I can’t believe in July 2017, I will be a ten-year breast cancer survivor – yippee!  While I never believed I would survive four years of post-op surgeries, the long-dragged out saga of many complications, it actually turned out okay.  In fact, I’m better than okay!  I’m now going strong!!

Whether you count the last six years as survivorship since my last surgery (Spring 2011) or ten years since diagnosis (July 2017), I am surviving and I take one day at a time.  Last month I had a good check up with my breast surgeon and oncologist – clear of reoccurrence of breast cancer.  Then last week, I was scheduled for my long-awaited annual Pap test.  I recently learned “no Jean – we don’t do those annually regularly anymore.”  Well what do you mean doc?” I replied with a frantic concern as just last year she thought I had a cervical (external cancer) and I went through another long, dragged out scare with a series of biopsies and screenings.

“Well, if you have cleared all the HPV and prior Pap tests, like you did last year, then you are good to go for another 3 years.  In fact, I would not be surprised if they get rid of the Pap test all together, very soon in fact, since the HPV test is more reliable to detect cancer.”

So there you have it. Cancer-free not only on the top but the bottom!  It feels so good – rejoice!

Most cancer survivors live each day with positivity and life to its fullest.  Although one may never know if the big “C” will return. Well that’s what I said anyway when I wrote my breast cancer survivor story in “My Pain Woke Me Up: BLISS!”  Sometimes we can’t help to live in fear once in a while when receiving uncertain or bad news; it’s always a tough road to travel. But I still buy myself fresh flowers weekly and stop to smell the roses.  I enjoy as much time with my children and do things that make me happy!  I am at ease and relaxed.  I take my breast health and wellness seriously and don’t miss a scheduled doctor’s appointment.  I am ambitious about staying on track to ensure I have the latest tests and check-ups including annual physical, oncology, breast and OB/GYN exams with my team of top docs.  It all matters.  Yes, throw in the dental exam too, especially being raised by a family of those top docs.

Understanding healthy lifestyles and health care is number one for me since breast cancer and so is healthy eating and staying active.  Over the past several years, I’ve succumbed to an autoimmune disorder and am highly allergic to so many foods and environmental allergens.

While we know that our healthy tissues can fight many anti-bodies, we can be susceptible to other things.  The key to treating an autoimmune disease is to learn the triggers and avoid them.  For example, much like how someone with Celiac disease (intolerance to gluten) avoids wheat and other gluten-rich foods in their diet. Chemicals and other ingredients in today’s shelf foods are foreign to your body, which can cause an autoimmune response because your body doesn’t know how to properly process them. So diet and exercise plays a huge role in learning about our autoimmune systems.

Nowadays, while I focus on smart living, I also am conscientious of mind, body and soul.  I find time for me and if it’s a day at the salon or spa, or just time to chill with a glass of wine to watch the boob tube (TV), it’s important.   Time to socialize with friends and family is valuable too. Yes, I work a lot, give the “pink” slip in business when needed, but I am more “in tune” with my body and that’s what matters as a survivor.  Hey, it got me to ten years, right?

So celebrate life and learn to live, love and laugh.  I know that cancer affects everyone in a different way. I put much of my energy into new endeavors. I got divorced during cancer, and became an entrepreneur too. Now I am a digital media junkie, an author of a trilogy series, an inventor of a mobile device and a new fashion designer of a new breast cancer line.  We do what we are passionate about and let our creativity follow.  Deal with the challenges (life and personal) one day at a time and de-friend our fears.

My motto: Don’t let cancer get the BREAST of you!

All the breast, Jean




All images have been provided by Jean Criss.