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Weighing percentages

In The Breast I Can Be: Finding Purpose in Breast Cancer

Jo Lee Ferguson

By Jo Lee Ferguson
Nov. 8, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.
Updated Nov. 8, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.


Somedays I find myself thinking about the 10 percent – the 10 percent chance my cancer will have of returning, even after I complete chemotherapy and radiation and take my medications like a good girl.
On those days, though, I have Sarah Troxell. 
Sarah contacted me by email not long after I started writing about my breast cancer diagnosis. Sarah, a mother of two and grandmother of two, is a 17-year-and-counting breast cancer survivor. 
Sarah and her husband, Gary, are from Wisconsin, but they moved to Longview a few years ago to be near their daughter and her family. She was a nurse for 38 years before her retirement. Her husband was a medical technologist for 40 years. They worked together their entire careers at the same hospital, in Oshkosh, Wi.
She’s also what’s known as a Reach to Recovery volunteer through the American Cancer Society. What that means is she has a heart for loving and encouraging other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 
She’s certainly done that for me. She’s a dedicated new friend who calls and emails me – and a number of other women going through breast cancer treatment - regularly
Her breast cancer journey was much like mine: A Stage I diagnosis, followed by a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She’s different from me, though, in that she already was living with rheumatoid arthritis when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She inspires me in the way she approaches life in spite of the challenges she’s faced – with a smile, a positive attitude, and a heart that looks for ways to encourage other women that they, too, can survive breast cancer. She’s so diligent in the way she approaches caring for her health, and she does it with great faith.
She’s a great role model for this little detour in life, especially if worry about the future creeps in. She’s a survivor. I can be too.
She’s not the only woman who has shown that to me, though. I never knew how many women I know have survived breast cancer in its various forms. I didn’t know how many people breast cancer had touched, but so many of them have contacted me or talked to me in passing to tell me about their experience. Those stories always include a sentence that sounds something like this: It’s been 13 years. It’s been 17 years. It’s been eight years…. and, for all those women, you can add the words “and counting.”
I find that each time I hear a new number, I add it to my two boys’ ages right now and I imagine what they’ll be like at that age sometime in the future. The 10 percent might be an intimidating number, but the numbers all these women share with me equal hope, a lot of it, and you can’t measure that in percentages.

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