Breast cancer survivor spreads the word about early detection

T. Norris, with her puppy &quotJojo" after cancer treatments finished.

T. Norris, with her puppy "Jojo" after cancer treatments finished.

Her name is Teresa Norris, but you can call her T.

Gregarious, down to earth and passionate about early detection, T. discovered a small lump in her breast during a self-exam in 2009. Seven years earlier, she had breast augmentation. Because implants can make it more difficult for doctors to find cancer, T. made regular breast self-exams part of her routine.

“If I hadn’t become an advocate for myself, I don’t know where I’d be,” she says. Caught at an early stage, her cancer is now in remission.

Today, T. is sharing her story to encourage other women to do regular breast self-exams, so that they know if and when something unusual is found. T.’s story is part of a booklet called “I Am a Breast Cancer Survivor.”

Dr. Jeff Sharman was T.'s medical oncologist at WVCI.

Dr. Jeff Sharman was T.'s medical oncologist at WVCI.

The booklet was compiled and edited by breast cancer survivor Barbara Miller. In the preface, she says that the booklet was published with the hopes that the testimonials, written in survivors' own words, could help those newly diagnosed with breast cancer understand that they're not in the journey alone.

Here’s an excerpt of T.’s testimonial:

“I am truly happy for this experience in that it opened my eyes to just how wonderful people can be. It taught me that being positive is the most important thing. Not to worry about how it happened, but to find it and do something about it. And for that, I am truly grateful.”

At Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, T. saw medical oncologist Dr. Jeff Sharman and radiation oncologist Dr. David Fryefield.

Explaining her experience with chemotherapy treatment, she writes:

“I had only a vague idea about chemo; mostly frightening mental images of nausea, pain, and saying goodbye. The reality of it was actually a relief. It was the fatigue that I didn't know what to do with. It was really rough to feel fine but to be completely exhausted. Such a weird contradiction.”

After being treated at WVCI, she turned to plastic surgeon Dr. Lee B. Daniel, who played an integral role in helping her feel like herself again. Dr. Daniel performed T.’s breast augmentation seven years prior to her cancer diagnosis, served as co-surgeon during her mastectomy and later handled her reconstruction.

In addition to her participation in the booklet, which is available at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, T. recently shared her story with KMTR. You can watch her interview here.



On Oct. 23, T. will join thousands of walkers and runners who will take part in the 2nd annual Komen Eugene Race for the Cure at Autzen stadium. Race for the Cure raises money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates breast cancer survivors, and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease.

Surrounded by her &quotT-Zone" teammates, T. celebrates victory over breast cancer at the 2010 Eugene Race for the Cure.

Surrounded by her "T-Zone" teammates, T. celebrates victory over breast cancer at the 2010 Eugene Race for the Cure.

She says last year’s Race was her victory walk. “The team – “T. Zone” – was one of the top fundraising teams last year. And I’m very excited to be participating again this year,” she says.

In her own words, here are a few things T. learned about cancer during her journey:

“I've learned that I have a very high tolerance for pain, and I can do what I want when I set my mind to it.”

“I've learned that statistics are good if you are a statistician, but it won't tell you if you are going to get cancer.”

“I've learned that I am surrounded by a host of family and friends who have sent emails, gifts, cards, prepared meals – people I have known but not known well, acquaintances really, but because of their generous hearts they became additional support when I needed it most. I can not thank you all enough for your love, and friendship and warmth. You have helped me in my healing process every day. You have literally saved my life. I have saved all the cards and emails and gifts and I will treasure them – and you – always.”

&quotDr. Daniel made me feel like myself again," T. says, referring to Dr. Lee B. Daniel, who did her breast augmentation seven years prior to her cancer diagnosis. Dr. Daniel also served as co-surgeon during her mastectomy and performed her reconstruction.

"Dr. Daniel made me feel like myself again," T. says, referring to Dr. Lee B. Daniel, who did her breast augmentation seven years prior to her cancer diagnosis. Dr. Daniel also served as co-surgeon during her mastectomy and performed her reconstruction.

“One more thing…Please spread the word about the importance of early detection of Breast Cancer through self exam and knowing your body. This is what saved my life. I had a very annoying bump that I had to convince the doctors was a problem, but because of self exam I found it at an early stage. There was no history of Breast Cancer in my family. Doctors screen for breast cancer in the family but you do not have to have breast cancer in the family to get breast cancer. I was statistically on the young side to have Breast Cancer but that didn't prevent me from having breast cancer. I don't even want to think about how my story could have ended, had I not insisted something just didn't feel right.”

 

Josh Kermisch, executive director of WVCI
Posted September 1, 2011

Comments

  • Beverly October 26, 2011 2:21 AM

    Great story. A wonderful inspiration to women everywhere. Thanks for puting this together. I’m sure the booklet will help many women face what is coming.

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