Many times the word cancer is associated with words such as fear, pain and death.
After surviving her five-month ordeal after being diagnosed with breast cancer, however, Chris Cheesman, 70, has been able to teach her family new words associated with the disease: hope, faith and survivor.
“I’ve been blessed,” the Hartland grandmother said. “It was an easy road.”
Two years ago in February, Cheesman, who was preparing to leave for her annual trip to Florida for six months, was given the news that cancer had been detected during her annual mammogram, a test she almost didn’t take.
“I had to get it done before I left,” Cheesman said. “I just said, don’t be foolish and say you’ll do it when you get back in May.”
That early detection may have made the difference for Cheesman and her family when results came back showing a cancer lump only 2 millimeters in diameter, something that would have been impossible to feel during a self-exam.
“By the time I felt it,” the grandmother of seven said, “it may very well have been too late.”
Cheesman immediately underwent treatment, including a lumpectomy and eventually a mastectomy with also a precautionary round of chemotherapy. She is now a breast cancer survivor.
Although her main concern was for her grandchildren, Cheesman said she was able to stay calm throughout the process with the support of her family, including her daughter, Cyndi Kenrick, with whom she lives.
With four children of her own and a husband who travels for work, Kendrick says staying focused on the surgeries and the healing process is what helped their family through the stressful time.
"For some reason it was very easy to get through and I can only say I was just given grace to get through it," Kenrick said. “Not to minimize what cancer is, but sometimes cancer is just a bump in the road.”
The positive outcome of her mother’s experience has also taught her four children a valuable lesson about cancer as well, according to Kenrick.
“Early detection,” Kenrick said. “And two, not everybody who gets cancer dies. It’s not always a death sentence - it can be OK."