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Strength to Find Love Through Cancer

Although I am physically healthy, and consider myself lucky for my life, there are mornings when I wish I could lay in bed all day and do nothing. My body feels drained of energy, but I fight to wake up because a list of daily chores awaits me; walk the dog, make the coffee, get the morning paper, etc. As I walk outside to our mailbox, I take a deep breath hoping that my lungs will fill up with the strength to get through another day.

At the end of 2009, I went to the Abbeville Meridinal with an idea for a column that would explore the concept of strength. I hadn’t written anything yet because I wasn’t sure where to start. But inspiration struck when I opened the glass doors of the Meridinal’s yellow building and saw the general manager, Kathy Cormier.

Cormier was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2007. For the past two years, she’s been through chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. But when I saw her a couple of weeks ago, you would have never guessed that she’d been sick a day in her life.

“Where do you get your strength?” I asked Cormier when we sat down in her office.

“Mostly from my family and friends,” she said. “They were there to cook for me, make me laugh and offer support. I also have a mantra, which I wrote on cards and keep in my office, car and bathroom. When I say the words out loud, I feel stronger.”

Cormier originally found the inspirational words in Guidepost magazine, but re-wrote the following mantra for herself:

I am a person recovering from cancer.
My whole life is ahead of me.
I can’t wait to live each day.
I have life ahead of me.

“Did you ever doubt that you could beat this illness?”

“The hardest part of the treatment was the physical exhaustion,” Cormier said. “Sometimes when fatigue set in, I wondered if the cancer had spread. But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m okay.’ As I said it and thought it, it became real. It took two years, but I feel good again. Actually, I feel great.”

Cormier worked full time during the treatment, only taking days off when absolutely necessary. Although the cancer has been in remission for a year now, she still has routine exams to monitor it.

“I just had one a few weeks ago,” Cormier said. “Now that I have a clean bill of health, I’ll forget about it, and enjoy life.”

Although Cormier seemed healthy to me when I worked with her last year, she definitely seemed to have more energy a few weeks ago. In addition to her own thick hair instead of a wig, her voice was strong and enthusiastic.

“Would you say that this has been the biggest challenge of your life?”

“There are so many obstacles in life that affect an entire family that are more damaging,” said Cormier. “Ironically, having cancer has brought us closer together.”

I couldn’t imagine facing a bigger challenge than health issues. But Cormier seemed to have taken life in stride, and was stronger for the experience.

“So you’re saying that in some ways, having cancer has been positive?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I learned to appreciate the smaller things in life, accept help from others, and not to assume that I will live forever. In some ways, the cancer has given me more strength than ever.”

My father died of cancer several years ago, and for a long time after, any mention of the disease made me weak and fearful. But Cormier made me realize that maybe the experience had had a positive influence in my life. I also learned that we are not going to live forever, and losing my father did bring me closer to the rest of my family.

“What advice would you give to someone facing health issues?”

“You have to do what is best for you,” Cormier said. “It is your disease, and you have to be comfortable with it. Just remember not to give up, and to accept help from others.”

I had found an example of strength. A woman battled cancer, and instead of war wounds, she seemed to carry around medals of honor to remind her of the difficult journey, and the power of positive thinking and support.

“My dad used to tell me, ‘The greatest thing you’ll ever know is to love, and to be loved in return.’” Cormier said. “I didn’t know what he meant at first, but after all of the support I received from family and friends during the fight against cancer, I finally understand. Love gave me strength.”

For more information on breast cancer and ways to support research, contact Pink Links at 337- 893-1900. You may also check out their Web site at
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