“My Voice” by Lainie Schultz

Lainie Schultz - 'Survivor'

My story is about Attitude. Being diagnosed with multiple cancers, I’ve found an attitude within myself that I never could have imagined…strength, courage, and endurance all became part of my driven mentality to defeat the big C. It’s comforting to know how incredible you can truly become when you’ve been diagnosed with a life threatening disease.

Two weeks prior to my 25th birthday I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. This was not the first time that I’ve heard the awful “C” word. I had adrenal cancer as a child. In spite of deep urge to sit in my room and cry for days, my attitude was my main tool I needed…here is the problem, what is the resolution and let’s get this fixed! Attitude is what brought me to the understanding I can beat this disease.

A month after my diagnosis things began to move quickly going from one test to the next to find out if the cancer had spread and what specific type I had.  Luckily the cancer was secluded to my left breast and had not begun to spread to the axiliary lymph nodes.  With this knowledge at hand there was only one thing left to look at and that was my genetics. Being an Ashkenazi Jew family and having a family history of cancer in the female lineage, I decided it was best to go through with a double mastectomy so I would never be confronted by this beast again. As this was the battle of my life I figured my breasts would be the only causality in this war my scars were my battle wounds and a sign of victory.

I underwent chemotherapy for 18 weeks which wasn’t as bad as I thought. I made my chemo as a positive experience by planning the shaving of my head as if it was a party. Not only did I make it seem like a huge event I also took it to the next level and posted the whole thing on YouTube for all to join in the experience. At every treatment I would make it seem as if I was having the time of my life friends would come and hang out in the recliners next to me , maybe join me for lunch we basically tried to make it seem like a day at the spa without the pedicures or facial.

Cancer has turned my entire world upside down. I look back at the day I was diagnosed, I would always read survivor stories and think to myself how I would ever get through though this. And here I am today not only have I beaten breast cancer, I have beat thyroid cancer and skin cancer. Unfortunately in November I had to have a total hysterectomy because they found a mass on my ovary along with numerous lymph nodes near my collar bone on a pet scan. Thank gd the mass on my ovary was benign but of the 42 lymph nodes that were removed 38 came back positive for breast cancer. I have started the whole chemo game over at lease this time is it oral and no hair loss. I am in the fight again but it is all about that big smile I can look at every day in the mirror and thank gd I am able to fight and win =)!

Cancer has become the most intimate thing I’ve gone through. I have shared my story and allowed everyone to fight the fight with me. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way and with my army of amazing doctors at Broward Health and support behind me, I’ve been able to get through this with bravery.

Technology is amazing and they have found out why I have had so many cancers and I am only 26. I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. It is a rare autosomal dominant hereditary disorder. Li-Fraumeni syndrome greatly increases my susceptibility to cancer. It is something that I will deal with the rest of my life. Statistics show that about 400 people from 64 families have this disorder in the United States. I just consider myself very special.

It’s saddening to give up your innocence at 26, but when you’re stripped down to your unrefined self, bald, and have cancer, you find strengths you never knew you had. You develop relationships that are closer than you ever thought possible. You see love and support in those around you that overwhelm you at times. I have been able to meet others who inspire me and have given me a new meaning to the word, “strong.” Every morning I wake up, and thank my lucky stars I am able to call myself a survivor!