Celebrating Her Victories
Eva Horner’s journey with breast cancer has taken her through some challenging days.
Last year, it began with a small annoyance, an irritating little lump under her arm that just kept getting bigger. Her diagnosis of cancer would lead to months of treatments, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
But even in her most difficult moments, the 50-year-old woman knew that she needed to fight. Displaying the pink and white “survivor bracelet” she wears, a gift from her sister, Eva says she has celebrated victories small and large at every step along the way.
“I know too many women who have kicked breast cancer,” she says tearfully. “I had confidence that I would survive this. I had to.”
An unexpected problem
Eva, who works as a scheduler in a medical clinic in canton not far from her hometown of Hudson, has always been good about preventative health care. However, she never expected breast cancer. With a mother who died of a heart attack at age 57, she anticipated problems with her heart.
When she noticed a pea-sized lump under her arm in November of 2010, she talked to her doctor. They decided to have her already-scheduled mammogram moved up a few weeks.
Although the mammogram came back negative, Eva and her doctor opted to have the lump, which had grown to the size of a marble over the next four months, removed anyway. Following the surgery, she was surprised to see her husband return to her recovery room with a shaken look on his face.
“I was just blown away,” Eva said. “My immediate thought was that he had bad news about something with one the kids. I didn’t even think he could be talking about me.”
Navigating the system
From the beginning, she worked with patient navigator, Gloria Top, at the Sanford Breast Health Institute. The registered nurse, a cancer survivor herself, helped answer every question and took her to every appointment, from her first meeting with oncologist Dr. Sana Jeffreys to surgical appointments with Dr. Matthew Sorrell.
“She was this angel in a white coat, whose face absolutely glowed from the first time I met her,” Eva said. “There was someone watching out for me every step of the way.”
Her chemotherapy treatments started in April. Running her hands across her newly cut and styled hair, she described the days when she prepared for it to fall out. She couldn’t bear the idea of shaving it off, so she just cut it very short.
“Everybody I ever talked to said that losing your hair is the hardest part, but I didn’t believe it until it happened,” Eva said. “It was rough watching it come out in handfuls.”
She had a month to recover before her bilateral mastectomy, followed by 33 radiation treatments that were completed in November.
Throughout the process, she tried to keep life as close to normal as she could.
Her co-workers at the clinic covered her shifts when she felt too sick to come in, allowing her to keep the job she loved. And every day that she made it to work was a gift, a chance to stay busy and keep her mind occupied.
Nearly everyday she went for walks, even when all she could manage was a few steps to the end of the block and back with her husband at her side. Even without her hair, she got a large brimmed hat this past summer so she could enjoy days at the pool with her two small granddaughters.
“If I wanted to do something, I’d go ahead and do it,” Eva said. “There were days that I cried, but I had faith in my doctors and that my treatments would work.”
A showing of support
The support of her family and friends helped her through the bad days, she says. Thirty-seven friends showed up to support her on “Team Eva” for a cancer walk this past spring. Her family Christmas photo was taken with everyone wearing t-shirts made for the event with the team slogan, “I wear pink for Eva.”
Friends brought food, visited and made life better in more ways she could count. One friend sent a handwritten letter every week, something she looked forward to. When Eva talked to one woman who regularly brought her meals, she tearfully told her, “I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”
Her friend’s response, “You getting better is payment enough,” Eva says. “You learn that it’s okay to accept help.”
At her last check-up in December, Eva got the news that her cancer appears to be in remission. She’s been told that the type of breast cancer that she had could reappear elsewhere, but she’s confident that her doctors will help her monitor her body for new signs of the disease.
“I don’t worry about it coming back,” Eva said. “I feel stronger every day. I know my life and my health is a gift.”
Posted Date: January 2012