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Christine's Story (Breast Cancer Survivor)

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Surviving Cancer is about Taking it in Stages

As the calendar turned from 2008 to 2009, Christine Adams’ life was about to get turned upside down. During a routine, self-breast exam, Christine noticed something unusual. The unusual thing was an inverted nipple, which led Christine to her primary care physician for an expert opinion. The expert opinion, of course was, “Get a mammogram.” Even after two mammograms, one in January and another for peace of mind in March, nothing out of the ordinary presented itself. Call it women’s intuition, but Christine still had a nagging suspicion that something was wrong. These concerns were casually voiced to a nurse at a different doctor’s office. There was nothing casual about the nurses’ reaction, which was, “You should see a breast surgeon immediately.”

“After meeting with the breast surgeon on Friday, it was determined that I had breast cancer. On Monday, I’d have surgery. My life, emotionally and physically was changed forever at that moment,” said Christine.

By September, Christine had a right mastectomy which revealed 13 of 21 lymph nodes sampled were cancerous and a 7-centimeter tumor. In between her right mastectomy and left breast mastectomy, Christine had 26 chemo treatments over 36 weeks, coupled with 30 treatments of radiation over six weeks. Despite the chaotic schedule, and emotional obstacles, Christine found hope and encouragement through Dr. Zakari and the other cancer patients and medical team at Cancer Institute of Florida.

“I really can’t say enough about the encouraging atmosphere at Cancer Institute of Florida. Everyone was so wonderful—from the staff to the patients, even the ones who weren’t doing well. And I know that was a result of the nurses and doctors giving them encouragement—they were just passing it along. Everywhere you turned someone would be tapping you on the shoulder saying “hang in there.” It might sound odd, but every stage of my breast cancer treatment was a marvelous experience,” laughed Christine.

Of course, after Christine’s initial diagnosis and upon meeting with Dr. Zakari, oncologist at the Cancer Institute of Florida who scheduled all her aggressive chemotherapy, “red devil,” she was very overwhelmed and depressed. Surgery, chemotherapy,radiation andreconstructive surgery—can all be very daunting—and all she wanted to do was go back to her normal life. Normal for Christine was going to the gym every day, playing golf and taking long walks.

“Eventually, I did become my own personal healthcare advocate—it helped save my life."

I figured, it’s not what’s happening to you, but how you are reacting to what’s happening. You can cry or you can say “what’s the next step” and start a plan. At first, I was inundated with emotion and options, but I broke it down into sections—surgery, chemo, and the list went on. I set mini goals, saying, “Okay, I survived that stage, now I can get through the next,” explained Christine.  

Just as Christine’s breast was reconstructed in December of 2010, partially from her own shoulder muscle, her life started going back to how it used to be, pre-cancer. She started walking around the neighborhood for 30 minutes a day, even on days she received treatments! Besides the desire to live, Christine truly believes all the Cancer Institute of Florida patients, staff and especially Dr. Zakari, offered each other the support needed to keep going—toward cancer freedom. 

Three years later, Christine still strongly acknowledges, “I’d like to thank Dr. Zakari and the staff at the Cancer Institute of Florida, if it wasn’t for them telling me to “hang in there,” I wouldn’t be a three-year survivor thriving and volunteering my time to serve on the advocacy and education board at Making Strides Against Breast Cancerwith the American Cancer Society.”

Christine Adams
Breast Cancer Survivor
Cancer Institute of Cancer Patient