Stories from a Survivor: Meet Sandra

Please tell us a little bit about your cancer journey. 

In 2010 I went three months early for my routine mammogram and got called back for a diagnostic and a biopsy. I was diagnosed with stage 2, ER positive invasive breast cancer.

Fast forward five years and two weeks, just before New Year’s Eve 2015: At a scheduled diagnostic mammogram I pointed a bullseye on what turned out to be a tumor on my pectoral muscle. Did I mention I do not carry the BRCA gene? I had more surgery, chemo and radiation.

All was good… until it wasn’t in October of 2019. Pretty much on the anniversary of my first diagnosis, after a scheduled PET scan, I was diagnosed for the third time with exactly the same kind of cancer. Once again big C chose the same pectoral muscle but this time cancer’s ugly tentacles decided to also jump over to my Deltoid muscle. After a total of 20 Chemos, 30 radiation treatments and over a dozen surgeries, I have become a “Lifer” or in medical terms, I have metastatic cancer.

Currently I am taking oral chemo and getting monthly shots into my hips. So far the meds are working as the cancer has neither grown nor shrunk. Regular scans are done to determine any change.

What organization are you connected with and how have you benefited from their services?

Wind River Cancer Wellness and Retreats. In 2016 I was privileged to attend one of their retreats. Wind River is a refuge where each attendee can heal their body, mind and spirit. Shannon and Dave are constantly reinventing the wheel. Once you have attended the retreat you become an alum and join the family because that is what it really is. I have recharged for an afternoon on the grounds when I needed solace, attended healthy cooking classes, learned how to grow mushrooms and more. I even have been able to participate in a Healing Touch workshop. Now during COVID-19 times, Shannon has come up with plenty of zoom classes like painting, restorative Yoga, Tai Chi to mention some. She surprises one with personal and thoughtful gifts and stays in touch through text and calls. She never forgets about anybody and finds answers for any questions. I really wouldn’t know what to do without Wind River. It remains the one constant in my life where I feel safe and continue to learn about myself in a protected, fun and stable environment. The life of a cancer conqueror is full of uncertainties and the medical costs for treatments are exorbitant. To have access to this magical fairy place free of charge is at times not just a game changer but literally a life saver because Shannon and her team will always lift you up with their spirit and laughter. Being part of Wind River not only enriches my life but I am absolutely certain it helps to elongate it as well.

What advice would you share with someone facing their own cancer journey?

Each cancer journey is unique, concentrate on yours and never give up. You are not alone so don’t try to fight this demon by yourself. There are plenty of organizations and people ready to help you. Take advantage of all resources that you can find and ask lots of questions. Include integrative medicine in your treatment plan. Always remember – cancer does not define you and a positive attitude makes all the difference.