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More Than Conquerors

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States. More than 180,000 women and men in the United States will have been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. For more information on breast cancer, visit www.cancer.org.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is a life-changing event. But as these members of the Emory family can attest, some of those changes can be positive.

The fight against breast cancer doesn't end in October.

Jen Fabrick
Helen Floyd
Larry Frazer

Jen Fabrick

Jen FabrickFirst Diagnosis: March 2001 - Second Diagnosis: July 2001

Honest First Thought:

It didn’t really scare me as much as it was an awakening. I realized that I’m going to have to be very careful going forward.

My mother died of breast cancer. Her grandmother died of breast cancer. My mother’s sister died of breast cancer. With the second diagnosis, we pretty much felt that I had the BRCA mutation, so I did the genetic testing, and I do have the BRCA mutation. When you realize that you are wired to come down with it, what do you do? I think spiritually you obviously go back deep inside.

First Thing She Did For Herself

The first thing I did was go sit over in the Japanese garden and cry. And then I called my friends, with whom I already had dinner plans for that evening, and instead of going out they came over to my house with margaritas. The next day I went out and bought a nutritional handbook on cancer and started my personal quest.

When She Became A Survivor

In reality, the things that come back to me are are marking moments. Watching that first chemo go into my system, I knew I was going to be a survivor. Having to prepare and make self injections to strengthen my blood made me that much stronger in my convictions.

What "Survivor" Means to Her

I call cancer the barking dog, or it came knocking at my door, and for one reason or another, I decided not to let it in. I met that knock on the door and dealt with it.

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Helen Floyd

Diagnosed March 2006

Helen FloydHonest First Thought
I was scared to death, absolutely scared to death. I’m an oncology nurse, so it just made me want to panic more. I knew all the horror stories of what could happen.

First Thing She Did For Herself
Talked to my family and friends. They were supportive - listened to me, listened to my fears, listened to me worry about what treatment I was going to have. There were a lot of decisions to be made, so it was nice to talk to my family and friends about the different decisions.

When She Became A Survivor
I became a survivor the day I was diagnosed.

What "Survivor" Means to Her
A survivor is someone who is alive and has had a cancer diagnosis.

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Larry and Sherea Frazer

Larry and Sherea FrazerLarry’s wife Sherea was diagnosed on June 28, 2006. The two consider August 8, 2006 as the day she became a survivor, after her surgery.

Honest First Thought
Larry: Why her? Why is she sick? She’s such a loving, giving person, has no bad habits, no history of cancer, this is the furthest thing from my mind, and when I found out, it was, Why her, why not me?

The whole thing about breast cancer – it was a buzz word, I never really paid close attention to what one goes through when they are dealing with breast cancer. I am an emotional person and she is the dearest thing to me. When she told me, I went in the guest room to cry my heart out one time - what I’m thinking is one time - and then I’m going to be strong for her and the rest of the family. She knew something was wrong with me, and she tiptoed around and saw me crying, and she’s consoling me, and I’m like, wait a minute, you’re the one that's going through something. Instead of worrying about herself, she was concerned about me. At that point, she became my hero.

First Thing He Did for Sherea
We (Larry and their son Jordan) cooked dinner …well, we didn’t COOK dinner. She likes seafood so we ordered out, and had dinner with her brother, mother and sister. (The first thing Sherea did for herself was pray.)

What Survivor Means to Them
Larry: You’re not going to get down on yourself, you’re not going to mope around, but you’re going to get out there and fight and continue to live. Surviving is the attitude that you’re going to continue to live your life to the fullest.

Sherea: I have the greatest blessings ahead of me. I have a purpose from this experience that I believe is important, to be able to share and support others that have come to me since learning of my experience.

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Joyce King

Joyce KingDiagnosed in 1989 and December 2002

Honest First Thought:
Both times I thought I was going to die. I had two friends in their 30s die from breast cancer. One of my friends had two children, and she composed audio tapes that her children could listen to at various times in their life. So, after I thought I was going to die, I started composing a tape for my three-year-old son.

First Thing She Did For Herself
It’s one of the benefits of working at Emory University, that you can go online and just read everything there is to know about treatment.

