Wearing Title Of Breast Cancer Survivor With Pride
October 30, 2009
- "The possibility that this disease could take my life was not so much frightening as it was disappointing."
- "To look at me now ... you'd probably never know that I was once the victim of a life-threatening illness."
- "There was no doubt of the impact that surviving cancer would have on my world."
- "For the first time in my many years of Christian faith, I knew that I was relying completely on God's grace and mercy."
Becky Feehan had never considered herself a "survivor."
Now, she wears that descriptive title with pride.
At age 31, Feehan became a breast cancer survivor. With the help of God, her husband, and her family and friends, she quickly responded by having surgery and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, and she won a fight that threatened her life.
"When we got the news, my husband told me I had to fight," she said. "He said 'I know you don't have a mean bone in your body, Becky. But you've got to get mean to fight this.' And I was ready to fight."
For Feehan, the discovery of breast cancer came at a point in her life when the future held a lot of promise and happiness. Just a couple months earlier, she had married the love of her life, now Air Force Brig. Gen. Terrence Feehan, and the two were settling into their home at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
"In March 2003, we were brand new newlyweds," she said. "But it was my very first trip to the base clinic when the cancer was discovered ...
"The possibility that this disease could take my life was not so much frightening as it was disappointing. Terry and I had finally found each other less than a year before, and we were planning a full and joyful life together. It just didn't seem fair to me that this dream could be ending even before it had really begun."
Feehan told her story of survival to women attending the Breast Cancer Boot Camp at Fox Army Health Center on Thursday. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Since her battle, Feehan has shared her story with other military wives. She and her husband moved to Redstone Arsenal this past summer. Her husband works for the Missile Defense Agency.
"To look at me now and watch me go about my very normal life, you'd probably never know that I was once the victim of a life-threatening illness, that statistics for my survival once looked pretty grim," said Feehan, a pretty blonde who is quick with a smile and a laugh. "But I am so happy to now be alive and well, and I'm actually proud to be called 'survivor,' a word I never thought would refer to me."
Yet, her survival wasn't easy and quick. Her tumor was so large that doctors didn't even suggest a lumpectomy. Rather, she had a mastectomy, and then underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In 2004, she had reconstructive surgery.
All seemed to be well until two-and-a-half years later when the cancer mestaticized in her ovaries. She had surgery to remove the cancer and today is still taking medication to keep her cancer in remission.
"There was no doubt of the impact that surviving cancer would have on my world," Feehan said. "For the first time in my many years of Christian faith, I knew that I was relying completely on God's grace and mercy, even for my very survival. Being able to visualize myself resting in His care during this long ordeal gave me a beautiful image than now serves to reassure me in any difficulty."
Her battle also made her realize what it meant to have the support of family and friends, her military family and other cancer survivors.
"I now truly know that, wherever I may be, I am never, ever alone, because God has surrounded me with people that continually reflect His love," she said.
"But I also know that life is fragile and that I cannot ever take it for granted. I can't just assume that my body will keep on going, regardless of how I treat it. Instead, I actually have to be proactive in making sure that my body is healthy and cared for so it will still be there to serve me as long as I need it ... Terry and I take nothing for granted, and we celebrate each and every day God gives us."
Feehan talks to groups about her experience because she wants to encourage people to do breast self-exams, get mammographies and stay in tune with their body's health. For those battling cancer, she hopes her story is inspiring.
"My own story is about surviving the worst case scenario," she said. "I've been through a metastatic reoccurrence and now I am living a normal, happy life.
"There is no cure for breast cancer. If it's not mestaticized, there is a 98 percent change if it's caught early that you will never see it again. If it's mestaticized, then you are dealing with a whole different story. But you can survive and live a wonderful life."