News / Africa

Living Fully Despite Breast Cancer

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in the United States. The disease occurs when abnormal cells grow and invade healthy tissue, causing a lump or tumor. It usually strikes older women, but young women can also be at risk.

Jane Schwartzberg was a 31-year old newlywed when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. With treatment and a determined and positive attitude she beat the disease and went on to have two children.  Eleven years later at age 42, Schwartzberg found that the disease had returned as stage four metastatic cancer, meaning there is no cure. The cancer is now terminal. She recalled how she felt when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“At the time that I was diagnosed, ironically, I felt great.  I thought I was in the best health of my life, working out and taking care of myself, and eating healthy.  But, I found a lump, and went to the doctor to have it checked out.  And what I would tell someone who is newly diagnosed – I would tell someone that it’s not a death sentence. That being diagnosed -- there can be a very full wonderful life after being diagnosed,” recollected Schwartzberg.  

She described symptoms which told her that something was wrong with her body.

“I started not feeling well, coughing a lot, being exhausted.  I was having trouble getting up the stairs -- just really physically not feeling well at all.  I started losing my voice.  And I went through a lot of medical tests which diagnosed the cancer having returned,” said Schwartzberg.    

Schwartzberg is now being treated for stage four metastatic cancer, but she said the treatment is different now than what it was when she was diagnosed over a decade ago.  

“The first time I was diagnosed I went through what I would call the more traditional treatments -- chemotherapy. I lost my hair. I had a bilateral, which means on both sides, mastectomy. Right now, because now I have stage four, incurable breast cancer, I’m treated with simply an oral medication every day,” explained Schwartzberg.   

She also pointed out cancer not only affects the person with the disease, it also affects friends and family. In a sense your loved ones too are also living with cancer.   

“I would say for everyone it’s different. But, what I have found very helpful is that people not be insistent on taking me out, or driving me to the doctor, but rather quietly showing up, sometimes dropping off food, or maybe offering to come to doctors’ appointments. And I would say for the person who loves someone who is sick, to be sure to take really good care of themselves as well, because the medical challenges take a real toll on them as well,” emphasized Schwartzberg.  

Schwartzberg is now at a point in her life where she said she lives her best life every single day. She said she wants to be an example to others of someone who is living a good life with cancer.

“What I mean is that I understand at the deepest, deepest level that we’re here just for a very short time.  Because of that, I try very hard every day to find some real pleasure in my day. Even if it’s something very simple like taking a nice walk, watching my kids play, or having a good conversation with a friend. I really find pleasure and joy every single day, and I try to show up in my life as best I can, for work, for my family, for those I care about, because I’m hoping to be here for the next 50 years. And as long as the treatment keeps working, I have optimism and lots of hope.  But I want to make the most of everyday,” she highlighted.  

In addition, Schwartzberg advised all women should get to know their bodies, so they can detect any abnormalities.

“The best way to do that is a self- exam. It shouldn’t be in fact something done every day or every week. But every woman can become familiar with what her breasts feel like. Take three minutes in the shower, and just sort of monitor with her hands if there are any changes, if there are any lumps, if anything feels strange, or that shouldn’t be there. And if there is something, rather than have so much fear that it keeps you from acting on it, go to a clinic. Go see a doctor. Take care of it so that you have the best chance possible of being around for your loved ones,” said Schwartzberg.        

While Schwartzberg’s disease is stabilized for now, she said she is fully aware that her condition can change at any moment. But she emphasized that having a positive attitude and a great support network of people allows her to make the best of every day.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs