• Susan McHugh

SURVIVING AGAINST THE ODDS


“It has been proven now scientifically that an affirmative thought

is hundreds of times more powerful than a negative thought”

Michael Bernard Beckwith



Like a lot of women of my generation, our goals were to grow up, go to college, meet a man, marry a man, have babies -- and that was supposed to be our life fulfillment -- or not. I got married when I was 21, had my son when I was 23, my daughter when I was 25, and got divorced when I was 27. I never received child support or alimony, so like many women I know, I put my children in childcare and worked 3 different jobs to support us. Finally, I became a paralegal in a law firm and worked full time -- until one day our book salesman took me out to lunch and told me I would make a great sales representative. I started sending out resumes every single week until finally, I landed the job/career of my dreams, where I started as a Sales Rep, and was promoted to Regional Sales Manager within one year and stayed there for 13 years until the company was bought, sold, merged and acquired so many times that I think I lost about 2 inches. On my first day of training, I found out I had Cervical Cancer and needed to have a hysterectomy. During this time I was able to keep my job. That was the first time in my life that I considered myself a survivor against the odds!



The second time was when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2005!

“Cancer is when cells start to multiply much faster than they are supposed to and sometimes move to places that are not really their home. It’s sort of like weeds begin to show up in a lawn or garden and then begin to spread quickly.”


I had many friends who were stricken by cancer and never thought that I, myself, would one day be diagnosed with this dreadful disease. However, the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer was, by far, the worst day of my life. As I waited for the radiologist to speak with me, I felt terrorized and when he finally came to talk to me, this is what he said: “It looks like you have an architectural distortion and you need to see an oncologist as soon as possible”. (DO NOT ever get a mammogram on a Friday)! I was shocked, scared, angry, devastated, fearful, and felt very isolated.


That was the second time I survived (and thrived) against the odds!


The questions that went through my mind: Why me? Why now? Am I going to die? What am I going to do about my family? my children? My job? After the initial shock wore off, I decided to start living with the credo “one day at a time”, but how to do that? I started a journal, which is very helpful whenever you go through a crisis situation. A journal can look something like this:

  • What are you most concerned about?

  • What do you expect to happen as you go forward?

  • What can you do for yourself to reduce stress and anxiety?

  • Who are the people that can help you the most?

Journaling can help you sleep better, reduce fatigue and help you adjust psychologically to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.


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