“My Voice” by Cathy Bueti

Cathy Bueti - 'Survivor'

I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at 31 years old but my survival story begins much earlier.  I grew up with a father who was an alcoholic and as a result I suffered abuse as a child. This destroyed my parents marriage and my relationship with my dad.  Somehow we all survived and when I was 23, I married my high school sweetheart.  Less than 2 years later my husband and his younger brother were killed in a car accident.  I was a widow at 25 and it was all I could do to get out of bed every morning to face the day  without him.  Somehow I put one foot in front of the other and as the years passed the pain that would always be there eased enough for me to want to move on.   I began online dating in September of ’99.  I was always hopeful I would find love again.

My survival skills were tested yet again in May of 2001 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Luckily I found the lump myself , heard the all too often used “Don’t worry, its probably nothing, you’re too  young to have cancer.”  But found the right doctors who listened.  I underwent a mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction where they took my belly fat and a piece of my stomach muscle to make the new breast.  I spent a week in the hospital and learned how difficult it was to be a patient after working for so many years on the other side as an occupational therapist.  I never looked at my job the same again.  My experience changed the way I interacted and treated my patients.   I also had 6 months of chemo and lost my hair.

I continued to date during my surgery and all of my treatments.  Sometimes I wondered what I was thinking putting myself out there bald and boobless!  I think that being faced with the fear of dying forced me to keep moving forward.   I began to focus on the important parts of my life like my friends, my job, and dating.  Around the time of my last chemo treatment I met a man online who had just lost his mom to breast cancer a month prior.  I had finally met someone who could see past my scars and the bald head to who I really was.  Six months later we were engaged and this May 31st we will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary on the same day I celebrate 8 years as a cancer survivor.

My cancer experience also gave me the strength to  pursue a dream of mine.  I had always wanted to be a writer but never had the confidence.  I knew I had a story to tell that could inspire so many people.  I could use my gift to give back.  I took pen to paper and started writing about my cancer experience.  My first book “Breastless in the City” was  published in a new edition this month and a dream of mine was realized.

Everything I have survived has taught me something about myself, has made me stronger, and I have learned to grow from the challenges I have faced.

To me surviving is about living.  It is about moving forward when you feel like giving up.  It is about finding strength where you least expect it, strength you didn’t even know you had.