A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, especially when it comes on the heels of a major life event. Just ask Shari Berman – it happened to her twice.
In 1989, after feeling sick and rundown in the months before her wedding, Berman learned she had Hodgkin lymphoma. She was 25 years old, vibrant and athletic, and had a hard time comprehending that her left lung could be filled with disease.
"The whole focus of cancer then was on a cure, not long-term survivorship," Berman recalls. "They were just starting to cure people with Hodgkin; there were no long-term survivors and they just hit you hard with chemo and radiation."
Doctors did stop the cancer, and slowly Berman returned to her active life and put the disease behind her. Then, less than a year after the birth of her second son, in 1997, she felt a lump under her arm. She had developed breast cancer, likely as a result of the earlier radiation treatment. A bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, and six months of chemotherapy followed.
"I had been warned about the possibility of a second cancer, but it was still very jarring," she says. "It quickly became clearer that this was a long-term thing I would have to deal with the rest of my life – the uncertainty, worry, and physical issues."
Although she still loves to ski, golf, and play tennis, Berman also has physical challenges. Her heart races, and she gets winded easily. She has stiffness and muscle pain, and her feet and hands are often cold. Still, Berman remains upbeat, serving as co-chair of DF/BWCC's Adult Patient and Family Advisory Council.
"Survivorship is learning to live your life in a balanced way," she says. "There may be more aftereffects looming, but I learned that there are things in life I can't control. That's really scary, but on the flip side I'm able to live a good life and raise my kids and do all the wonderful things I wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't survived. I look at my life in a much more reflective way than I would've been able before diagnosis. That's the gift."
Paths of Progress Fall/Winter 2012 Table of Contents
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