My Cancer Journey: Scotch, Wigs and Board Service, by Susan Haller
I first discovered my own “breast cancer suspicion” stepping out of a shower in Stamford, Connecticut, in the spring of 1995. After noticing some shape anomalies, I muttered a few unpleasant observances and continued with my day. I had just extended a business trip to spend a few days with my mom, who was on the downhill slide with lung cancer.
I made an appointment to be checked upon returning to Columbus. I had my checkup and called in for my results a few days later while at Chicago’s Midway International Airport. I heard the word “malignancy” and went right straight to the closest Midway bar. My compadres wondered why I switched to Scotch from my usual chardonnay, but I didn’t really want to talk about it. I located a seat away from my traveling companions and started to thoroughly study the booklets and pamphlets on breast cancer by myself.
Following my diagnosis and meeting with a surgeon, I had the choice of going on a preplanned family vacation before or after the surgery. I decided to wait and recoup on the beaches of North Carolina. I was more tired than usual, but was spoiled by family and friends.
With the excellent support of family and friends, I made it through chemo as well as a clinical trial that consisted of heavier doses of chemo in a shorter period of time. Doses of Tamoxifen followed. I was pleased to find that a few years after completing my clinical trial, it became protocol.
I felt very fortunate that I didn’t receive a terminal diagnosis. My son, Andrew — 14 at the time – asked if I was going to die. I said, “Some time, but not yet.”
Losing my hair was a challenge. Initially, I thought I’d be in a business meeting, have a huge sneeze, and go completely bald. I got by with hats and scarves loaned by many friends. After buying a wig, I only wore it once, however; it did get used a second time when my son dressed as me for Halloween!
I was feeling home-free from cancer when I passed my fifteen year anniversary in 2010, but was diagnosed a second time after year sixteen. This time, it was a different type of breast cancer in the opposite breast. Fortunately, a lumpectomy and about half the usual dosage of radiation was my treatment. Again, I felt so fortunate.
I have to say that one thing that has made me feel fortunate and stay positive is the incredible support I have received from work friends, personal friends, and my family— especially my spouse.
When Cancer Support Community Central Ohio, called The Wellness Community at the time, became in independent entity, Harry Davidow from the Cincinnati affiliate’s board of directors asked me to join the board of directors here in Columbus. Without hesitation, I accepted his offer and have been part of the organization ever since.
Being on the board for so many years makes me feel grateful for the growth— the contributions of a great team, board of directors and staff – and so very proud of all of the new accomplishments in the past few years. We’ve come such a long way from several years ago when we did not know where the next month’s rent or salaries were coming from.
I continue to stay on board so I can do my part in supporting the organization to help the participants on their cancer journeys. Hearing participants share their stories is such a rewarding and humbling experience. As a researcher, I read the responses of the surveys that participants take and find happiness in knowing that Cancer Support Community has helped, or in some cases, has saved them in some way. They say there is no other place that offers what Cancer Support Community does, and I am glad to be part of something so unique.
In continuing on the board, I look forward to being a part of the team that is working on awareness research and getting the word out to those who need Cancer Support Community’s services.
My Cancer Journey: Scotch, Wigs and Board Service, written by Susan Haller