Shirley James

New Bremen, Ohio
Breast Cancer Survivor

Shirley JamesI first heard the words, "You have cancer," on August 3, 2000. The next thing my doctor said was, "Give us a year, and your life will be back to normal."

I am not sure what normal is, but my life has never been the same since my diagnosis.

I had Stage II breast cancer, hormone positive with three effected lymph nodes. A full radical mastectomy was performed and followed by six months of chemotherapy. I chose a saline expander as my reconstruction option. This expander was filled for several months following chemo to stretch the new skin. Once the expander was the correct size, it was surgically replaced by a saline implant and my right breast was augmented to match.

I owe my life to the American Cancer Society. Without their commitment to research, the mammogram would have not been perfected to detect cancer. They also funded the research to create the chemotherapy protocols used in breast cancer and created the drugs Taxol and Taxotere, both used in the preventive treatment of hormone positive cancers.

At the hospital, I was given numerous pamphlets and informative leaflets, most printed and provided by the American Cancer Society. They covered topics from Society support programs like Reach to Recovery and Look Good… Feel Better, to "Understanding Chemotherapy," and the "Breast Cancer Dictionary," just to name a few. My husband used the Society's Web site at www.cancer.org to research the disease and learn all we could in order to make intelligent choices and ask the right questions.

After my recovery, I knew I wanted to do something to help other women afflicted with this disease. Becoming a volunteer for the Society's Relay For Life was the way.

The people I have met around the world have definitely changed my life, and that wouldn't have happened if I had not become a cancer survivor. After chairing a very successful Relay For Life in southwestern Auglaize County for four years, I was able to extend my volunteer path by being asked to join the Society's Ohio Division Task Force. I also am on the National Task Force and the National Leadership Training team. Another exciting volunteer opportunity is to work with advocacy. Being a voice for those who are not able, speaking with our government leaders at the nation's capitol, and putting a face on this horrific disease has been a true privilege for me.

I know this is my life's work: to fight for everyone who has or had cancer and to make sure my four beautiful grandchildren never here those words, "You have cancer."