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October Breast Cancer Awareness: Survival Story

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Breast Cancer Survivor, Beautiful Smiles
Mary Nussbaum has been working with Express Medical Supply since the company started.  She is our "Diva of Data" and helps every department make decisions.  Mary has been married to her high school sweetheart for 34 years.  Together they have 4 children and 1 grandchild.  They are happy to announce they have another grandchild on the way!  Mary is motivated by the love of her family and friends.  This is Mary's story about what motivated her during her fight with breast cancer.

In February 2014, Mary went and had a routine mammogram:

In February I had my routine mammogram, don’t skip your mammogram. My cancer was small, but aggressive and fast growing. Still it was caught very early. DON’T SKIP YOUR MAMMOGRAM. I had surgery on April Fool’s day and ended radiation treatment on Halloween, for some reason I find that very funny.  After I completed treatment, my oncologist said they had clean margins on the lumpectomy and there was no lymph node involvement.  1 million cancer cells fit on the head of a pin, so because my type was so aggressive I still had to do the chemo and radiation just in case.  I was very blessed to have a type of cancer for which there is a targeted therapy.  I had my mammogram on schedule, we caught the cancer early, before it was able to spread.

Mary, during your months of chemotherapy and treatment, how were you able to balance cancer treatment, home, and work?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness, Grandbabies

My husband is retired so my income is our primary income source. I was never worried about losing my job, Express Medical Supply is a great place to work, but I was worried about working enough to be able to cover all of my family’s expenses. When I was diagnosed my family was busy planning our 3rd wedding in three years! And I suspected that #4 would follow the next year, it did. I did not have time for this! My oncologist was great. He said with my course of treatment, I would feel the worst about two days after chemotherapy, so we scheduled my treatments on Wednesday, that way I could recover over the weekend. Just by chance my treatments lined up with Memorial Day and 4th of July, so I got extra time to recover. But even with all that planning, my boss and colleagues made all the difference in my success at the office. For about a week after chemo I would be so tired! My colleagues were always there to help me out but my boss really took the cake. Shortly after my treatment plan was in place and we had a vague idea of what I was facing, he came to my office and said, “Ok, this is how we are going to make this work.” Wow, he had a plan! I felt like an anvil was lifted off my head. The sweetest part was when he asked if I was going to be tired. He had a plan for that too. Bill brought in a lounge chair and put it in a conference room that we did not use but the room had its own air conditioner. On the days following treatment Bill would start the AC (much needed during a St. Louis summer) and get the room just the right temperature for a nice nap. Not many bosses make it easy for you to nap at work! The social worker and nurses at the hospital were amazed and then relayed horror stories of women going through this challenging time and fighting to keep their jobs as well.

Mary, what motivated you during your treatment?

Mary at the Wedding

Overall the people in my life and all the prayers. But my biggest single motivator was probably that wedding! I really wanted to be there for my daughter. After my diagnosis the “W” word – wedding made me cry worse than the “C” word – cancer. My oncologist came to the rescue, he pointed out that you feel your best at the end of a treatment cycle so he started from the wedding date and planned my treatment schedule backwards from there. The wedding was just perfect. The best compliment I could have ever received came at the end of the evening when my husband asked how I was feeling and if I was okay. One of the daughters was standing next to him and looked startled then laughed. She said “oh my gosh, Mom, I completely forgot you have cancer. You did great!!!”

Mary, how did your family inspire you?

My family and friends had such faith in me.  They thought I was brave and strong.  I was neither.  I think being brave is when you have a choice and do something difficult anyway.  Cancer is not a choice, you just endure. You endure because people believe in you and you love them.  I let people take care of me because they needed to because they loved me.  I got stronger and took care of myself again because I loved them back.

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