Breast Cancer Survivor Stays Active

close up portrait of cancer survivor, Sue Ann Smith

Breast cancer survivor SueAnn Smith calls herself a “strong and feisty lady.” At age 64, she walks 4 miles a day, works out in the gym, and stays at a healthy weight. Within a week after her last chemotherapy treatment, Smith and her husband went on an Alaskan cruise.

She says she doesn’t feel as peppy as she’d like, but she plans to do everything she can to stick around for her 2 daughters and 4 granddaughters she says she loves “more than life itself.”

Hard news

Smith says she has always taken good care of her body. She never smoked, got regular breast cancer screenings, stayed active, and ate a healthy diet.

But one day in the fall of 2015, Smith noticed after getting out of the shower that her right breast looked different. She had a mammogram and the results came back normal.

But over the next couple of months, the nipple on that side became inverted. Smith made a new doctor appointment and lost 10 pounds as she worried. Then, she says, her breast looked very different.

The doctor ordered PET, CT, and MRI scans, digital mammograms, and biopsies. Smith learned she had stage IV invasive lobular carcinoma, a type of breast cancer that is hard to detect through mammograms alone. It had spread to Smith’s liver, lungs, and bones. “That was a hard thing to hear,” says Smith.

Smith’s treatment included chemotherapy and surgery. After a double mastectomy, she learned she’d also had cancer in her other breast, something that’s more common with invasive lobular carcinoma than other types of breast cancer.

Smith also met with a genetic counselor and had genetic testing. She learned she is not a carrier of a BRCA mutation, which can raise the risk of breast cancer and be passed on to children. “This is good news for my daughters and granddaughters,” said Smith.

‘My new normal’

I’m going to beat this. I’m going to look back at this 10 years from now. I want to talk about diet, and exercise, and getting out and walking. If you can only walk around the block once, the next day you can walk around it twice.

SueAnn Smith

Smith has had many clear scans with no evidence of cancer. But for her, treatment will never be “over.” She expects to need drugs for the rest of her life to keep the cancer from coming back. “That’s just my new normal,” she says.

But Smith doesn’t want to hear negative talk. She says staying positive can’t hurt. “I’m going to beat this. I’m going to look back at this 10 years from now. I want to talk about diet, and exercise, and getting out and walking,” she says. “If you can only walk around the block once, the next day you can walk around it twice.”

And although she stays active, Smith says she has learned to slow down and enjoy life and have more compassion for others.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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