Sue Drake - Breast Cancer Survivor
I reached out to my friends, family, and clients for a breast cancer survivor and fighter to share their story with me, and do a stylized shoot in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I also work in an Emergency Department as a Nurse, and I see patients for a brief moment in their journey; whether it be their awakening to a cancer diagnosis, in the middle of the battle, or a survivor. I don’t usually have the opportunity to follow a patient’s plan of care and have the opportunity to hear from beginning to end. When Sue Drake and I met up, I had such a blast. Sue is such an inspiration, and such a positive soul. After her sister had passed from breast cancer, being diagnosed herself, she kept her head high. She had her family‘s love and support. This marks 5 years of being a cancer survivor, and she continues to show support to other breast cancer patients and her community. This is her story.
“In preparing for my retirement, I scheduled my mammogram the end of September 2014. It had been a couple years overdue because I had been busy and kept forgetting to schedule it. I received a call a week later asking me to come back in to get checked again. Something had shown up on the mammogram. My husband asked me if I wanted him to come along. At first, I said no I was fine, then I changed my mind and asked him to come with me. After the repeat mammogram, the radiologist showed us the area of concern. He said he could do a biopsy right then if we wanted to. Of course we did! After the biopsy, the radiologist wanted to see us. I will never forget the look on the nurse who showed us to his office. She gave me a pink flower and looked sad. I wanted to tell her to keep her flower. I knew bad news was coming. The radiologist said he would send the sample out, however, he was 99% sure it was cancer. He said he would call in a couple of days. I remember leaving the building with my hand in my husbands. As soon as we were out the doors, I sobbed in his arms.
At this time, all of our thoughts were on my sister. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She had a single mastectomy, chemo and radiation. She was good for 10 years and it came back. It had metastasized to her bones, lining of her heart and lungs. The doctors gave her weeks to months to live. She survived for 5 more years! She had too many things to do and see! She passed away July 27th, 2012.
She taught me how to be a survivor. After the initial shock wore off, it was time to get busy with appointments with doctors and surgery. No time for crying anymore! I remember when I had to have more testing and biopsies at Carol Milgard Breast Cancer Center, I was face down with my breast hanging down so the specialist could get a good biopsy of the area. I felt my sister so strong that day. I was enveloped in the warmest hug. I knew she was there with her wings wrapped around me and telling me everything was going to be ok. She was with me.
I had a lumpectomy on November 11, 2014. The surgeon was very sure that she was able to get all the cancer. She also took a couple of lymph nodes under my arm near my breast. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Healing went well. I was back to work in a couple of days. My last day of work was December 31st, 2014. I was so excited to start retirement.
My oncologist was amazing. He met with me and my husband and wanted to talk about starting chemo. I asked him if I had to do chemo. I can't imagine anyone wanted it if they don't have to! He did a test called "Onca" for short. It determines what percentage you have of the breast cancer coming back. My test showed 11 out of 100! No chemo for me. I started radiation for 6 weeks. All went well up to the 5th week. I was burnt pretty bad and the doctor had me take the week off. It worked as I started healing again.
All checkups in the past five years have been great. I have had mammograms every six months and check ups with the surgeon and oncologists. I saw my oncologist a couple weeks ago and asked her how much longer I will see them. Originally, it was only for 5 years. However, recent studies have shown to follow the patient for 10 years. So, I will stay on the medication longer, which is fine with me. Last year, I started having infusions every six months. It was only supposed to be for bone density however, research found that it also helps prevent bone cancer. Bone cancer is usually the place metastatic breast cancer goes to. So, prayers that it helps!
Since May of 2012, our family has a Breast Cancer fundraiser, with all proceeds going to Puget Sound Susan G Komen. My sister used to be a pediatric nurse for Group Health. She would raise over $5000 for the one day Puget Sound Race for the cure. We knew we wouldn't be able to raise that kind of money like she did, so we started the fundraiser in her name. We have walked the one day walk since she was diagnosed in 1997. We have had as many as 50 family and friends join us! My sister loved going to that event. It meant so much to her. It was her special day and we were all her cheerleaders. I told her I love pink, however, didn't want to join that group. I remember her telling me that she hoped I never had to! Well, it happened, and now I am a survivor in pink! That's ok, I know she walks with me!”