This blog entry was submitted by one of our volunteers, Joy Rubeo.
In December of 1996, I was diagnosed with stage 2-breast cancer at the age of 33. My husband and I were trying to start a family, and we were completely caught off guard. We lived an active and healthy lifestyle and my life was thriving. I believed I was in the best physical shape of my adult life.
When I discovered the lump in my right breast in April of 1996 and consulted a gynecologist who was recommended by friends, I was told that I had dense breast. In the course of the next six months, we were referred to a fertility specialist who, upon examination of the lump, referred me to a breast surgeon. Even my breast surgeon indicated that the odds of the lump being cancer were low, as he was performing the breast biopsy.
The devastating news was the beginning of many medical tests, a mastectomy, and six rounds of chemotherapy. Despite the sixth month delay in a diagnosis, thankfully, I had no node involvement.
During this time, my family and friends were (and continue to be), my pillars of strength when times were “challenging”. I could not have asked for a more proficient and compassionate medical team. (I feel God guided the hands of my surgeon and oversaw the work of my oncologist.) Today, I am 13 years cancer free!
In January of 1998, my family and friends surprised me with a party to “Celebrate Life” and to celebrate the 1st anniversary of my cancer remission. Complete with party hats and noisemakers, the event was truly celebratory and everyone had a great time.
It was soon determined that the party would be an annual event. Every January around the time of the anniversary of my cancer remission, we would gather to “Celebrate Life” and our blessings. We would select a theme each year and encourage our guests to dress accordingly.
This has proven to be great fun! We’ve held luaus, Mardi Gras, Mexican fiestas, safaris, westerns, retro-themed gatherings, beach parties, and a pajama party. Other fun themes were to “Dress the character of your favorite childhood TV show”, “Wear the apparel of your favorite sports team”, “Dress the profession of your dream”, and a “global and green” party was held this year.
More importantly, we realized how important that it was to give back to those who helped my family and myself through this crisis. We selected a charity that was instrumental in my growth and recovery from breast cancer, and we asked for donations at the annual party. It was not difficult to decide on Living Beyond Breast Cancer as the recipient.
LBBC has been there every step of the way for us. I was diagnosed in my early 30s and the Young Survivors’ Group was a true resource for me. Even today, the newsletters, conferences, Survivors’ Helpline, and The Paula A. Seidman Library and Resource Center are priceless services, which I still consult. To date, we have raised over $35,000 for LBBC!
When I am reflective about my life before and after cancer, I imagine a life of good health, happiness, marriage, and children. Although unable to have children, cancer has given me the opportunity to appreciate good health, feel happiness, value my husband, family, friends, and dog; and accept adversity. I try to CELEBRATE LIFE every day! What a blessing that it is!
How do you celebrate life? We want to hear from all of you, either here on this blog or on our Facebook Page.