Saturday, October 13, 2012

Laureen Meagher: A survivor's story - "Take that cancer!"

 Laureen Johnson-Meagher
Photo Credit: Kroutz Photography

This is the first of many survivor stories that I hope to feature during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 
When I first started working at my job I met a lady that always kept me laughing.  I later learned that she was dealing with cancer.  I was in awe of her after this because she is so full of life and personality.  She is always laughing and upbeat and has a can do attitude.  She has been such an inspiration to me and I know that after hearing her story, she will be an inspiration to you as well.  I initially asked her for some background and I was going to write her story, but after reading what she sent to me I just had to give you her words...I laughed and teared up throughout and I hope you feel the emotion that poured out of her words.  
There's a scripture that I love and in my opinion she lives it out
"Do not be discouraged, do not be terrified. Have I not commanded you? Be strong, be courageous. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you may go. -Joshua 1:9-10
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Hope this is useful …Its my story in a nutshell- heavy on the nut!

I was diagnosed 8/24/07- - a lump that I discovered 3 weeks prior. Size of it felt like a martini olive.  I had surgery to remove the lump, surrounding tissue and 9 lymph nodes on my right side- this is done to see if and how far the cancer had spread. It was (only) the main lymph node so I became the winner of Stage II Estrogen Positive Carcinoma.

One month after surgery I had my first round – of 6 rounds - of chemo.  My goal during this time was to keep things as normal as they possibly could be.  My daughter had just started Middle school; the world was supposed to revolve around her, not me.  A very vivid memory from the first few weeks of diagnosis is scheduling my surgery as we boarded a boat to Catalina for Labor Day weekend.  I had to get off the boat and stand on the dock (better signal on the dock) with my day planner in hand scheduling my surgery date, and all the pre-op appointments.  Little did I know at the time that this was going to be my new normal.  My life revolved around doctors and appointments for the next eight months.

My last round of Chemo was at the end of January 2008 which didn’t come a minute to soon.  After the first round, chemo became fairly predictable. Five hours of Infusion on Thursday, back for a nasty shot on Friday to force my body to make red blood cells, down for the count on Saturday and Sunday, and come Monday a small light at the end of the tunnel. There was one positive outcome of the chemo…the complementary body wax!!  Getting ready for work was a breeze! No hair to wash, dry or style; no legs to shave, no eye make up to apply.  It was kinda like being a dude for a few months!!!
I had a couple weeks to rest and get some strength back before I had to start the seven weeks of daily radiationtherapy. It was during this time I took six weeks off of work and allowed myself some time and space to heal.  I napped every day.  It was grueling having to go for treatment everyday.  Cancer was up in my face all the time, no way around it.  I returned to work mid April with a swingin' flat-top hair do!!  I kept a pretty good sense of humor through all of this - for me it was the only way to survive.  I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me.  I was blessed with the most incredible support group!  My family, friends, coworkers, gym- partners, doctors, nurses- heck, even random people would offer a hug or “thumbs up”.
Cancer made me mad  - it really pissed me off.  The nerve to invade my life, screw up my plans AND take a nice chunk of money- - that is a side story in itself!!

That is why I became an active fund raiser in the cancer community.  I have been part of a cycling team for two Livestrong events-the first in June of 2009 in San Jose CA and then 2nd, this past  June in Davis Ca. Each ride was a team of 6- 3 of us are Survivors. Cycling 70 miles with fellow survivors, caregivers and supporters is an incredible experience. I’ve also participated in two Relay 4 Life events through the American Cancer Society  - these are great- its a large party celebrating life.
Being a Survivor has opened so many opportunities for me, if there is something I’m interested in I don’t hold back.  I’m still cycling ( we ride 50 miles on Sundays-for fun), I earned my Motorcycle license (I will be buying a motor scooter after Thanksgiving), I became certified as a Stand-up-Paddle boarder and I participated in my 1st Triathalon this past July!
Down side of survivor-ship: I am still on daily medication as part of my treatment and will be until April of 2013.  I see my Oncologist every three months; at this point, we are pretty much dating!! I do love him; he’s great, he gets me!  That is actually one of the first pieces of advice I give to newly diagnosed survivors; LOVE your Doctor they will be with you for a looonnngg time!! The medication I am on has some intense side effects, one of them has impacted my bones.  Last May I was diagnosed with osteopenia…just a step under osteoporosis! Now I’m pills for this and that’s a party in itself.
At the beginning of everyday, as I put my 2 feet on the floor, my first thoughts are “ Thank you God for getting me up today”.  During chemo, you realize how blessed you are to be able to do what you want, when you want!  Exercise is a precious gift and I know what it’s like to physically not be able to move off the couch because everything hurts so bad, it makes you cry.  I also learned the sheer beauty of human touch; a hug, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on or to lean on for support.  I also learned the value of laughter; that is what has propelled me through the past 5 years. Take that Cancer!  I laugh in your face...Every damn day!!!!


  1. Great blog!!!

    I look forward to

  2. Wow!! Her story is so inspiring!! This is a wonderful idea - I will definitely be checking back in to read more!!