My Chosen Therapy.
By Beth Gitlin
I was one of the healthiest people I knew until five years ago when I was diagnosed with one of the most invasive and worst prognosis types of breast cancer — triple negative. Triple negative is quite challenging because there is a lack of targeted therapy, the cancer cells have highly aggressive growth, and there is a relatively poor prognosis. I was one of the lucky ones! With chemo as my only option prior to surgery, the size of my lump was reduced from 5 centimeters to nothing. Not only did I have an option to choose a lumpectomy or mastectomy, but less than 15% of triple negative breast cancer patients actually achieve a pathological complete response after chemo treatment (and I was one of them) — in other words, no more cancer cells detected in the breast or lymph nodes after treatment.
Hallelujah! I thought I had learned my lesson well — ‘live in the moment.’ I was able to do this wholeheartedly during my treatment. My most valuable memories were learning to surrender myself to the care of my husband, Scott, and my closest friends and realizing that love was really the best medicine. Binge watching Netflix and cuddling with my husband for hours on end was the most peaceful and anxiety-reducing feeling I experienced. ‘In the moment’ were words that played on my mind for days on end and I realized that this is how I wanted to live going forward — with a grateful attitude, with purpose and passion and a desire to cherish and enjoy every second of every day.
Fast forward 5 years later and I still am wondering if I learned my lesson. I’m an achiever. It’s part of my DNA. It sometimes overrides my ‘live in the moment’ desires. After treatment, I said to myself, “What’s next? Can’t let life pass me by. What will make life fulfilling and how can I be of service to others after this life changing experience?” So, I jumped in wholeheartedly to grow weVENTURE at Florida Tech, an organization that ignites the economic power of women through entrepreneurship.
Then, if that weren’t enough, I continued to work on a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology in my spare time to fulfill my lifelong goal of continuous learning and sharing knowledge with others. On top of that, three years ago, with the help of many,
I started a “floating support group on water”
— Heart and Soul Dragon Boat Paddling Team for breast cancer survivors and supporters (women and men) who are seeking a fit and healthy lifestyle after cancer treatment.
Finally, I recognized that taking care of oneself doesn’t stop after treatment. I couldn’t believe how little energy I felt and how much I wanted to sleep but had trouble doing so for the last several years. The same chemo that helped me to live, killed all the good cells too, and I was in a constant battle to try to get more sleep, eat better, get fit and continue to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
I’m now focused again on living in the moment. I’m very grateful for all of the wonderful people that have supported and engaged with us at weVENTURE at Florida Tech. I couldn’t be more excited to be involved with a special organization that focuses on helping women to realize their full economic and leadership potential. I’m beyond proud of my dragon boat teammates. Joy is watching the faces of my breast cancer survivor teammates winning their first gold medal in a race this year. Pride is encouraging and watching some of them try out for Team USA this year on their way to possibly representing the USA in the world championships next year. Finally, I’m taking this next year for me — I too will dare to try out for Team USA and I also want to complete that dissertation and earn my Ph.D.