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An Unselfish Warrior

by Ruth B. on Behalf of Suzanne P.

August 31, 2011 - My birthday, started out like my birthdays usually do, with my three daughters and their families calling to sing happy birthday to me. By that afternoon, I realized this was to be no ordinary birthday.  My daughter, Suzanne, called to say there was a suspicious area in her breast discovered during a mammogram and she was being sent for further testing.   She had just had a mammogram 10 months prior and everything was fine, so surely this was nothing.  I reassured myself that she was young, healthy, a normal weight, didn’t drink or smoke, and had breast fed her two boys.  Women like that don’t get cancer.  Wrong!  She soon got the news that she had triple negative breast cancer, and our world was turned upside down, and Suzanne’s fight began.

Although triple negative breast cancer is rare and difficult to treat, Suzanne was determined she would beat it. She didn’t spend time feeling sorry for herself. She immediately started doing research and learned everything she could about her cancer and what she would need to do to win this battle. She was confident with her team of doctors and nurses at the St. Jude Cancer Center and within a month of being diagnosed began chemotherapy.

From day one Suzanne, was determined to keep life as normal as possible for herself and her family. She is a working mom of two teenage boys and very active in their schools. She wasn’t about to let cancer keep her down.  Throughout her 4 months of chemo, she went to jog-a-thons, football games, parades, Christmas concerts, parents meetings, and any other activities she could manage.  She continued to work as many hours as her body would allow, fulfill her duties as President of the school's PPTO, and volunteer at her boys' schools.  When her hair started to fall out, she didn’t get upset as many women do. Her attitude was "It's only hair. It’ll grow back."  She even kind of liked the get up and go routine in the morning, especially on those days when she wasn’t feeling her best.  When Suzanne was tired and having those days when she felt like she had been hit by a truck, her standard answer when asked how she was would always be "Good", and she’d flash her beautiful smile.  When chemo was finally done, Suzanne was faced with the decision of having a lumpectomy vs. a mastectomy.

With the help of her medical team, she decided on a lumpectomy. It was only after that, when she found out they hadn’t gotten all of the cancer, that she had a little down time. She allowed herself a little time to grieve and then marched forward to continue her battle.  She planned a Bye-Bye Boobie Bash the week before her mastectomy and celebrated her journey.  Always humble and grateful, Suzanne wanted to thank everybody for the love, support and help she had received from her family and treasured friends. We were all so inspired by her amazingly positive attitude.  It took one more surgery after the mastectomy, followed by 28 sessions of radiation, before at last we were able to rejoice with Suzanne when we heard the words 'cancer free'!

But Suzanne didn’t stop there. In her typical unselfish way, she volunteered to participate in a clinical trial for triple negative breast cancer in hopes of not only helping herself but also helping other women with the same type of cancer.  She is once again back in chemotherapy.  This round of chemo has been harder than the first round was, but as always, Suzanne was facing it as a challenge and with a lot of courage.  She even completed the entire 5K Susan Komen Race for the Cure with her sisters and other team members on September 23rd.  When she’s done with her treatment, Suzanne hopes to volunteer her time helping other women who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  She hopes that by sharing her story, her fears, her struggles, and her triumphs that she can help make a very scary and overwhelming journey just a little bit easier.

Throughout this past year, Suzanne’s strength, faith, attitude, and determination have been an inspiration to everybody who knows her. We are so proud of how well she’s done, and we continue to pray for her and others as they fight the battle against breast cancer.  

I love you, Suzanne.