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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid