In Her Own Words...A Breast Cancer Survivor's Story
Hello, my name is Karen Gonzalez. I am being honored here tonight because I am a breast cancer survivor. My cancer journey began, like so many others, with a routine mammogram. A suspicious area and a biopsy confirmed stage 2 ductal breast cancer. I underwent a lumpectomy and an axillary dissection due to positive lymph nodes. I was 47 and had no family history of breast cancer. I had my first of 8 chemotherapy treatments the week before my youngest son graduated from high school. After I finished chemotherapy, I spent the next six weeks getting radiation treatments at UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital Wendt Regional Cancer Center. During my treatment, I felt like I was part of an amazing team, all working to fight my cancer.
Going through treatment was not easy, but I was blessed with a wonderful support system. Having cancer is a family affair. My husband Joe, my children; Dan, Nina and Andrew, my parents, my sisters, and my friends, will never know how much their support and care meant to me. My coworkers at UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital not only provided me with emotional support, but arranged and prepared meals to arrive at my home every day while I was getting chemotherapy. That was really going above and beyond!
Today I am a 7 year survivor. I am doing well. I have to work at keeping the fear of recurrence at bay. I wouldn't say that I'm glad this happened to me. What I do know, is that it's changed how I see things. I have a greater appreciation for the good people in my life; I have changed the way I eat and the way I live. My priorities are clearer; I try to stay positive and think of each day as a gift. I no longer dread having birthdays. I tell myself that I can do anything. After all, I survived chemotherapy!
The most important thing about sharing my story is to stress the importance of annual checkups. A mammogram saved my life. I strongly urge all women to make a commitment to get their annual mammograms and to encourage others to do the same.