Surviving cancer: The path of positivity

Surviving cancer: The path of positivity

On June 8, 2012, I received the phone call that is everyone’s worst nightmare: my biopsy came back positive for cancer. When the surgeon told me the news, I remember feeling numb, as if all of my blood had rushed out of my body. Literally, within moments of hearing my diagnosis of breast cancer, I knew there were two paths that I could take: the ‘woe is me, why me’ path, or the ‘my way, my style’ path. I chose the ‘my way, my style’ approach, which I call the ‘path of positivity.’

I viewed this as a powerful opportunity to set an example for my five boys and my nieces and nephews. I knew that picking the ‘path of positivity’ when times got tough would be invaluable, and it was the best way I knew how to get through a challenging time. The whirlwind of events that followed included six  surgeries, 18 chemotherapy treatments, multiple tests and scans and enough doctor appointments to fill a lifetime.

In the following weeks after my diagnosis, the chaos of sorting and processing all of this information was like a roller coaster ride that I didn’t want to be on. However, the doctors and nurses at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and their Center for Advanced Care made it clear that they were not only focused on treating my cancer, but also treating me as a whole person and making the cancer experience tolerable. I have so many great memories of my care there. The first of which was on the day I was diagnosed. Dr. John Saletta insisted on skipping his lunch so that my husband and I could come right over to meet with him after the news.

Another cherished memory was during one of my hospitalizations when my oncologist, Dr. Pam Kaiser, brought me a hot cup of gourmet coffee because she couldn’t stand watching me drink cup after cup of the hospital sludge. She knew how much my morning coffee meant to me and went out of her way to get me coffee simply because she knew it would make me happy. In addition to her excellent medical care, Dr. Kaiser became a close friend after endless hours of talking and working through the challenges that cancer presents.

While these may seem like simple examples, oftentimes, the small things in life have the greatest impact. It also speaks to the way my doctors treated the “whole person” and weren’t simply focused on treating the disease alone. The stories are endless, as is my appreciation for the nurses and doctors who cared for me during the most challenging time in my life.

As I approach the magical “five year mark” of being cancer free, I am forever thankful for my husband and his unwavering support, for my five boys who gave me the daily inspiration to fight like I’ve never fought before, for my family and friends who showered us with meals, flowers, cards, and rides for my kids and for the amazing oncology team at Lutheran General Hospital who made it their business to save my life!

If I could give one bit of advice for people going through challenging times, it would be to hold your head up high, smile (even though you might not always feel like it) and dig deep to find your inner strength that will help you to stay positive through even the toughest of times.

This Sunday, June 4 is National Cancer Survivorship Day. Take the opportunity to celebrate with your loved ones who are survivors.

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  1. Peggy, you serve as an inspiration to all. Your positive attitude was a huge motivator to me when I was diagnosed. I can’t think of any one factor that made more of a difference than positivity! Although I am only 2 years cancer free, I look forward to my 5 year mark too. Thank you for sharing your story and for your example to others who are on the same journey.

  2. Beth Robertson June 5, 2017 at 11:16 am · Reply

    I took another path when I received my diagnosis on July 11, 2016 –> the “why NOT me?” path. I personally know so many women who have had breast cancer. Why would I think I shouldn’t get it? That attitude, along with my ldeep belief in God and the prayers of many people, got me through my surgery and chemo and radiation treatments. I look forward to being able to celebrate years of being a survivor.

About the Author

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Peggy Brosnan

Peggy Brosnan is a wife, mother of five boys, registered nurse and breast cancer survivor.