February 5, 2009
My name is Ruth Reiter-Reich and I am a breast cancer survivor. But more than that, I’m a blessed woman. Many people might say that those two words couldn’t possibly go together; cancer and blessed. But it is possible. And I believe that a great work has been done in my life. For me it was the holy work of the Spirit in my heart. We all have within us the power and courage that is needed to get us through the worst of storms, if we take the time to see that we are in the midst of Heaven right here on this Earth. The love and care and support of everyone from family, friends, co-workers, and prayer warriors, from people that I never even met, uplifted me and carried me through some of the darkest hours last year.
One year ago this month, I began treatment for Stage II, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER positive, Her2/neu overexpressed. Treatment which included 18 weeks of preadjuvant Chemotherapy of Herceptin, a wonder drug, I might add. 6 rounds of Taxotere and Carboplatin Chemotherapy, Partial lumpectomy, removal of 30 lymph nodes, and 33 radiation treatments. And now, I can look back on that long road and be proud of my accomplishments, but above all, I’m cancer free. As a matter of fact, my fantastic doctors were able to shrink my 4.5cm tumor (about the size of a hard-boiled egg) with the chemotherapy prior to my surgery. I think I had my Surgeon shaking his head in wonderment, as he told me the next morning after my surgery that it seemed that all the cancer that was supposed to be there, wasn’t. My Her2/neu type tumor is found in only about 20% of breast cancers, and 10 years ago my chances of survival wasn’t good. But thanks, to all of the research, Herceptin has been used now more widely as a drug prior to any surgery and the outcomes are quite amazing. At this time, I am currently still receiving Herceptin IV every 3 weeks, until I have completed an entire year of treatment, post surgery. It is why I’m still here.
But another storm was culminating, and my life was about to get more complicated. While I was into six weeks of my chemotherapy, I unfortunately came home from one of my Herceptin appointments to find my soul mate, my loving husband of 24 years, dead at home. The shock was unbearable. I was determined to beat my cancer before, but now, I was the only parent left. I had to survive not just for me, but for my daughter. What was happening? Why? My foundation of security, my health and now my family was crumbling. And yet, this is when I experienced the greatest abundance of love from so many. The many prayers and home cooked dinners, the phone calls and cards. They organized my daughter’s transportation, drove me to my chemo appointments, and baked brownies. So much love shared is such a gift. So many blessings.
I believe what gave me the greatest courage to carry on was being told of Carepages.com by a fellow cancer survivor. My carepage was not only a means to keep my friends and family updated, but the journaling was a source of release, and a place to contemplate and express my feelings. It was a place where daily, I looked forward to sharing my thoughts with my supporters, and it was healing me in the process. People would comment how strong I was, and quite honestly, I didn’t know where that came from, if it weren’t for my faith. But, most amazingly, this is where God was doing His handy work. While I was busy writing down my feelings to help myself, God was using my writing as a means of encouraging and blessing others! I would hear from them, how much I helped them. Helped them to slow down, and take notice of the things in this world that we so quickly take for granted. ie. Our health and the appreciation of our loved ones. If I missed a day here or there, I would be asked to post another update.
So here I write, hoping that in some way, I can be a support to some other woman, going through a scary and uncertain time in her life. I have had the opportunity to share my story with several breast cancer victims, and God is blessing me as I help encourage and empower these courageous women.
For those of you who are new to this journey of the “sisterhood”, trust in your doctors’ abilities, trust in the technology available to us now, trust in the love and encouragement of your friends, but above all… trust in our Lord who will make you whole again.
I have a picture that I took last year, one month before I was diagnosed with my breast cancer. We were on a back road in Northern California just after a rainfall. We stopped to take in an amazing rainbow. The photo turned out quite fantastic, because you could see the wet and muddy road where we stood, but up ahead of us, the road curved to where it appeared to disappear out beyond. And in that beyond shone the brilliant rays of sunlight. Never forget, that there’s always sunshine after a rainstorm.
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