Something I’ve always done for myself though is I’ve always taken care of my health. I continued exercising, even while I was doing chemotherapy the second time, I never went a day without exercise. I continued operating as usual.

I was still an assistant professor, I was still a nurse midwife, I was still an exerciser, I was still a wife and mother, and I was still a friend. My cancer was not going to define who I was. It didn’t take me that long to say, you just need to get on with your life here, not matter how short or long it is.

What I learned is that every single day is absolutely a gift and we can treasure that gift or we can treat that gift like we don’t care. It taught me to treasure every day.

What "Survivor" Means to Her
I don’t think of myself as a survivor. To think of myself as survivor, sometimes it makes me think that I have to first think of myself as a victim and I don’t feel like that about myself. I just have a tad of cancer that I have to deal with now and then.

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Cynthia Vaughan

First diagnosis: June 1981 - Second diagnosis: March 1994

Cynthia Vaughn

Honest First Thought:
With the first diagnosis, I was like “Oh My God, I’m going to die.” Then my next thought around that was “Somebody’s going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life.”

With the second diagnosis, I was like, “Well, I’m really gonna go this time.” I made it through the first time, so I thought the second time was really a death sentence.

But it was short-lived, because I soon got in touch with understanding that the best way for me to deal with all of this was to deal with it from an educational perspective, to look at what I could learn about me and cancer and healthcare.


First Thing She Did For Herself
Aside from praying and talking with my family, I began to learn as much as I could until my doctor said, “Don’t do that, because all of the materials out here will scare you.” That was back in 1981, and I was 29.

Probably the thing that helped me get through, in addition to my spiritual life and my prayer life was that I planned a celebration for myself when I finished treatment. I planned a trip and as soon as I finished my radiation treatment, I took off to the islands. And I’ve been traveling ever since.


When She Became A Survivor
I became a survivor the day I heard that the surgery was done. Once I got through the surgery, I was good to go. My radiologist told me, unless you get hit by a MAC truck, you’ll live for a long time.


What "Survivor" Means to Her
It means being able to live my life as I choose, and not be hindered by the fact that I had cancer and am a victim of cancer. Cancer did not change the person I am within, but it did change the lens through which I view life and how I live, move, and have my being in the world.

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Dr. Paula Gomes
Director, Faculty Staff Assistance Program - Diagnosed December 2006

Paula GomesHonest First Thought

I was blown away. I was in shock - I couldn’t believe it at first. And I said, “What do I do now?”

I sat and I cried. Then I said, well, whatever this is and whatever this means, I know and I trust that I will beat it; I will get through it. I gave myself a pep talk and calmed myself down.

First Thing She Did for Herself

After speaking with my husband and a colleague, I did two things. I scheduled a massage for the weekend because I love massages, and I decided that would be a part of what I would do for my healing.

We (my husband and me) had been trying to decide what we were going to do for the Christmas holidays. We decided to go to Callaway Gardens, so that we could enjoy the beauty of the lights, but also so that we could go biking and enjoy the outdoors.

When did you beat the cancer?

There were probably two levels of beating it. The first level was taking it on mentally. The second level was getting through the treatment. At some point, I had a conversation with my medical oncologist, and I said, ‘People keep asking me where am I in this process– what am I supposed to tell them?’

And she said, “Paula, what you tell people is that you are cancer-free.” Hearing those words was very powerful.

What do you want people to know about the process?

Early detection is so important. Screenings, including self exams and mammograms, can increase the chances of successfully fighting the disease and surviving. It is also important to maintain healthy habits, including exercise, watching what we eat, and having an active wellness plan in our lives which can help in managing the disease and the treatment. We shouldn't engage in denial.

People should know that you can try to do all the right things, but cancer doesn’t discriminate. We don’t know what causes cancer in men and women, and there has been such an increase in different types of cancers in our society.

There are things we can do, no matter what we face, to take charge of our bodies, our minds and our spirits. That means making ourselves a priority, taking charge of our health and wellbeing. It is important that people make a commitment to themselves and their health through education.

For me, it was not a death sentence, it was a healing journey. First you think about I’m going to die, and then you think about, how do I live? It forced me to get in touch with myself emotionally, spiritually and physically in such an integrated way, because it was about life. You have to think about that every day. It is about living.

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