Paula Schneider, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen®, writes to her younger self on the lessons and challenges she faced as a patient with breast cancer.
You may think that you have faced adversity, but now you’re in for an actual life and death struggle.
Like your mom before you, you’re going to be diagnosed with breast cancer. You’re later going to lose your mom to metastatic breast cancer, just as you lost your brother to metastatic prostate cancer. And your sister is going to be diagnosed with melanoma. Cancer will become a central animating feature of your life.
You’ll struggle to keep it together when you tell your husband and your two school-aged daughters that you too, have cancer. You’ll have to learn how to give up control and accept help, even from your children. It’s hard when you are used to feeling large and in charge, but you’ll soon discover that you feel the most empowered when you feel the most powerless.
It’ll be tough, taking its toll physically and emotionally. Cancer always leaves its scars.
You’ll pull through though, and the experience will inspire a life-change.
You will quit your job and seek out an opportunity to help others. You’ll apply all of your life experiences to the challenge of leading the fight to save lives from breast cancer.
It will present its own set of challenges but don’t worry, you were made for this. You’ll meet people who will touch your heart in ways that you never imagined possible – and you’ll have to say goodbye to too many. You’ll learn that it’s okay to cry at meetings. It’s not a show of weakness, but a sign of purpose.
Along this journey, you’ll meet kids who are raising money to honor their mothers. You’ll meet patient navigators, like Susan, who will hold your hand through every step of your treatment. You’ll get to know some of the most brilliant scientists who are discovering how to help people like you. And you’ll partner with some innovative thinkers who want to help make significant changes to how our health care system works to improve the patient experience, accelerate discovery and address racial and geographic disparities.
And despite your family history, all of these people will give you hope for a better future for your daughters.
So, keep your head up and keep walking forward. You never know where the path will take you.
Interested in sharing your cancer story? Visit yourcancerstory.com.