Fisher-Titus Cancer Survivorship Program
Barb's Story of Survivorship
Barb Schafer is a Staff Nurse in Surgery at Fisher-Titus. She has been married to her husband for 38 years, has three daughters, and two grandchildren. This is Barb’s breast cancer story, from her own perspective, in her own words.
“Given the choice, I would never want cancer. But it changed my life in a positive way – because I chose to make it positive.”
“By the grace of God, I discovered my cancer in September 2015 and followed up the next day with my surgeon, Dr. Jayne Minier. I feel that she saved my life because she believed me even though I had a normal mammogram a month earlier, a recent normal breast exam, and my cancer was difficult to feel.
“A needle biopsy confirmed I had the aggressive Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. A lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy with Dr. Minier and Dr. Eric Schmidt revealed my cancer had spread to a lymph node. My oncologist recommended chemotherapy which took place every two weeks between October and January at the Fisher-Titus Cancer Care Center.
That was followed by radiation therapy with radiation oncologist.
“It was a tough battle. When treatment was completed in April 2016, I was grateful I was alive, but inside I was terrified. I kept wondering, ‘will it come back?’ I was lost. I wasn’t the person I was before my cancer. I had been fighting to survive. But now I didn’t know how to live again. I wasn’t prepared for that.
“Everyone said ‘you look so good’ but they didn’t understand. I felt anxious and alone, despite the overwhelming support I experienced. Then it hit home: I responded the same way after my mom finished her treatment for breast cancer. I just wanted to go back to living our life, not realizing cancer had changed her.
“I needed to figure out how to navigate this new life. I joined an online Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor group to connect with women going through the same experience, which helped to validate that my feelings were normal. It helped to understand the “new me.”
“I began my journey back to health with physical therapy at Fisher-Titus to strengthen myself. I walked during my treatment when I could – and added hiking, biking, and eventually yoga. My faith was an important part of my healing process. It kept me calm, and it still does.
“I was given a second chance to live and didn’t want to waste a single day. Cancer gave me the opportunity to share my experience to help others, and that is a gift.
“What brings passion and joy to your life? Find your answer and start living it. Cancer forced me to stop and figure it out. I began traveling, and now I have many beautiful memories. I take the time to enjoy my family, especially my grandchildren, who melt my heart. I take on challenges and risks that I would not have done before.
“I am now stronger, healthier, happier and live with more purpose, gratefulness, and faith. My purpose is to give other survivors hope that they can have a better life.
“Remember, you’re a survivor! You deserve a great life! Life after cancer is worth celebrating!”