Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Tami Boehmer's essay:
In Feb. 2008, I insisted on seeing my breast surgeon a month earlier than my regular check-up because of a large lump I discovered in my right armpit. I had worried from time to time about some swelling and hardness. Since the swelling would go down, my surgeon thought it was probably hormonal. I was so relieved, I didn’t question it.
She sat me down with the results of the ultrasound, and sadly looked at me. My worst nightmare came true – after five years of being cancer-free, it had come back with a vengeance. The tumor was a very large nine centimeters in diameter. My PET scan report showed spots in lymph nodes in my chest and, most worrisome, my liver. It was stage IV breast cancer.
My first thought was my daughter, then nine years old. I knew I had to do everything I could to be there for her.
I made the decision to not return to a very stressful job and start the new job of getting Tami well. I researched clinical trials and other research online and sought several doctor opinions. I made exercise, prayer, visualization, and affirmations a daily routine. To learn how I could build my immune system, I consulted with holistic physicians, as well as books and websites on the topic. I transformed my diet and used green products to reduce the toxic burden around me. And I focused on serving others in my breast cancer support group, at church and by delivering meals to elderly people in my neighborhood.
But still, I fought off depression and was haunted by the sinking feeling I was going to die. With all the focus on myself and getting well, I felt useless and empty. I was searching for meaning in my life.
I gained strength from hearing success stories of other survivors, especially people like Lance Armstrong who beat stage IV cancer. After more than 20 years as a healthcare public relations specialist, I decided to put my interviewing and writing skills to good use. I soon began interviewing cancer survivors from around the country for my book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odd (released June 2010). I also started a blog, http://www.MiracleSurvivors.com, where I share stories, cancer resources and my own experiences as a cancer survivor.
My life has been enriched by my incredible social network from my blog, Facebook (personal and fan page), Linked In, Twitter and various online support groups. In less than two years, more than 19,000 people from 123 countries have visited my blog. It was recently named one of the Top 10 Breast Cancer Blogs by Blogs.com. I follow several blogs and have made wonderful connections with other cancer bloggers. One visitor told me that at her one year check-up, her doctor was surprised by her new, upbeat attitude. She told him it was from reading my blog. That’s what makes it worth it to me.
My goal is to give people hope and a different way to see themselves as a survivor and patient. I encourage my followers to be active participants in their healthcare by researching their options, getting additional medical opinions and taking care of themselves in body, mind and spirit. I feel it is detrimental to give patients death sentences. My mantra is: “Statistics are just numbers that lump together a large, diverse group of individuals. You are not a statistic.”
My scans have been stable with only two spots in my armpit. My goal is “no evidence of disease,” and I believe I’ll achieve it. When I struggle, I think of how the people who shared their stories in my book and on my blog never gave up despite setbacks. It gives me hope and purpose, knowing I’m helping others get through their struggles, too.
I hope to contribute my perspective and experiences as a conference participant and share what I learn on my blog and social forums. I would love to meet ePatient Dave, whom I’m featuring in a coming post, and other individuals who are shaping the face of patient empowerment. I want to make a difference for others and my own health. I would be honored to be considered for your generous scholarship.
Author, Blogger, Speaker
From Incurable to Incredible