My name is Sharon Lawrence. I am married to a nice gentleman who has accepted me and my flaws unconditionally for the last 38 years. We have two daughters, two grandsons and a rambunctious two-year-old great-grandson. I am truly grateful and blessed for all of them.
You can never anticipate hearing three or four words that can change your life so drastically that it snaps you into a moment where time stands still. Beginning with “we saw something” or “need to repeat” or “It looks peculiar”; and the ending sentence being “you have cancer” or “It’s malignant,” stage something or other.
Thank God for early detection. I am a firm believer in annual checkups. Going for a mammogram is never pleasant, but I rarely missed scheduling one annually. However, in June 2012, I heard a combination of those statements mentioned above – for a second time. This (bleeping) centimeter (my pet name for it) was deep, not found by monthly self-examinations, nor did it truly reveal itself until after several “smashings”,
and then confirmed by biopsy.
When I received the official word from my doctor, I was at work. I didn’t want to be seen crying at my desk. Before a tear fell, I received a call from one of my closest friends to discuss our plans to attend a conference in Boston. We were leaving in two days and during the conversation, I broke down. She let me finish and asked if everything was okay. I repeated the news I had just received. She asked if I still
wanted to attend the conference. I said “yes” as it would take my mind off things.
I repeated the doctor’s message to my husband that evening. I really broke down and cried “why me, again” because four years and 2½ months prior, I had heard the words “it’s malignant, stage 3 and surgery.” But this time is was “Stage 1, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” breast cancer. (The first time it was colon cancer.) I have no known family history of either, making these diagnoses even more upsetting.
My response, “why me” was followed quickly by, “God has my back.” I refused to worry about it again. Unfortunately, through a series of errors, I didn’t have the surgery until January 3, 2013. Who knew that the centimeter would necessitate a lumpectomy, lymph node testing and breast reduction! Finally, after 33 rounds of radiation, hearing “there are no signs of the cancer” was joy to my ears.
My breast surgeon, Dr. Helen Corbin, was phenomenal and my reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Steven Smith, was more than pleased with his work; however, for me, going from busty to not so busty was not easy. I actually cried every day for the first month, mourning what I had lost. In the long run, I’m grateful for the loss and have gotten used to the new models. No one really noticed my loss. It is amusing to hear
people ask if I had lost weight, to which my reply was “yes I did” and in my head I chuckled, “about four pounds of boob.” But to hear the words, “all clear” or “no signs” or “we got it all and you should live a normal productive life,” was such a blessing, and what I lost is the reason for the blessing.
During this entire time, outside of my immediate family, I had shared this diagnosis only with a very limited number of friends and family. A few knew of only this diagnosis, even fewer knew of both. As far as they were concerned I looked healthy, was always in a good mood with no tell-tale evidence of any treatment: no loss of hair, no visible pain and no negative effect from the treatment. I was truly enjoying God’s gift of life despite what I was going through. During times like this, we sometimes forget that we are not the only ones affected. In hindsight, I realized that it put immeasurable pressure/stress on my caregiver who had no outlet, no one to converse with about his fears and feelings. I didn’t realize this at the time, because he never showed it or spoke of it. I didn’t realize until we talked a couple of years later that I took for granted that his faith and strength was being tested at the same time. He was and still is the best caregiver/support I could have as it not only created a tighter bond between us, but also allowed me the time and confidence I needed to feel comfortable with my body and my mind. I’m blessed that God put him in my life and I will be forever grateful, even if I don’t tell him.
It wasn’t until 2016, when I honored survivors at an organizational function that I decided to share that I too was a survivor. Imagine the silence in the room as I felt the opportunity was right and in tune with my closing message. Be kind to everyone, because you never know what they are going through. Sometimes just a kind word will do wonders for a person’s spirit.
2018 will mark my 5th and 10th years, respectively, of being cancer free. Only God knows the future. But for me…… live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the bull____, take chances & never have regrets. Pray not only because you want something but also because you have a lot to thank GOD for (and I do).