Smarty Mom Stats:
Susan Gawlik – RN in an OB/GYN practice
Hubby – Anthony
Son, Jamie (3 ½)
Also has 2 sisters
Susan’s story starts with some good old fashioned Doctor guilt. In preparing for an upcoming Dr.’s appointment, she scheduled her baseline mammogram. Her doctor had been pushing for her to get one so she decided to check it off her to do list and that one act helped save her life. Susan’s cancer was discovered because of that mammogram and began a journey that is now almost a year old. She is an inspiration to those around her. Through her cancer, her family has experienced many blessings among them are:
We are very thankful that I went for my mammogram at age 35 and my cancer was caught at an early stage. If it were not for early screening and detection, my story would be much different.
Family, Friends, and Co-Workers have rallied around me, my husband and son to help us in any way that they could. This support continues to make my situation as tolerable as possible.
Women have heard my story and are scheduling their baseline or overdue mammograms and encouraging the women (young and old) in their life to do the same. Hopefully, awareness of this disease will assist in early screening, detection, and treatment for many others.
Let’s meet Susan!
First off how are you doing today?
One year after my diagnosis of breast cancer, I am thankful to be a SUVIVOR! I feel great! I am still very much in disbelief of the events over this past year. The fright that I felt the day that I received my diagnosis and the months to follow is still unbelievably raw as I reach my year anniversary.
Those who know me well know that my life is pretty much an open book to all who care to read or hear about it. This is because I truly believe that everything happens for a reason – even if we can’t see it, there is always something good that comes from difficult times.
What do you think was the biggest factor in the early detection of your breast cancer?
My GYN doctor had been telling me for years that she wanted me to go for my baseline screening mammogram at age 35. I had my annual exam with my doctor (Dr. Suzanna Fox) 3 months before my 36th birthday. Before that appointment came, I scheduled my mammogram so that I could report to Dr. Fox that my appointment was already scheduled for my baseline mammogram.
I did not have a lump or any other signs that suggested that there may be a problem. I went for the screening purely so that there would be a baseline for comparison for my future mammograms. My appointment was on September 1st, 2009. What was supposed to happen (and what I truly expected) was for the Radiologist to say, “Everything looks great. See you back in 5 years to start your annual mammograms at age 40”. Instead, I was called back for repeat mammogram views on 9-11-09 and scheduled for multiple biopsies on 9-17-09. On 9-21-09, only 20 days after my “baseline” mammogram, I was told that I had breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast).
Soon after, I gained a large medical team which was working to get me through the scariest time in my family’s life. After more biopsies, ultrasounds, mammograms, and an MRI, my plan of treatment was finally determined. On Friday, November 6th, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with lymph node biopsy. The biggest unknown at that time was the lymph nodes. The doctors did not anticipate that I would need chemotherapy as long as the lymph nodes were negative for cancer. Thankfully, all nodes that were dissected were negative and the cancer had been removed. The road to recovery was finally allowed to begin.
Looking back, it is clear to me that if it were not for mammograms and the persistence from Dr. Fox, my story would be very different.
You have a young son – how did you talk to him about your illness and treatment?
My son was only 2 ½ years old when I received my cancer diagnosis. In the midst of the H1N1 scare, the hospital had firm restrictions on visitors which did not allow children to enter the hospital. This was difficult because I was scheduled to be in the hospital for 3 days for my mastectomy and I had never been away from my son overnight. My son was really too young to understand the actual diagnosis. I told him that Mommy was sick and I was going to stay at the hospital for a few days so that the doctors could help me get better. It was hard to try to answer all of his questions like “Why are you sick?”, “Why do you have to stay at the hospital?”, “Why can’t you come home?”, “Why can’t I come with you?”
What was the biggest help to you as you went through treatment?
Family, Friends, and Co-Workers rallied around me, my husband and son to help us get through the scariest time in our lives. This support truly helped us in so many ways as we dealt with the diagnosis, surgeries, and recovery.
