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Heather Jose: I am a Breast Cancer Survivor

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I am a Survivor.

The first time that I was recognized as a survivor I had been diagnosed less than six months.

I was walking the survivor lap at a Relay for Life event. I felt really weird being acknowledged when I wasn’t even through with treatment. There I was, bald as could be, standing with women who were 5, 10, 15, even 25 years away from their diagnosis. I remember telling one veteran survivor about my feelings. She just shrugged and told me that someday I would be as far out as she was like it was no big deal. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to shrug as I talked about cancer.

Fast-forward nearly ten years and here I am. Still wondering about the whole survivor thing. Why is it that some people seem to do it with such ease, while others fight it the whole way? What makes some women want to tell the world that what they have done while others don’t tell a soul? I don’t have the answers. I have found over time that it is as individual as the cancer itself.

I am proud to be a survivor. I feel that I have earned it. I don’t know very many people who have been in my shoes, nine years out of a stage IV diagnosis. I don’t tell everyone about cancer, but anyone who knows me at all knows about it. I wear my pink ribbons with pride and have added a fair amount of pink to my wardrobe over the years. I love a good pink ribbon product, but I must say I have gotten tired of all the items that are sold in the name of breast cancer research each year.

Being a survivor is a day-to-day thing for me. Not in a bad way, like I am worried that I will die. Instead I view each day as an opportunity to experience life and make my body strong. A good day for me includes time spent eating well, exercising, praying. It also has components of writing or speaking about cancer, being with my family and friends, and stopping to smell the roses.

I think about cancer everyday, without fail. It has become my life. I have not found anything that I am as passionate about as cancer, and helping others feel empowered to fight. I can’t imagine going back to my life without cancer as it has changed my perspective in so many ways.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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