nominated me for an “Unstoppable Mom” contest on TV. My first reaction was to cry. My second was to say to myself “who me?” Sadly, the first thought in my head (and I do think is a common theme in “previvors)” is to belittle our journey by thinking that because we didn’t have cancer, it is not as important. It is however, important for me to acknowledge that I did something that required courage and although I was fortunate enough to not have battled cancer, what I went through is worthy of honor. I am not removed from breast cancer. It is because of breast cancer that I had to lose my breasts. It was hard and I am proud of how I handled the entire journey (whew, why is that so hard to say?). I am grateful to my mom and sister for helping cement that message in my head today.
Below is the letter submitted by Amy on my behalf. I am working on another post, so an update will happen shortly. The finalists for this contest will be announced on March 10th. In no way do I believe that my story will stand out among all the other amazing woman who I’m sure were nominated by their friends and family, however, if I do get chosen, I will be the first to publicize my story and beg for your support through voting. 🙂
My sister Susie is a married mom with 12-year-old boy and girl twins and an 8-year-old boy. She embodies the very notion of “unstoppable” in her attitude and bravery in how she lives her life and sets an inspiring example for her kids.
At the age of 20, Susie was diagnosed with Takayasu’s arteritis, a rare form of vasculitis that causes blood vessel inflammation. Takayasu’s arteritis (TA) can be tricky to manage. Through her 22 year fight with her disease, Susie has tried a variety of medicines, been in and out of hospitals, and heeded the advice of her specialists. Susie’s TA is an important part of her identity, yet she doesn’t let it define her. She successfully carried two pregnancies and dove in head first into community organizations like Mothers of Multiples, setting an example of involvement and community support for her kids at an early stage. Early on in her motherhood, she established herself as the friend who would be the first to step in when another was in need.
As her kids have gotten older, Susie has continued to be a role model at the family level by helping with homework, driving to/from school and sport activities and running the house when her husband John has to frequently travel for work. She has even taken up two part time jobs to help contribute and use her nursing education. However, Susie never stops at the typical “mom stuff.” She goes above and beyond paying it forward in kindness with her friends, taking care of her family, herself and managing her disease. She continues to show her children the importance of taking care of others by regularly contributing in her community through PORCH – People Offering Relief for Chapel Hill/ Carrboro Homes, an all-volunteer, hunger relief organization for families going hungry in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. Somehow, Susie even finds time to contribute to her local PTA during, “Teacher Appreciation Week.” She also met her personal goal of training and running a half marathon at Disney World, showing that she’s just as strong on the outside as she feels on the inside.
Susie was happily moving along in life when a new, unexpected health challenge occurred last fall. A breast biopsy came back as questionable for cancer. She consulted her team of physicians for a recommended path forward. She also thought long and hard about it herself. The unanimous decision was that a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction was the best chance for her in living her life with Takayasu’s arteritis. True to herself, Susie owned this decision. She also wanted to share it in the most positive way with those close to her. She didn’t dissolve into a puddle of tears. Instead, she started a heartfelt blog. She planned her recovery to make sure her family was taken care of. She honestly and openly shared her struggle and story and in turn shared others’ courageous stories as a way to deal and heal. Yet again, she exemplified the best kind of role model you could be for your children and husband through her attitude and unwavering courage. More than 3 months out from her surgery, Susie is doing great. Those who proudly know her share in her joy. She can live a life free from worry about breast cancer causing additional health complications and spend her time doing more important things, like positively impacting her children and everyone around her. As she recently posted to her Facebook account, “I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, “Because of you, I don’t give up.”