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Every human being is on a journey and has a destiny or purpose to fulfill. Although some of my gifts were discovered at an early age, I never would have imagined my journey in life would be so intimately integrated with cancer. My personal awareness of cancer began during medical school when my father was diagnosed with gastric carcinoma (stomach cancer). At diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized to his lymph nodes and esophagus eliminating the possibility for surgery. Six short months later with all but one of his children and wife at his bedside, he took his last breath. Incidentally he was the first person I had pronounced dead in my medical career. He was only 65 years old and had been a weight lifter in his early life, which made it that, much more emotionally painful when his weight decreased and his strong physical frame became skeletal with hollow cheeks and severe weakness. I am heartened by the medical progress made in gastrointestinal cancers over the past 25 years in large part due to clinical research.
During my medical training, with the assistance of attendings, I have diagnosed, treated and managed many people with cancer. The fact remains that medical research has significantly improved outcomes, prevented premature deaths and has changed the face of cancer. Decades ago people would only whisper the “c” word because it ultimately declared premature death.
The impact of those medical advances did not become personal until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. Although God gave me the grace to journey through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, I was bewildered with my diagnosis of breast cancer because I was a vegetarian, prayed, studied the Bible, exercised, lived in joy, avoided alcohol, drugs and caffeine. During my medical school training bone marrow transplantation was a common treatment for advanced breast cancer and nearly half of those recipients died. The mortality rate for breast cancer has decreased by more than 35% since I graduated from medical school in 1990 and many attribute the improved outcomes to breast cancer research, increased awareness, earlier diagnoses and improved diagnostic imaging. Organizations like Susan G. Komen that fund breast cancer research have saved the lives of many of us diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the second only to the federal government for breast cancer research funding. That translates to private donations from people like us. Due to the significant increase in cancer diagnoses and especially breast cancer you or a family member may be afflicted with this disease. Your donation to Susan Komen provides funding for programs designed to raise awareness for early diagnosis, treatment options, grants for individuals negatively financially impacted by breast cancer and research dollars to ultimately find the cure for breast cancer.
I discovered a lump in my breast in October 2001, which resulted in a confirmatory breast biopsy and subsequent mastectomy, chemotherapy and breast reconstruction. Just a few years later, in the absence of a family history of breast cancer, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she was treated with surgery, radiation chemotherapy including Herceptin, a targeted chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer approved by the FDA in 1998, the cancer recurred 5 years later. My dear friend Darlene Smith credits her “cure” of breast cancer to this drug. This drug would not be available if not for the breast cancer research dollars. My sister has been living with stage 4 breast cancer for 5 years which wouldn’t be possible without her indomitable will to survive, God and medications developed in part due to funding from Susan G Komen. She has received treatment for brain metastases on four separate occasions including whole brain radiation and is currently enrolled in a clinical trial for chemotherapy that crosses the blood brain barrier. Since much public/government funding has significantly reduced over the last several years, many organizations are dependent upon private donors. We can make the difference, if each one of us does our part.
While Juls was receiving treatment for Stage IV Breast Cancer, my sister Karen was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Six weeks after her diagnosis, she was hospitalized for bilateral pneumonia where she took her last breath.
I am not a stranger to cancer and believe if not for the generosity of people, many lives would be lost due to lack of new treatment modalities.
I have been a breast cancer survivor for 14 of the 18 years I have lived in Chattanooga, with my incredible husband of 22 years and our three sons; Josh, John Peter and Jacob Davis. Although I have been treating children and adults with allergies, asthma and immunologic conditions for the last 18 years, I have been integrating nutrition, hydration, prayer and stress elimination concepts into our practice following the diagnosis of breast cancer.
I believe we must work together to eradicate diseases, raise awareness and enhance quality of life for our families, friends, our neighbors, and ourselves. This process starts with each of us. Michael J Fox has raised awareness of Parkinson’s Disease, Lance Armstrong of testicular Cancer, Lou Gehrig of ALS, Jerry Lewis of Muscular Dystrophy, Danny Thomas of children’s’ cancers. We all need to do what we can… register to walk in the Susan G Komen race, raise money, teach others about cancer prevention, and spread the word about healthy choices…
My journey will not be over until I take my last breath. I will continue to make a change in the lives of those around me. As a result of breast cancer I have developed a more intimate relationship with God which has enabled me to put Him first, seek Him with all decisions, love others more deeply, give of my time, talents and treasures. I have rich and fulfilling relationships with others, have an incredible caring and brilliant husband and three gifted sons. Life is not without its challenges but together we can make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us. We need to boldly dream big and believe all things are possible. I believe Juls is healed of cancer….