Your Neighbor – Lisa Sheehan
Breast cancer survivor
helps Susan G. Komen
As a little girl, Lisa Sheehan moved around a lot. Every four or five years she was in a new town. “Whether you stay or go, things change around you,” Sheehan says about her upbringing. She has lived in places like Indiana, Connecticut, New York, and Ohio. But Clemmons has been her home for some time now. However, it was in Connecticut, about twenty years ago, where she began to have physical difficulties.
“I was trying to get pregnant,” says Sheehan. “I went for my yearly pap smear. I ended up having endometriosis and so I couldn’t get pregnant. My doctor also found a lump on my breast.” Thankfully, it was benign; but Sheehan was told to get it removed as a precautionary. For several years, Sheehan and her husband tried to get pregnant, with no luck. In 2007, Sheehan finally had to have a hysterectomy and was prescribed estrogen.
About five months later, Sheehan had a mammogram and she received a clear bill of health. At her annual doctor’s appointment, however, the doctor found a lump that did not show up in Sheehan’s mammogram. The doctor ordered Sheehan to receive a needle biopsy. Sheehan was told she had invasive lobular carcinoma which is a form of breast cancer that does not appear during a routine mammogram. Sheehan was also told chances her of breast cancer had increased since she did not get pregnant or nursed.
“A lot of women, at that point, have to decide whether to get a double mastectomy instead of a lump mastectomy. I had a double because it was close to the cleavage and could have spread.” Sheehan also received chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She also tried mrsa, a tissue expander, but had lopsided breasts for seven months. “I felt deformed and inadequate as a woman.” Sheehan admits, “It affected my marriage because I wanted everything to go back to normal. But I had to learn that this was the new normal.”
Family, friends, and dedicating herself to her pharmaceutical sales job helped Sheehan persevere through the mental and physical demands of breast cancer. “Members of my church brought us food and were really supportive.” Clemmons had been the place she had lived the longest and for the first time in her life, Sheehan felt a sense of community. “Living in one place for so long and having the church family meant a lot to me because I never had that before. My friends were there for me. My best friend, Laura, went to chemo treatments with me. Having support is what gets you through things.”
Despite her setbacks as a woman, Sheehan remains extremely positive and believes the best way to attack hardships is with a little sense of humor. “When I was trying to get pregnant, I hung out with other mothers and told them if I hang out with them enough I might get pregnant,” Sheehan jokes. She also says there have been tremendous rewards that have come from her hardships. “I’ve been able to help other couples cope with the hardships of not being able to get pregnant and what options they can explore,” says Sheehan. “We all have our things we have to learn in life that happen for a reason. My husband and I ended up adopting a child from Russia and once we made the decision, everything fell into place. I felt like that was my place in life, was to save his life. We have a son who is sixteen years old now.” Sheehan adds, “When things are meant to be, they fall into place. Once we decided to adopt, that’s what happened.”
Something else that happened to Sheehan, was she was asked to become one of the faces for a cure for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. “With every negative, comes a positive,” Sheehan says. “I did the race for breast cancer for three years and I wanted to do more after that. I have volunteered at the Lexington Barbecue and the Winston-Salem Air Show.” Then last year, while at race to raise awareness for breast cancer, someone overheard Sheehan talking to folks. “That’s when I was asked to be one of the faces of the Susan G. Komen Foundation because I am not afraid to talk to people.”
As a result, Sheehan is able to help other women cope with breast cancer. “With Susan G. Komen, 75 percent of the funds raised stay local, and 25 percent goes to breast cancer research. So if anyone has a friend who has been diagnosed and can’t afford the chemo or surgery, our community will help with that. If someone needs help with rides, we will volunteer to do that.” Sheehan not only volunteers her time, which she enjoys, but she is also the healthiest she has ever been. “I used to work out before I had breast cancer but babied myself after surgery. I have now lost twenty-two pounds and am healthier now then I was before I was diagnosed.” As for advice to others, Sheehan says, “Whenever you are going through something in life, having a support system always helps.”
One way in which Sheehan continues to show her support for other women is by racing in the Komen Northwest Race for the Cure. The run/walk will be held
Breast cancer survivor
helps Susan G. Komen
fund-raising effortson September 26th in Winston-Salem at BB&T Ballpark. If anyone would like to donate or join Sheehan’s team, information can be found at www.info-komen.org. The name of her team is “Lisa’s Sparklers.” Sheehan says, “I started telling people several years ago to have a sparkling day which always brings a smile to people’s faces.” Let’s remember what our neighbor says and all have a sparkling day today.
“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/