Stories of survival

| March 30, 2011

Nearly everyone is affected in one way or another by cancer. So when fashion designer Betsey Johnson decided to sashay her way into the Derby City to help stamp out breast cancer, The Voice-Tribune jumped on the opportunity to host this inaugural event, presented by Chambord, which will honor six breast cancer survivors. This week we talked with two of those survivors.

Bobbie Leslie

Bobbie Leslie

Q & A with Bobbie Leslie

How has cancer left a mark on your life?

When you are in school as a young person, you just want to get your education and you give little thought to the future. Then you marry, and have a loose plan for the future: finish college, land a job, begin a family. Suddenly the plan begins to firm up: keep that job, educate the children, start to save for retirement – life is pretty darn good. You start to relax and really enjoy life, then Bam! You lose your mate.

You grieve, then get back up and move forward with that “good life” you have created over the years. Not that you ever forget your lifemate, but you CANNOT let it drag you down. I love my friends I have made over the years, treasure my family and try to impress on them the same values I have carried through my life journey.

What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with cancer?

The diagnosis is such a shock – you are stunned, sick to your stomach, depressed, dreading the treatment, scared to death with the “C” word now in your life, mad – why me?

You have to know each of us who are diagnosed, feel some or all of the same things. Once treatment begins (and in my case ) and the prognosis is good, you begin to relax, look more closely at the things surrounding you and decide; “OK, I can do this, and be better for it!” A positive attitude is a must.

Do you let the thought of recurrence affect your life?

My cancer was in 1994, so now I think of it less often. At first it was constant. Each year now, though, when it is mamo time, I think of it daily for a while. The results come in and I relax for another year. Monthly self breast exam is something I do for myself – just like exercise – it is for ME!

Karen Casi

Karen Casi

Q & A with Karen Casi

How do you cope with cancer treatments?

Being told you have breast cancer is a surreal experience. I remember when I was told, I thought to myself that this is a defining and life-altering day, and that my life would be forever changed.

I was very fortunate to pull together a top-notch medical team very quickly. In discussing my options for my particular type of breast cancer, it seemed clear to me to opt for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

Losing your natural breasts is a tough thing for a woman. I remember being in pre-surgery, sitting in my operating gown, and thinking that this is the very last moment that I will ever have my own God-given breasts. Thankfully, we have wonderful options for reconstruction today.

I am now undergoing a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy. After each round, there are side effects that are unpleasant. So far, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, and that’s a relief.

I lost my hair several weeks ago. The day it started to fall out was a hard day. I am now wearing a wig and have gotten used to it. I joke with my friends that my wig is cuter and better than my own hair. For me, it is helpful to focus on the fact that these things are temporary.

I want to thank my doctors, Kelly McMasters, Jeff Hargis, and Alex Digenis. I also want to thank my beloved husband, who has been by my side through all of this.

How did your children handle the news?

When I first received my diagnosis, my primary concern was the welfare of my family – my husband and my sons. What I have realized is that they do better by knowing I am doing well. Instead of worrying about them, which does no good, I have shifted my focus into taking very good care of myself. I am doing exceptionally well, and this is very reassuring for them.

My sons are 21, 18 and 16. Because they are older, they fully understand the gravity of my situation. Through facing my cancer as I have, I hope that, by example, I am teaching my sons the right way to face adversity. Everyone faces adversity. How you choose to handle your adversity makes all the difference.

What are you doing now that you will do the rest of your life?

I have felt like I have always been a grounded person, but I think I am more grounded than ever. It is easier to let go of the unimportant, and it is easy to see that so much in life that bothers people is unimportant.

I have always known that it is my relationships with other people that bring me the most satisfaction, joy and happiness. This has become even clearer to me. It is the people in your life that are important.

I have always paid attention to my health, but from now on I will always be vigilant. This cancer will not get me. I plan to be an old woman someday!

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Category: Brunch with Betsey

About the Author (Author Profile)

Lori Kommor

Lori Kommor, Columnist/Event Chair

Lori wears many hats: writing two weekly columns, chairing The
Voice-Tribune’s events and keeping the staff fed with a stash of snacks
Willy Wonka would envy. She’s a fervent high school soccer fan (go
Collegiate!) and has the raspy voice to prove it after game days.

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