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Survivor Interview – Janet R.

Janet is a breast cancer survivor. She discusses losing her mother to lung cancer, emotional effects of cancer, and communicating with her husband.

A middle-aged woman with short hair wearing a patterned shirt is interviewed against a black background

Treatment was very hard for me because I had to leave my husband. I have three cats and a dog, and I had to leave them to live in Anchorage. I was fortunate that one of our physicians that I work with has a condo. She let me live there. But still, I was without my things. I was by myself a lot. I had to drive myself back and forth to treatments when my husband couldn’t be there because he has a business here in Kotzebue. It was hard. When I would come home, I couldn’t really visit because it’s flu season. I couldn’t have people around me a lot. I’d try and go out to dinner every now and then, but I just felt so tired. That was really hard.

The biggest physical issue while I was going through treatment, believe it or not, was my hair falling out. That, to me, was harder than losing my breast, because I looked sick as well as feeling sick. It’s very stressful for a woman, for all your hair to fall out. That’s a nightmare.

I’m used to not having a breast. In fact, it doesn’t bother me at all. But sometimes, you look in the mirror, and it’s almost like, “Holy cow.” It’s like something you see in a magazine. You’ve seen magazines of women without their breast. It was hard on my husband. To this day, he’s never looked at my breast being gone. I’m okay with that because I know he just doesn’t want to see me cut up like that.

However, my husband was extremely supportive of me. He was there for me. He cooked and cleaned and came and stayed with me in Anchorage. He was really great. I couldn’t have done it without him. We talk, and I break down every now and then.

Right after I started radiation, which was towards the end of my treatment, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. When I got done with my radiation, I had to stay here. I couldn’t go be with her. The day after my last radiation, I went home to Georgia and she died two days later. I feel really bad about not being able to be with her. But I had to take care of myself. My dad told me I had to stay here and take care of myself. That’s probably been the hardest thing to deal with. My dad’s been able to come up a couple of times. He spent Thanksgiving with me, and it’s hard on him. I’m way up here, and I was sick. His wife’s gone. We talk a lot and it’s getting better.

Livestrong means to be strong. To live your life to the fullest. To be strong, don’t get weighed down by little things. If adversity comes along, stand up to it. Livestrong means letting the little things slide. By working hard and being a good wife. Taking care of my home. Loving my family and my friends.

My name is Janet Richardson, and I’m a one-year breast cancer survivor.

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