I woke up the other morning and did something I had never done before. I took time to trace all the cancer scars on my body and to think about how they have become the roadmap of my life.

My journey began with the scar that started it all … the one that revealed that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and that my life was about to change forever. My finger then traced the two scars that trail down the center of my chest, bringing to mind the surgery that removed the radiation scarred pericardium from my body and later, the wire used to close my chest when my body decided to rid itself of that foreign substance. I moved upwards to my misshapen collarbone and bumpy scalp that still bear the nightmare of a sleepwalking incident punctuated by a fall down a flight of stairs - a particularly brutal side effect of a medication I was taking. And, finally, I traced the scar at the top of my breast, a rather poignant reminder of the fear of yet another cancer diagnosis experienced just last year, only to learn that it was a radial scar, a fortunate false alarm.

My journey could have been dominated by memories filled with sadness, anger and desperation but instead all I felt was a sense of wonder. An appreciation for all that I had endured and all that I had conquered. Amazement that the human body is so miraculously resilient, accepting all that trauma head-on and still finding a way to repair and heal. Admiration that 23 years after my cancer diagnosis I am living a rich and fulfilling life brimming with love, laughter, peace and a profound gratitude for medical science and all those who have dedicated their lives to helping those of us who have been affected by cancer.

In many ways, I have had a wonderful life because of that dreadful cancer diagnosis so many years ago. Cancer has been life’s greatest teacher, shaping me into an empathetic, courageous, self-assured woman that will continue to face life’s challenges on the journey of my life. And for someone who passionately embraces travel, I can live with that.

About the Author

Sue Northey is a lifelong Milwaukeean who ventured a whopping 50 miles away to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees. She loves her home state of Wisconsin, but also loves traveling and learning about different cultures. Sue has spent over 25 years in the field of marketing, working on the client, agency and academic sides of branding and communications. Recently, she leveraged all her knowledge to create Branding Breakthroughs, LLC, a marketing consulting company. Sue was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999 and underwent both chemotherapy and radiation. Nine years later, she underwent a pericardiectomy to remove the lining of her heart due to damage caused during treatment. If you haven't figured this out yet, Sue embraces every aspect of life ... even more so since having cancer.

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Danette Potochick

Excellent article Sue. Wish you and your family the best, and always have. Jim and Danette