Breast cancer has been apart of Sharon’s story for many years. She married her, now husband, after he had lost his first wife to breast cancer. She also became a step-mom to 10 year old Julia, who had seen her mom bravely battle the disease for nearly a decade. It’s why, when Sharon felt a small lump in her breast, she waived it off thinking, “lightening could not strike this household twice.” In early 2019, after the lump became more noticeable, she went for a checkup. It led to an immediate ultrasound and biopsy, which two days later would lead to the unthinkable: a stage 2, triple negative breast cancer diagnosis.
Telling her family was excruciatingly painful. First, she told her husband, who would have to face the fear of losing a wife for the second time. Next she told her daughters: Lauren, leaving for her junior year at Penn State just days later and Dani, entering her senior year of high school. Lastly, she told her step-daughter Julia, who would once again face the myriad of emotions of her mother figure facing a road she witnessed her own mother battle for years. Those conversations, though hard, reinforced Sharon’s resolve to fight the cancer to be around for her children’s future: “if I fought for anything, it was for my children. There was no choice. I had to see them through.”
Her family provided an incredible amount of support. Her husband attended nearly every appointment with her: “I don’t know how he did it. He faced this before and here he was doing it again. I will be forever grateful for him.” Her daughter, away at college, facetimed her frequently to keep her company. Her other daughter, despite being in the thralls of senior year stepped up to do laundry, clean and cook. Her mother attended appointments and her work family provided such an incredible meal train that “we never had to cook dinner throughout that time.” The family and community support blew Sharon away and she credits it for getting her through particularly intense treatments.
Indeed, Sharon faced 16 rounds of chemotherapy, losing all her hair. This was followed by radiation and oral chemotherapy, as well as a myriad of medications. It was grueling on her body, so much so that she was unable to work throughout that time. It was all worth it in the end because the treatment has meant Sharon can call herself a survivor today and looking back, she is able to find the bright spots throughout the pain. After a friend suggested getting a wig to help her feel more like herself again, Sharon visited Salon at 10 on Newbury St. in Boston: “they made me look like me.” Building her confidence allowed her to return to work as a special needs teacher. She also was able to travel across the country to help make her daughter Dani’s dream come true of attending college for musical theater. After dozens of interviews, she found her dream school.
Looking back, Sharon smiles through tears that she is still here to witness her children’s success. Lauren graduated with honors from Penn State, Dani is happily chasing her musical dreams at college in New York and Julia is a working professional living in Boston. For Sharon’s part, she is nearly on her last follow up appointment with her oncologist, which feels like a “true graduation” moment from the entire cancer experience. She’s grateful her mantra worked: “As a family, we will get through this.”