What advice do you have for other young women about breast health and detection of breast cancer?
Schedule your baseline mammogram by age 35. Don’t wait for your physician to suggest it – tell your doctor that you want it. Be aware of your body and do monthly self breast exams approximately the same day of each month. If you notice any changes or anything that causes you concern, please contact your doctor right away.
What is your favorite family time activity?
Our new found love is camping and hiking in the North Carolina Mountains.
Favorite mommy-time activity?
On the rare occasion that I have “Mommy-Time”, I love to get a massage 🙂
Favorite lunch spot sans kids?
I can’t remember the last time I went out to lunch without Jamie (not counting lunch during work days). However, my favorite lunch spot is Qdoba Mexican Grill.
Favorite place to take the whole fam to dinner?
Cantina 1511 on East Boulevard. Jamie loves the fun décor and music and the cheese quesadilla is always a hit.
Best book you’ve read lately?
Why I wore lipstick to my Mastectomy by Geralyn Lucas
This book really helped me get perspective on my situation and realize that I was not alone.
Of course, as a mom, I don’t get much time to watch movies. However, the best movie that I watched in the past year is “Avatar”.
Funniest thing Jamie has ever said to you?
My son has been very aware that I have had “boo boos” on my chest. As I was recovering from my surgeries, Jamie would often ask me, “Are you boo boos getting better and better every day?” and he would tell me, “If you fall down again and get more boo boos, I am going to help you get better again, OK Mommy?”
Favorite date-night spot?
Dinner at The Melting Pot – yum!
Best place to hang with your family?
Favorite beach – Hilton Head Island, SC.
Minivan or suv and why?
Definitely minivan. Over the years, we have owned 2 SUV’s and 2 minivans. I love the ability to move around inside the minivan and it is easy for my dog to get into.
Favorite phone app?
I thoroughly enjoy staying up to date with my friends through Facebook. This definitely is the phone app that use the most (and probably more than I should :))
Favorite CSP article so far?
Positive Play Dates by guest blogger, Krista W.
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
Day Break Massage Therapy Center. I know this sounds cheesy but I truly believe that Day Break is the best kept secret in Charlotte. The setting is so soothing and relaxing. Whether I am scheduled for a massage or not, my time there is an escape from reality.
I could not live without my…
…husband, Anthony, and son, Jamie. They both have been my rocks through all of this!
Believe in GOD;
Believe in YOURSELF;
Believe in your FAMILY and FRIENDS;
Believe in your DOCTORS;
Believe in SANTA CLAUSE ;^)!
A life without believing is not a life I want to live.
So happy for you and your cancer free anniversary! I am a young mom too and just celebrated my 1 year cancer free anniversary this week. It is a great milestone. I too had a bilateral mastectomy and my 2 year old has noticed my "scratches" on my chest. I wear those "scratches" proudly and am thankful to be healthy and to be on this side of the journey. Best wishes to you and happy cancer free anniversary!!
The wonderful doctor that you have I am very proud to say is my darling daughter Dr. Suzanna Fox.She is the best doctor, wife and mother, and I love her with all my heart. May your life going forward be full of health, peace and happiness.Gloria Fox
Susan I am so very proud of you. Your life has had some pretty large obstacles and you tackle them all with grace, a positive attitude, and a HUGE smile. I am honored to know you,and so proud to share your amazing story with others. Thank you for your honesty! ITB…
Susan – You are the proof that "Early Detection Saves Lives" and as your little sister I am so thankful every day for that. I love you, Susan! I am so proud of the strength you have shown throughout your journey. Keep sharing your story, because you never know who is going to schedule their mammogram because of your story. -Katherine
I'm so happy to have found this article with the pictures about you and to know that you are ok now. I'm sure your story will help many people in similar situation and especially push for better prevention. You're family is really great. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2011 to all!Chris (Italy)