"A Grateful Co-Survivor"

This story is shared with us by Madeline Harris.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that my chosen path, personally and professionally would be preparing me for my destiny. Friends and family would ask why I was so passionate about caring for cancer patients and their loved ones. I had no clue, but I hoped that someday survivors would have a voice, not just be labeled by cancer, a scary disease and diagnosis that would invade their lives and change them forever.

Many of my patients became dear friends and helped set the stage for empowering breast cancer patients by being visible and putting a face to breast cancer. My “chosen family” lives the philosophy that breast cancer survivors can do anything, even climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Together we have shared many adventures and for a few, we shared their final journey.

After retirement I was driven to continue my walk. Little did I know, God had orchestrated my life to prepare me for the breast cancer diagnosis of my 35 year old daughter who is also a nurse. We have no family history. She is athletic, eats healthy, and breast fed all three of her children. But, a week after her diagnosis she began an aggressive treatment plan developed by a team of physicians who were caring experts.

Fast forward. My daughter celebrated her 40th birthday in March with family and friends who shared our journey. Cherished are notes from “chosen” family members that are read again whenever a reminder of love is needed. A special knitted blanket that was given me to keep me warm as I accompanied my daughter to treatment covered my father in January as he ended his earthly journey. Some of our family still experience unrealistic guilt. But when does any co survivor feel she’s done all she could? I wish I could have just been mom, but I am thankful that God prepared me for this journey.