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Survival Stories




It’s natural to say “why me” but every moment you spend on that is a moment you don’t have to focus on and discover another opportunity to embrace the positive things.

As far as I’m concerned, three episodes of breast cancer is three too many, and that is exactly how many I’ve had. However, if something like this happens, then you need to get through it as well as possible. I’ve had three different experiences as well.

My first diagnosis involved a lumpectomy and radiation. The second was a mastectomy with no radiation and were a year apart. My third occurred 17 years later and resulted in a radical mastectomy, chemo AND radiation.

I won’t go through all the steps, surgeries, consultations and questions these entailed, except to say I’ve had a total of 12 surgeries on my chest, and look like a giant roadmap. But that is not the issue!

During the last diagnosis, I started a new business, had bunion surgery, drove myself to and from all treatments, never got sick, worked out two hours a day and managed all the household and other business activities.

Yes, I lost my hair, couldn’t travel for seven months, had radiation not once, but twice a day, and was poked, prodded and stuck continuously.

So why am I writing this?

Because I got through it with no whining, a great smile, a positive attitude, no feeling sorry for myself and a knowledge that it would end. Sure, I went through the process of “why me?” the first time. But once the initial shock wore off, I got to work finding out what I needed to do. The second time I said, “No, not again!” And then 17 years later with the smallest spot yet, had the most devastating surgery of all three.

You need to step back into your power and discover the other things in your life. Focus on moving forward. You can’t get stuck in your grief, anger or denial. They are natural and important reactions, but they are not forever. Every moment you spend on feeling sorry for yourself, is a moment you don’t have to focus on another opportunity and embrace the positive things surrounding you.

Whatever my crises have been, I have always known I would move forward. My message has always been “what’s next?” Standing still is not even on the table for me. If I have lemons, I won’t just make lemonade, I’ll have a lemonade party.

So, I am going to give you the steps needed to get through all of this in the best way possible. Don’t fight me on this because this is the Spunky Old Broad’s formula to surviving breast cancer with a vengeance.

  1. If you know you’re getting the best medical help possible, then relax, follow directions and focus your energy on getting healthy.
  2. Consult with a nutritionist to find out the food and liquids you should eat and drink to maintain your energy and resistance to infections and germs.
  3. Take the time every day to renew your self by focusing on your spiritual side, a pet project, one of your real pets or a passion that distracts you from feeling sorry for yourself.
  4. Keep that smile on your face. I was called “Little Miss Sunshine” just because I walked in for treatments with a smile plastered on my face. When asked why I was so happy, I simply said, “I’m getting cured.”
  5. Do some form of physical exercise daily. Whether it is five minutes or an hour is up to you and your ability. Contrary to what you might think, working out will increase your stamina. It may not feel it for the first few days, but within five days, you’ll be cracking.
  6. If you’re working, keep it up as long as you can. When you are performing a task, talking with a customer, or looking for an answer, you forget your aches and pains. So keep as busy as you can without overdoing it.
  7. Use the support you need. While I was fortunate that I could handle everything by myself, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Just don’t be a whiner or complainer. No one enjoys listening to sob stories and while empathy is terrific, you need to take responsibility for you.
  8. Listen to your heart. Everyone is thrown a curve. This is an episode in your life. It doesn’t define you. How you handle it or any adversity ultimately defines you. When you are done, you will emerge not only as the person you were, but a better person overall because you appreciate so much more.
  9. Statistics bear out staying in the right mind set. Five minutes of negative thinking takes the body 24 hours to recover from. You don’t have 24 hours at this time. You need every precious minute.

So there you go. Isn‘t that better than staying home feeling sorry for yourself. At the end, you can broadcast you’re a champion. And a terrific one at that!

If you want more information, go to and sign up for our newsletter and become one of my members (for free).

Dr. Gayle Carson CSP CMC
The Original Spunky Old Broad




My name is Lydia and I live in the state of Rhode Island.  I am 87 years young and I have pancreatic cancer.  I was diagnosed in January of 2004.  Being told at 82 that I had stage 3 pancreatic cancer and the probability of my living more than 18 months was devastating.  The surgeon who operated on me was young and confident and all full of himself.  After the operation he came into my room and told me the bad news.  My cancer was inoperable and with chemo and radiation and a lot of luck, I might get 18 months at best.  I remember looking at him and thinking who are you to tell me when I am going to die, so instead of just thinking it I told him exactly that!!!  In my mind my work on this earth was not over.  When my God is ready for me He will call. 

A month later I went to the Oncology Department at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, which is affiliated with Dana Ferber Cancer Center in Boston, Ma.  There I met Dr. Richard Hellwig.  He mapped out a treatment of chemo and radiation in March of 2004.  I had a 6 weeks course of radiation and I had a very aggressive first round of chemo using a 24/7 pump.  The pump and I lasted about 3 weeks and that’s was all I could handle.  I was then assigned to chemo once a week for about a year.    After that year of Chemo I was given a sabbatical of three months free of any treatment.  In the 3 month period of “freedom” I started not feeling well.  Long story short I had some testing done and was told I had colon cancer.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  I was operated on immediately.   I was 84.  My cancer was removed and the bowel resected.  The best news was that I didn’t need any kind of treatment for the bowel.  The cancer was caught in time. 

Through all this anguish I don’t know, why but I have never felt the” Why Me” thing.  It was me and I knew I just had to have faith in God, myself and my physicians.  Faith and Hope are strong medicines in themselves.  Eventually I went back on Chemo for another year.  I still have pancreatic cancer but the tumor was shrunk to the point I didn’t need to be in treatment.  I haven’t had a treatment in over a year and I am feeling good.  The doctor says I am a little miracle.  He has never had a pancreatic cancer patient live so long!

Today the word cancer can just mean a chronic illness.  People can live normal and productive lives.   Since my diagnosis almost 5 years ago I have seen my oldest grandson get married and have two children.  I have seen three more great grandchildren born and I am looking forward to the holidays.  The word cancer does not always mean an immediate death sentence.  I am living proof of that.  Faith does carry one a long way.  To all of you out there I hope my story has given you a little extra faith and encouragement.   God bless you all and especially the wonderful dedicated people who have dedicated their lives in the help of others like me.  

Lydia M.