SUE BUCHANAN was 45 and a successful video and meeting producer in 1983. She was raising her kids and having the time of her life. Then she found a thickening in her breast. While a mammogram revealed nothing abnormal, Sue knew she was in a high-risk category; her mother had died of breast cancer at age 67. A nagging feeling that something was wrong led Sue to several different physicians, all of whom reassured her not to be concerned. Finally, she found one who took her concern seriously. He ordered another mammogram and found a discrepancy. Immediately, Sue had a biopsy that showed cancer cells, followed by a mastectomy. The results after surgery were ominous: 14 lymph nodes were affected. So Sue's physician scheduled an aggressive protocol of chemotherapy for a full year.
"When I heard I needed a mastectomy, I thought I'd be less of a woman, that my husband wouldn't find me appealing," admits Sue. "After surgery, I looked in the mirror and saw a woman who looked as though she'd been hit in the chest with an axe."
Soon Sue realized the statistics were stacked against her. "Ten months into the chemotherapy treatments, I was in my physician's office, impatiently waiting for him. So I decided to take a peek at my file. In it I discovered a letter he'd written to an associate saying he didn't expect me to live through the end of the year. I was shockeduntil I looked at the date of the letter. It had been written at the beginning of my treatments, 10 months earlier. I thought, I'll show them. I'm doing pretty well for someone who's supposed to be dead in two months!"1