Cora Sue’s Story

The words, “It is Cancer,” left me shocked, frightened, helpless, angry, depressed…then once it really sunk in I got determined, hopeful, brave and ready to do whatever it took to keep going.

“CancerForward” can be another term for “Keep Going.” Cancer will be with me no matter where I go or how far I try to get away from it.

My cancer experience began in October of 2007. Even though I had done my annual mammogram in March of 2007 and received my letter saying that everything was normal and that I needed to repeat it in a year, I somehow ended up with a HER-2 Tumor in my right breast in October.

I have lived long enough to have outlived several of my physicians’ careers. My internist of over 30 years had retired to Maine and I was scheduled to see a new doctor in mid-October. A couple of weeks before that appointment I discovered a lump in my right breast. It was sore so I thought that it was just a swollen gland. Even though my current mammogram was all right, the new doctor recommended that I have an ultrasound. Within a week she called with the words, “It is Cancer.” Like the day and time that President Kennedy was assassinated, and the devastating events of September 11, 2001, I will always remember exactly where I was when the doctor gave me that news.

I look back and wonder how I got through it all, however, I can’t pinpoint an exact time. It was step-by-step, day in and day out. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, Herceptin and radiation therapy. While this sounds really awful, I have to say that my life was enriched by the wonderful doctors, nurses, technicians, staff, volunteers and fellow patients at Baylor Clinic, St. Luke’s Hospital and Methodist Hospital.

Forty-six years ago he vowed to be with me “For better or worse, through sickness and in health,” and has he ever! My precious Husband, Harry Mach, has been with me every step of the way. He refers to this as “Our Adventure,” and he has truly made it that. He has walked every step with me. He encouraged me to cry when I needed to, yet, he would not let me feel sorry for myself. He always sees or seeks out the positive part of any situation. He asks the questions that I either can’t or am too pre-occupied to think about. Most of all he is always there holding my hand.

Our Sons, Butch and Steve and our Daughters-in-law, Carmen and Joella keep me moving and thinking “Forward.” They have given us five Grandchildren, Priscilla, Bennett, Isabella, Evelyn and Lilly who can get me going no matter how I feel. I won’t even think about not being involved in their lives.

I have a dear friend, Judi McGee, who when I was diagnosed formed a group of “Prayer Warriors.” She gave me a beeper and gave a lot of my friends, family members and even people I did not know a telephone number to call when they said a prayer for me. Each time they said a prayer the beeper made a buzzing sound. I will never be able to express to Judi or all of those people what a support and comfort those buzzes were for me. After awhile when I was in the hospital or going for my check-ups the nurses and doctors got used to it and would say, “Someone is praying for you!”

I was doing great until January of 2010 when another lump appeared in that breast. This time I had a mastectomy and I am currently having chemotherapy and a targeted drug, Lapatinib.

Several years ago, I served as President of the Baylor Partnership at Baylor College of Medicine. During that year I attended a breakfast meeting at which Dr. C. Kent Osborne was speaking about targeted medicines for cancer treatment. Having cancer was the farthest thing from my mind; however, I was very interested in what he had to say. He told the audience that Cancer Treatment as we knew it was changing. The pharmaceutical companies were no longer investing large amounts of money in conventional chemotherapy. They were investing money and research into targeted medicine therapies. Of course, this sounded like science fiction to me. Little did I know that in a short time I would be living through the whole scenario? After my first diagnosis I had infusion chemotherapy which consisted of Adriamycin, Cytoxin, Taxol and a targeted medicine named Herceptin. This latest episode has introduced me to chemotherapy in pill-form, Xeloda, and Lapatinib.

The year that I attended Dr. Osborne’s presentation, Herceptin was in clinical trial. When I was taking Herceptin, Lapatinib was in clinical trial. Fortunately for all of us, Medical Science changes by the day so no matter what your diagnosis think “Forward.”

Thinking “Forward” can also lead to “Early Detection.” I was fortunate in the fact that I had a recent mammogram prior to my first tumor. Since I was still seeing Dr. Osborne every six months, my second tumor was very “Early Detected.”

As I write this on October 6, 2010, I am moving forward. I am leaving on Friday for Scotland to share part of the U.K. Tour with the Houston Symphony and from there Harry and I will head to the Holy Land for a Pilgrimage with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. I will be offering prayers of thanksgiving for my Family and Friends, for Dr. Osborne, his Assistant, Mari Rude, Dr. Karl Tomm, Dr. Emily Sedgewick, Lester and Sue Smith, Dan and Jan Duncan and everyone associated with Baylor Clinic and the Breast Center.

Faith in God + Hope in Medical Science + Love of Family and Friends = My Formula for Moving Forward.

My name is Cora Sue Mach, wife, mother, grandmother and community volunteer, and I am a three-year-survivor of breast cancer.

Category: Faces of Cancer