Super Survivor Overcomes Breast Cancer for Third Time
“I’m only 39 years old,” she told her doctor in October 1997. “My youngest baby is only 4.”
Since that day 17 years ago, Barb has battled breast cancer three times. She learned a year ago that breast cancer had once again reared its ugly head.
“I just couldn’t believe that after all these years I was going to have to go through it all over again,” said Barb, a speech-language pathologist at Lee Elementary School in Springfield, part of Springfield School District 186, with three grown children and two adult stepchildren.
Barb is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The fifth annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa and their new outfits. The big reveal will take place at noon on the women’s fair’s Entertainment Stage.
Barb’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982 and passed away from metastatic breast cancer in 1989.
“I always thought I would get breast cancer because of my mom, but I hadn’t expected it so soon,” Barb said.
After finding the lump in her left breast in 1997, Barb soon determined that she was going to survive after getting over the initial shock. She had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation therapy. She was prescribed tamoxifen, a drug to treat her cancer, for the next five years.
But as she finished that prescription, Barb learned in March 2002 that a lump in her right breast was cancer. This was a new tumor, not a metastasized one from the previous cancer.
Barb went through the same treatment—lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation—to battle this second round of cancer.
Nearly 12 years passed before Barb discovered a bony lump at the end of her sternum. It felt more like an extension of bone, so she had no thoughts of cancer when she had it checked out. Once again, the news came back: cancer.
She didn’t have chemo this time because she was at increased risk of leukemia from her previous chemotherapy. She had targeted radiation therapy, which caused severe burns. After they healed, she had a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. She’ll have additional follow-up surgery at the end of September and will take Arimidex for the next several years.
She said she’s grateful for the support of her boyfriend, Jay Sforza, and best friend, Michelle Lee, as well as the support of her co-workers and family and friends.
“Having breast cancer is a sisterhood you never wanted to join, but once you have, we are all in it together,” Barb said. “I’ll be ready to get this over with and hope that I’ll never have to deal with it again. I thank God I’m alive.”