Chic Spotlight: Breast Cancer Survivor Anne Safdi

Chic Spotlight: Breast Cancer Survivor Anne Safdi

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Cincy Chic: Where were you in life when you were diagnosed?
Anne Safdi: When I was diagnosed two and a half years ago, I was 52, a mother of three children and beginning a new phase of life with an empty nest as my youngest had just left for college. I was a special education substitute in Cincinnati public schools. I was a ranked runner and participated in many sports and activities.

Cincy Chic: What was your fight with cancer like?
Safdi: I had a mammogram one month before my cancer was found that showed no evidence of cancer. I thought I was in great health and I was fine for another year. However, when I went to have my routine check up with my breast surgeon, she felt a suspicious lump. (I had my breasts checked once a year because my mother had breast cancer, just as a precaution). I thought it was just another cyst, as I had many. I had my world turned upside down when It was found to be cancer.

Before menopause, breasts can be very dense and hard to read, as in my case, and a self breast exam is very important. I had a lumpectomy and positive lymph nodes were found. It was a frightening world I was now in with so many decisions to make and questions to ask. I was very scared and confused. I went through six months of chemo, six weeks of radiation and now have begun five years of hormonal therapy. Of course, I had days when I felt sick and exhausted and I lost my hair. But I met so many wonderful, brave women through my support group at the Wellness Community, a yoga cancer group, and through introductions from others. They gave me so much strength and support no one understands like someone who has been there. We are there for each other and that gives me great comfort. My oncology nurses and physician were wonderful also. Of course, it's also easier and much less mess with no hair, you just have to find some humor in this.

Cincy Chic: If you had to pick one thing that pulled you through that difficult time, what would it be?
Safdi: It's hard to pick one thing but the love from my family was powerful and life sustaining. They infused me with courage that I didn't know I had in me and gave me hope for the future. I also continued to stay active throughout my entire treatment. I only missed one salsa dance class, which was the week of my lumpectomy. I continued to dance throughout treatment. It was incredibly healing, fun and everyone in class gave me so much support. I ran all through my treatment as well, riding a bike and doing yoga and meditation also. 102207SPOTLIGHT2.jpg

Staying active was a powerful antidepressant. It gave me some control over my life when cancer and treatment is something you can't control. It gave me a feeling of health and well being and helped me achieve a semblance of normality. I feel I was able to tolerate many of the side effects better. Of course, there were days when I was to sick, but I would come right back in a matter of days. One year after the end of treatment, I won the Masters Survivor title in the Race for the Cure. Although I don't quite have the energy I used to, I was still able to go on a women's hiking trip with my daughter, climb Mt. Fuji in Japan with my family as well as participate in many other races and activities in the two years since finishing treatment.

Cincy Chic: How are you different since you were diagnosed?
Safdi: I know it must sound like a cliche, but I do appreciate each day so much more. I know what a gift life is and you can't take it for granted. There is life after cancer and you can move on. There are no guarantees so you have to enjoy the best of every day and not worry so much over small things that are just not that important. Family, friends, faith, community, health and happiness are keys to a meaningful life to me now. I think it's also so very important to be proactive about your health and to know you body. Self breast exams as well as mammograms are essential parts of a women's healthcare. Being a survivor, I know how important it is for me to be there for those diagnosed with breast or any other cancer.