Wendy Shaw, kneeling right, a breast cancer survivor, participated in Cindy’s Retreat, a weekend gathering for breast cancer patients and survivors at Silver Bay.
“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good every day.”
That’s been Wendy Shaw’s mantra the past three years as she’s battled breast cancer.
“That’s been my saying through this whole cancer journey,” the Ticonderoga woman said. “And it’s true. Something good has happened every day of my cancer treatment — a phone call, a visitor, a card — every day something happened to help me. I’ll never forget the day Barb (friend Barb Greer) brought me a glass of iced tea. She’ll never know what that meant to me at that moment.”
Shaw learned in October 2009 she had ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer.
“Cancer gives you a new outlook on life,” she said. “What you thought were big problems are suddenly small problems. I appreciate every little thing now.”
Shaw had a right breast lumpectomy in January 2009 and began radiation treatments five days a week at the C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital. Those treatments lasted through April.
During that period another tumor was found on her left breast. It also required surgery, but was found to be benign.
Following the radiation treatments, Shaw was placed on a drug regiment to battle the disease. She suffered side affects, including the growth of tumors throughout her body. Those tumors also proved to be benign, but more surgery was needed to remove them.
A year after her initial diagnosis, Shaw developed seromas in her right breast. A seroma is a pocket of clear fluid that sometimes develops after surgery. The seromas were drained every two weeks until doctors learned they were being caused by damaged tissue, the result of the earlier radiation treatments. The solution was two more surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy in February this year.
“I can’t say enough good things about the people at the C.R. Wood Cancer Center,” Shaw said. “They were so wonderful to me, so caring and thoughtful. They helped me through everything.”
The results have been positive, Shaw is now cancer free, although she faces one more re-constructive surgery. That will bring the total to eight surgeries in the past three years. She’s lost count of the other medical procedures she’s endured.
Shaw continued to work in the Ticonderoga Central School District administration office through most of her treatments.
“I would work half days and then leave for treatments at 2 p.m. in Glens Falls,” she said. “It was very difficult. Everyone at school has been fantastic. They donated sick days, gave me rides. When I came home from my mastectomy my house was full of cards, flowers and food.
“I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to live in the town with such caring people,” she said.
The community also held two benefits for Shaw, a golf tournament at Ti Country Club and a spaghetti dinner at the Knights of Columbus.
To help repay that kindness Shaw planned a benefit golf outing for Colleen Ashline, a friend who also had breast cancer. Ashline is cancer free now.
Shaw recently attended Cindy’s Retreat, a weekend gathering for breast cancer patients and survivors at Silver Bay.
“It made me realize I’m one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “There was a woman there who had the exact same cancer I had, but her’s has moved to her bones. She has 13, 15 and 20-year-old children. My heart goes out to her.
“It was very emotional,” she said of the retreat. “I’m part of a sisterhood of women who have fought cancer. We all laughed together, we cried together.”
While Shaw nears the end of her cancer ordeal, she acknowledges it’s been a difficult road.
“There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed,” she said. “But my family and my friends were always there to encourage me, to keep me going. I don’t know where I’d be without their support.”
Besides learning to appreciate family and friends, Shaw has also learned something about herself.
“We all have an inner strength,” she said. “We may not realize it until we face a crisis in our life, but it’s there.”
When Shaw was told she was finally cancer free, a flood of emotions came out.
“There are a lot of emotions,” she said. “You’re happy, but you feel badly for the other women who still have cancer. Mostly, I think I was relieved. It has been three years; it seemed like it would never end. But it will — just one more surgery.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Shaw is hopeful her story can raise awareness of the disease and help others.
“Keep calm, carry on,” Shaw said. “That’s what they always tell breast cancer patients. It’s good advice.”