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If not for cancer…

By Sharon Hart-Braun 

In 2011, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Three months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, my life has changed considerably, but not necessarily in bad ways.

The ovarian cancer was early stage, so luckily, I just required surgery. It was a major surgery, but with the exception of regular monitoring, treatment was over quickly.

The breast cancer was considerably more worrisome, and treatment took over a year. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were necessary. In addition, I continue to take an anti-estrogen medication and get routine screenings.

Although the risk of recurrence from the breast cancer is high, that is not my focus. My focus is on healing, often times through helping others.

Attending classes at the Cancer Survivorship Center among other cancer survivors is a great way for me to get support. Just being able to have conversations with other survivors goes a long way in recovery. It is a place for healing.

I have seen the very negative impact of cancer on my own life and the loss of friends, but I have also experienced many positive opportunities because of my cancer.

If not for cancer, I would not have become a mentor to other survivors. If not for cancer, I would have missed out on joining Ford Warriors in Pink and providing gift bags to breast cancer patients at Caldwell Breast Center and the Survivorship Center. If not for cancer, I would have never started working with Susan Komen, or have been honored as a “More than Pink Hero” at their gala. If not for cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to share my story in “Stories of the Girls” and with the Chicago Tribune.

But most importantly, if not for cancer, I would have never met Dr. Hallmeyer. Through her support, I have had the opportunity to give speeches at events and, my favorite, participate in “Fighting Cancer is Always in Fashion.”

I have met so many extraordinary people and have experienced wonderful opportunities as a result of my cancer journey. In the back of my mind, I know the cancer may return, but I choose to concentrate on the positive. I enjoy the things that have helped me and look for opportunities to help others.