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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs