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Making healthy happen: Words to live by

Sheila Perich, a cancer survivor, is on a mission to make herself as healthy and strong as possible.

Ten years ago, at the age of 28, Sheila Perich was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“I wasn’t healthy at the time. I didn’t work out, and I didn’t treat my body well,” she said.

She and her husband were moving to a new home when her arm started to hurt. As she rubbed her shoulder, she noticed a lump above her collar bone.

“I had a cut on my arm, and I thought the lump was a lymph node becoming swollen as a reaction to the cut. But I happened to have an appointment with my endocrinologist, and she recommended I see a doctor right away. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.”

A scan found a mass in Sheila’s chest. Further testing determined she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Beating cancer and finding new life  

Sheila endured six months of chemotherapy and two dozen rounds of radiation. She has been cancer-free ever since.

“It wasn’t until I had my first child that I started working out and changed my diet,” she explained. “Now I have two daughters, and I have to make healthy happen. I have my children to care for.”

And it’s not just about getting in shape. Because of the radiation that targeted the mass in her chest, Sheila has a 40% greater risk of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.

“I get a mammogram and MRI every year, and I see a breast specialist. Two years ago, they found a mass in my breast that turned out to be benign. It’s nerve-wracking and scary every time.”

The radiation also puts her at risk for problems with her heart and thyroid, so Sheila sees a cardiologist and gets her thyroid levels checked regularly. She’s grateful for the care she’s received at Advocate over the years.

“From the flexibility of scheduling appointments in different locations, to the doctors and everyone who cared for me, it was amazing. They treated me like family,” she said.

Making healthy happen

For Sheila, the words “make healthy happen” have become a lifestyle.

“I just love the saying because it’s what I encourage people to do. You have to take life into your own hands and be your own advocate. No one else can do it for you.”

Getting her regular checkups and scans is still scary, but she takes comfort in the way she strives to make her body as healthy and strong as possible.

“If anything bad ever does happen to me, at least I’ll know I did everything I could to prevent it.”

You can make a difference

Our cancer patients have access to more support programs, integrative therapies and clinical trials because of the generosity of donors. To make a gift in support of cancer programs at Advocate Aurora Health, please click here.