Connected By Hope: Four breast cancer survivors share their stories
Fort Wayne, Indiana (June 2, 2008) —
Two years ago we interviewed several very special breast cancer survivors. Although their backgrounds are diverse, what they all share is an underlying strength and compassion that is difficult to put into words. After talking with these women and sharing their experiences, we found ourselves thinking back to the interviews on many occasions. Our heroes and their families have faced more challenges in a few years than most people will endure in a lifetime, and they have done so with awe-inspiring grace and dignity. These ladies have found a place in the hearts of so many Foundation friends, helping us discover that we are all connected by hope. We caught up with four of these courageous women to find out where they stand today.
Joan Bond | Survivor for nearly 24 years
Melissa Cordial: How has life changed in the two decades since you became a breast cancer survivor?
Joan Bond: I am so, so lucky to be a survivor. Two close friends were diagnosed at the same time and did not survive. I listen to and know my body, and look for any signs that might indicate a recurrence.
MC: What was the most difficult part of being diagnosed with breast cancer?
JB: Truthfully, not having the support system that women have today. In 1985, breast cancer was so hush-hush. I wanted to talk about my fears, my anxiety, and I had so many questions and nowhere to go for answers. Even my own family acted like it never happened and that I was going to be well. Fortunately, I am. The more information we can get to women about treatment options and support, the better. On another note, I regret not having a double mastectomy. I so worry about cancer forming in my good breast. This was neither discussed nor offered to me in ’85. Also, reconstructive surgery at the same time of surgery for the mastectomy was not available. Advances are being made every day, and women have so many viable options for treatment.
MC: If you could say one thing to someone battling breast cancer, what would you say?
JB: Breast cancer is so treatable, and a cure is just around the corner!
MC: What do you do for fun?
JB: Love my job, tennis, golf, lunching with girlfriends, visiting grandchildren, and living each day to the fullest!
Liz Seculoff | Survivor for 7 years
MC: What was the most challenging part of your treatment?
Liz Seculoff: The hardest part of chemo and radiation for me was having a newborn son and a 16-month old daughter at home who needed me. For the first half of my chemo treatments I was able to get up at night with my son and then nap during the day. During the second half, friends and family made schedules to be there day and night to help me keep up with my little ones. The day I learned how serious my tumor was, I accepted all the great offers for meals, shopping...anything offered by my family and friends. My husband and I met with my parents. I let them know that my deepest wish was to spend as much time with my children as possible, and that everything else could be taken care of for me (which it was)! At times I wished my children were older and self-reliant so I could lie on the couch or in bed and rest while I was awake. However, I was keenly aware they were too young to comprehend that I was sick. Children should not have to be burdened with the illness of a parent. Even as an adult, it is heart wrenching to watch a parent deal with a serious illness, so I am thankful my children did not understand what was going on at the time. Their energetic activity level and dependence helped me through the treatments even though it was excruciatingly exhausting.
MC: What has having breast cancer taught you?
LS: Miracles can and do happen on a daily basis. Many times we are too busy to see what is going on around us. I would encourage every woman to slow down and take time for herself, her family and her friends. I am incredibly thankful for every day.
MC: How has breast cancer changed how you live?
LS: I am much more willing to take on causes that are near and dear to my heart. My children are still small, but time passes too quickly. It is important to me that I enjoy this time, even if the piles of laundry are overflowing, the dishes need to be put away...I try to find time to have fun with my loved ones. Time is a precious gift, and it needs to be used wisely!
Heidi Floyd | Survivor for 2 and 1/2 years
MC: Was there a moment during your treatment that stands out as the most difficult?
Heidi Floyd: I was diagnosed with, and treated for, breast cancer during my pregnancy with my son Noah. Looking back, the most difficult moment was not being able to see my son right after he was born. Both of our immune systems were so compromised from chemotherapy that we were taken to separate areas in the hospital, and I could only see him via photos. He was in the NICU for several days, and I cried the whole time. Fortunately, there were also tears of joy!
MC: How has breast cancer changed how your family lives?
HF: I have four children who know the word cancer and what that means. It has made them wise beyond their years. It has also made them aware of their own individual strength and the great capacity for love and compassion for others that lies within each one of them.
MC: How do you like to spend your downtime?
HF: I love to bake with my children! It’s a fun game for them and it’s such a relaxing way for us to spend time together. They have even assigned themselves different roles; Catie is the sous chef, Bella is the saucier, etc. I also like to sew and dabble in woodwork, but really…who has downtime?
MC: Do you have any words of wisdom to share?
HF: At this very moment, there are thousands of women going through breast cancer treatment and the long recovery process. Their struggles are myriad, and they may well have battles for years to come. This disease has the potential to be devastating in ways that range from emotional to physical to financial. The research we support now will ensure that our daughters and granddaughters will never face those hurdles. We have the power to give them a brilliant cancer-free future!
Tammy Bunsold | Survivor for 3 years
MC: How has your view on life changed since you became a breast cancer survivor?
Tammy Bunsold: Being a survivor has reinforced my feelings about the things for which I am grateful. I can’t say I didn’t appreciate how precious life was prior to my diagnosis of breast cancer , but now that I am a survivor, I take every opportunity to stop and enjoy life that much more. I have prioritized my life list of “things yet to do,” and I’m working down the list in hopes of fulfilling each and every wish.
MC: What was the hardest part of being diagnosed with breast cancer ?
TB: For me, the hardest part was not being able to live day to day the way I always had in the past. I couldn’t come and go as I pleased because I was unable to drive and had to depend on others. I had very little energy or stamina to do normal daily activities, and I felt restricted in so many ways. Prior to my diagnosis, I held three jobs and slept for six hours each night and would wake feeling rested in the morning. This GREATLY changed during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The diagnosis changed my family’s life as well. Our daily routines were replaced with doctor appointments, tests, treatments, surgeries, and sleeping. Through it all, I tried to lighten the mood by making jokes about rather critical situations.
MC: What has this experience taught you?
TB: It has taught me how amazing and complex the human body really is. The treatment can ravage the body, and yet it bounces back and eventually the healing process begins. God definitely has a plan for me. I truly know how fortunate and blessed I am to have met some incredible people through the course of my treatment and just feel so lucky to still have those people in my life.
MC: What is your hope for the future?
TB: I believe that a cure for breast cancer will be found. Until that day comes though, I hope there will be non-invasive treatments available and that all women will proactively be involved in taking care of themselves. I have high hopes, but I also have tremendous confidence in the group of doctors doing research at Indiana University.
MC: What do you do for fun?
TB: I thoroughly enjoy spending time riding my 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle, commonly referred to as “Roadie.” I think it is beautiful and can’t think of a better way to spend a warm summer evening. I have met some incredible people and have seen some gorgeous scenery while riding. I was actually on a motorcycle trip in Sturgis, S.D., when I was diagnosed with breast cancer . I hope to someday make that trip again…this time as a survivor! It has been challenging to get back into the swing of things, but I also enjoy health and fitness. Last year, I ran the 13-mile, Indy Mini Marathon for the first time. This was a huge accomplishment for me. I was thrilled to have met this goal, and plan to keep living and enjoying life to its fullest!