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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs