Meadville Tribune

Our Health

May 27, 2014

Survivor stories: Beating cancer with faith and family love

MEADVILLE — Editor’s note: Blooming Valley Landscaping and Supply hosts Pink Days In Bloom on June 19 to 21. The three-day event, which includes hands-on demonstrations, speakers, music and other entertainment, benefits The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute. In honor of this event, Blooming Valley Landscaping and Supply and the Tribune would like to honor several local cancer survivors with a series of stories on how they beat the disease. Today’s Part 2 of the four-part series features Rebecca Arbuckle of Meadville. The first part of the series was published on May 20. The remaining two parts are to be published June 3 and 10. For more information on Pink Days in Bloom, visit bvlas.com or call Deanna Howles at (814) 724-5296.

I recently talked with Rebecca Arbuckle of Meadville to discuss her journey with breast cancer and how she was able to beat it with faith, strength and the love of her family. Although our conversation was upbeat and filled with confidence, there were times that emotion broke through, as it should, for having faced such a battle and won. I am in awe of the people I have had the chance to interview and am honored to share their stories.

Here is Rebecca’s story:

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2007. I did have surgery as well as five weeks of radiation and five years of having to take Tamoxifen.”

I asked Rebecca how the diagnosis affected her personally and emotionally at that time. Her reply, “At first, as everybody says, you hear the word ‘cancer’ and you don’t hear anything else. So much goes through your mind. You see, my mom had breast cancer and died way too young. I kept thinking, ‘I’m too young, I’m planning my wedding, I want to see my grandkids, I want to see my daughter go to college and graduate, I want to see so many things yet.’

“I did let myself have a short period of feeling sorry for myself. Then I thought, you know what? Your mom died trying to help me being able to survive this. So, what do I do next? How do I confront this?

“So I put my head down and decided we move forward and we don’t look back. I have got a lot of life left and I tried to live that way each day.

“I’m coming up on my yearly mammogram. I absolutely dread this time of year, very much. I’m always afraid of what they may say. You do learn cancer is not a death sentence as it used to be. It is an inconvenience. That’s how I look at it now.”

During this time, knowing that there would be treatments and surgery and who knows what else, where did your strength come from?

“My strength came direct from my faith and my family. I do have to say though, that my faith is first and foremost and that I could never have gone through any of this journey without my husband, Randy, and my daughter, Jennifer. Outside of my faith, my husband and daughter were my total strength. I would lay in bed every night and pray. ‘God, just let me get through work today, let me get through treatment OK, let me make it through this OK.’

“My son, who did not live in the area at the time, knew of my cancer and he supported me as well as he could, as he was wrestling with his own demons at the time from his military service.

“That’s how I have gotten through everything. Faith and family. It’s that simple. My family made me laugh and they got me through it. We didn’t give ourselves time to dwell on the cancer. We just took it day by day.

“This journey, I’m not sure I look at life any differently than I ever did, but I will say I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about how strong I really am. Growing up, I was always treated as fragile and taken care of. It was irritating at times, to be looked upon as weak.

“I found out, having had cancer, I am amazingly strong. Having said that, saying the words ‘I’ve had cancer,’ the experience is an amazing journey. It is not a death sentence. The people you encounter are so full of life, not depressed, not angry. They are enjoying what they have. Be it a long time left or a little time. I have found that we are a lot stronger than we ever give ourselves credit for.

“I like the people I have met. When I go to the cancer center, it is not a depressing place, even knowing people behind the walls are getting horrible news, it is not a depressing place. The whole process, every person you meet, is positive. It is uplifting. You learn there are some really good people out there.

“I have been cancer free for seven years now this October.

“My suggestion for people going through a similar journey would be to hang on to your faith, whatever it is and hang on to your family. Let yourself have that one day where you totally fall apart; cry, scream, kick, whatever you need to do, and then the next day, the sun is shining. You pick yourself up and move forward, because it is NOT a death sentence anymore. It is not. You have to look at it that way.

“Life is an amazing thing, you have to live it every single day. What did I do? My husband and I bought a business at my age of 51 years old. We bought Glenn Peterson Floors and Furniture. Our business is very successful and I am enjoying every minute of it. As for cancer, I have moved past it now. ... I don’t think about it much, except for when my yearly mammogram comes around,” she said with a laugh.

Kim Lengling is a local businesswoman and owner of Full Circle Events, an event coordination, marketing and public relations service.

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