Stories of Hope

+ -Text Size

Knowledge Is Key, Says Breast Cancer Survivor

Article date: April 13, 2009

Rita Gore Image

I was blessed to be in Stage I. Many women of African American descent are in Stage III or IV before they get tested or diagnosed. Early detection is so important.

 

On November 8, 2005, Rita Gore, a high school math teacher from Pickerington, Ohio, was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast.

 

Gore, now 49, had gone to her doctor's office for a Pap smear and annual exam, and they suggested she get a mammogram while she was there. Gore knew she was due for one soon, so she agreed.

"Then they called and said, 'We found something. We need to do a biopsy. We just need to check it out,'" Gore recalls.

A few days later, while at school, Gore got crushing news: she had stage I breast cancer.

"It was like my whole world was falling apart," Gore says. "I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I went into my office and I stood there and I just started crying."

Gore had a lumpectomy in late November, and started chemotherapy and radiation soon after. During treatment, she found strength in her students.

"I really saw a side of my kids that I hadn’t seen before: their compassion. They gave me a lot of strength as I went through the chemo and the radiation. They always had positive things to say. They gave me notes of encouragement. They gave me little gifts of appreciation."

She also had a lot of support from her family and colleagues. She also found comfort and strength in prayer.

"My diagnosis brought everyone that was a part of my life even closer. We are wiser, and we have a better appreciation now for life and our blessings."

Gore finished treatment in July 2007 and has been cancer-free since. She checks in with her doctors every 6 months to a year, strives to exercise regularly, grow in her faith, eat healthfully, limit her stress, and be happy.

She continues to teach at Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, and in addition to that work, she has taken on another role: cancer screening advocate.

She joined an American Cancer Society outreach program in her area that encourages African American women to get screened for breast cancer. They meet twice a month.

"I was blessed to be in Stage I," says Gore. "Many women of African American descent are in Stage III or IV before they get tested or diagnosed. Early detection is so important."

"We try to encourage women, especially young women, to be educated about screening and to invest in their health more seriously. That's the key – knowledge."