|Georgia native, Sharon Ludvigsen had no idea she would have to deal with breast cancer in her lifetime. Although both she and her mother had fibrocystic disease, she always felt it was nothing serious, and that she would probably spend her life being somewhat inconvenienced, but certainly not dealing with anything life threatening.And then about 10 years ago a mammogram showed that she was no longer dealing with fibrocystic disease. She remembers feeling really shocked to discover she had breast cancer. She’d been having regular mammograms, so the spot was very tiny, but it was still breast cancer! Sharon still talks glowingly about her doctor and attributes her attitude about surviving to Dr. Stephen Auda. She feels fortunate to have developed a relationship with him that allows her to feel completely confident in the decisions they make about her treatment. She had no qualms about choosing a lumpectomy and radiation when she was originally diagnosed, and still feels it was the right choice at that time. When she had a recurrence in October of 2006 here choices were much different. Since the cancer had reappeared in the same breast it required she have a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. A PET scan showed the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else, and as Sharon recounts, “That morning when I got up I just knew it would be good news, so when my doctor told me the cancer hadn’t spread, I was relieved, but I wasn’t surprised. A lot of people have added me to their prayers, so I know I’ve had that help. There are miracles all the time – I feel like I’m one!”Sharon had lost a brother to lung cancer when he was only 38 years old, and that was really the only person she’d known who had undergone chemo, so she was really concerned because he’d had such a hard time of it. Surprisingly, although she did lose her hair, she never got sick, which she knows is a real blessing!
When asked how having breast cancer twice has changed her outlook, Sharon first talks about her three daughters, saying, “I stay on my daughters all the time about making sure they are paying attention to their bodies. I make sure that Kim, Teresa, and Michelle realize they are at greater risk because I’ve had cancer. I don’t want them to live in fear, but I do want them to make sure they take the proper care of themselves.”She continues, “I’m not one of those women who need to have a breast to feel good about themselves. I want to see my grandchildren grow up, that’s what I think is much more important. I didn’t want reconstructive surgery – I’m fine without my breast. It certainly doesn’t define who I am. I also try not to spend much time worrying about whether or not I’m going to die from breast cancer. Some people can’t believe my attitude, it’s not that I’m nonchalant, I just figure why worry about something until you have to. Of course I was worried that the cancer showed up again, but I have so much faith in my doctor I knew he’d take care of me!” “One of the things I really like about Dr. Auda is his willingness not just to explain what is going on to me – but to take the time to talk to my whole family, if they have questions. With this second diagnosis, after I had my surgery, I think half of the waiting room was my family. He took the time to really talk to them which made me feel better. He’s a wonderful doctor!”“I’m lucky to still have my mother alive. That lady is in better shape than I’ll ever be. I have more gray hair than she does, which I don’t think is fair! People can’t believe she’s almost 78 years old, because she’s still such a firecracker! She’ll tell you in a second what she thinks, and I think that’s what keeps her going. Because she had already lost a son to cancer, mom had a particularly difficult time dealing with my second diagnosis. I tried to calm her worries by keeping her laughing, because otherwise she was crying! She was so afraid she was going to lose another child. I felt so bad for her, but I knew that we had to keep our sense of humor to get us through! I told everyone whatever God has planned for me is what will happen. I can’t live in fear every day – I wouldn’t be a whole person that way. My husband lost his leg in an accident several years ago, so we joke about him having one leg and my having one breast – and what a pair we make! I really do feel that attitude can make a difference, perhaps not in the outcome, but in our day-to-day lives while we are dealing with the disease.”Breast cancer has taught Sharon a few other valuable lessons as well. “I’ve taken care of everyone my whole life. I wasn’t stopping to think about myself. When this came up I began thinking about taking care of myself. I’ve always been a worrywart about my family and friends. Sharon never came first. I never thought she needed anything. When this happened I saw all of the support I had – you really know your true friends and who really loves you during a time like this. I began to realize that I also needed to love and take care of myself just as fervently as they do!“When asked what she would tell another woman who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharon says, “The only thing I could do would be to tell her my experience, and to try not to be negative. Always try to look on the bright side, because the more you worry the more stress you feel. This is something we just have to go through and hopefully it will come out for the best. You’ve got to have faith. Even with my problems I always look around and see someone in worse shape than I am. I don’t feel sorry for myself.“
Life is good for the Ludvigsons these days. Married to husband Robert for 39 years, Sharon feels the two compliment each other well, and they really enjoy having the family all together. “We’re Southerners so we really love our food”, says Sharon, “We have get-togethers and cook outs all the time. If there is a holiday there is always something going on.“
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This article was reprinted by permission from www.thebreastcaresite.com, which is devoted to addressing the general needs of all who have been touched by breast cancer, including newly diagnosed patients and long time survivors, as well as their friends, family members and coworkers. Breastcaresite.com’s specific mission focuses on providing breast cancer survivors with accurate information about everything from post-surgery options and products to information about insurance and intimacy issues.
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