Survivor of the Week: “I’m sorry you had to get breast cancer, but you saved my life””
Here is a look at our last years participant, Judy Budny, a 16 year cancer survivor!
I live in Medford and have been married to Bob for 24 years. I have two children, Chris, 22 and Audra, 20. I work as a Contracts Administrator at a small research & development company in Natick. I enjoy Zumba, walking and reading. I am proud to say that I am a 16 year breast cancer survivor! I try to always be positive and take one day at a time.
When were you first diagnosed with breast cancer? How did it make you feel?
I had just had a mammogram in January 1996 and the results came back fine. In February I received a call from my sister telling me that she was just diagnosed with BC. I couldn’t believe it. The first thing she asked me was when I had my last mammogram. I told her I just had it and it came back fine. She told me to contact my doctor and ask to have my mammogram re-read because we now have a family history. I couldn’t even think of doing that – I was just so worried about her. So, hesitantly, I called my doctor and told her about my sister and asked to have my mammogram re-read. She said she understood and would have it re-read for reassurance. She called me back the next day to tell me that the radiologist “missed” something and scheduled me the next day to see a breast surgeon. I was shocked – how could that happen? The appointment with the breast surgeon led to a biopsy. A few days later she confirmed that I had breast cancer. How was I going to tell my sister that I had breast cancer too? And what about my Mom – how can I tell her that both her daughters had breast cancer at the same time?
I was so scared – not only for myself but for my sister too. I was afraid for my husband and children. How would they get along without me? My kids were 4 and 6 at the time and all I could think of was please let me live long enough to see them graduate high school.
Where did you receive treatment? Who was your doctor? What kind of treatment?
My breast surgeon was Dr. Katherine Carter. She set me up with a fantastic team consisting of plastic surgeon, Dr. Dennis Orgill and oncologist, Dr. Stacey Gore all from Brigham & Womens Hospital. I received my treatments at Harvard Vanguard at the Kenmore Center. The oncology staff at Kenmore are fantastic and always made me feel special.
After a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, I received 6 months of CMF (Cytoxan-Methotrexate – 5 Fluorouracil) chemotherapy. After treatment was over, I took Tamoxifin for five years.
Dr. Gore is still my oncologist and I see her once a year.
How did you cope with the breast cancer diagnosis?
After the initial diagnosis and a plan was made for surgery and treatment, I put my trust in my team of doctors. I was having my treatments in Boston and my sister was having her treatments at the South Shore but we kept comparing notes on what her doctor said and what my doctor said. We were given the same exact treatment plan. My support system was my family and friends. I surrounded myself with loving, positive people and tried not to let in any negative thoughts. I tried to keep our life as normal as possible. Family would cook dinners for us and friends would take my kids to school, activities or take them overnight so I could rest and get strong.
How did you cope with the treatment side effects? Pharmacological and/or non-pharmacological? Herbal remedies? Spirituality?
The nausea was controlled with medication and I tried to rest as much as possible when I felt fatigued. My Mom had given me a tape to watch about positive thinking and meditation. I would close my eyes and picture the good cells and bad cells – then the good cells would devour the bad cells and there would be nothing left but good cells. I did this all during treatment and for several years after.
Are there any events or charities you take part in?
In 2007 my dear friend Marie and I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. We walked 39.3 miles in 2 rainy days. We named our 2-gal team the “Soul Survivors” as Marie was in remission for ovarian cancer. We walked beside people who were survivors, walking in memory of a loved one, walking in honor of someone and people who were battling cancer. People were cheering us along the way thanking us for walking. It was an emotional and powerful weekend and an amazing feeling of accomplishment, knowing that we had taken an active role in helping to put an end to breast cancer. After a 3-year battle, Marie succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2009. Before she passed away she started an organization “Sisters Against Ovarian Cancer” which sponsors a 5 mile walk around Spot Pond in Stoneham every September. I am proud to say that I am a member of that committee.
I was honored when Bryan asked me to participate in Catwalk for a Cure last year. It was so much fun and I met some wonderful people.
Battling cancer is so frightening. But I have learned that although it is OK to be scared, you cannot let the fear consume you. You not only have to say it but you have to believe it – cancer, you are not going to win. You also have to approach it with some humor. The summer of my treatment my best friend and I took our kids on the Duck Tour. A strong wind came and lifted my wig right off my head and landed on her lap. We laughed so hard it brought tears to our eyes. To this day we still laugh about it.
My kids are now 20 and 22. Not only did I see them graduate from high school but I am watching them grow into loving and caring adults.
I am proud to say that my sister and I are 16 YEAR SURVIVORS and going strong! I say to my sister often, “I’m sorry you had to get breast cancer, but you saved my life.”