“My Voice” by Angie Suttles

Angie Suttles and her son

This is My Story

In 1998, after being treated for what I was told was just an “infection,” I was diagnosed at the age of 31 with a rare vulva cancer, which had invaded one lymph node in my pelvic area. Following radical surgery, I was given radiation to the area and told that I would not be able to have any more children. Since vulva cancer is not responsive to chemotherapy, I was not given that option. The radiation treatment forced my body into pre-menopause. Just at 5 years out from being free from the vulva cancer, I discovered a knot in my left armpit. My fear was that the knot was an indication that the vulva cancer had returned. My oncologist sent me for a mammogram but due to my age and the density of the breast, the mammogram was clear. They then did an ultrasound under the arm but did not do an ultrasound of the breast, and once again I was told I had an “infection” and was put on antibiotics. After a month, several knots appeared in the breast. I underwent a lymphectomy to remove lymph nodes and a lumpectomy to remove the tumors — one of which was five centimeters — from my left breast. Nine lymph nodes and the tumors tested positive, and I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. I then underwent a mastectomy. At that time, I had a tumor marker of around 172. I received the normal protocol of radiation and chemotherapy. When it was discovered that the breast cancer had metastasized into my bones, the chemotherapy was stopped, and my new oncologist decided to begin a bone strengthener and an anti-hormone treatment. Twice I was treated for “infection,” but instead had advanced cancer both times.
After a diagnosis of advanced vulva cancer and stage four breast cancer, and being told I could only hope for partial or complete remission, I am free from cancer.

December 5th of 2008, another chapter began as tumor markers began to rise. Returned to chemotherapy, completed 6 rounds (36 treatments) in 8 months. Tumor marker is normal and all follow-up test are good.

What Being A Survivor Means To Me:
*Being a survivor means living life “fully involved”. Life no longer centered around those “5 year plans” but rather those moment to moment joys, realizing that every single day is a gift of God’s mercy and grace. Every breath we breathe is an expression of hope and evidence of life within us and not one should be wasted. I believe as a survivor, I have a responsibility to be a voice in the wilderness crying out to my fellow man: Life, though troubling at times, is a beautiful thing, LIVE IT!

Personal Note:
I am married, mother of one.

I am a cancer advocate with the Lance Armstrong Foundation (On May 16, 2007, I went with the Lance Armstrong Foundation to Washington, DC, to share my story with members of Congress. We asked them to make cancer a NATIONAL PRIORITY by co-sponsoring the Cancer Screening, Treatment, and Survivorship Act of 2007) and the local Livestrong Army Leader (Livestrong Army Upstate SC). I served as Entertainment Chair for the 2004 Relay for Life, a committee member for the South Carolina Cancer Alliance’s First Survivorship Conference 2008 and a current member of 1 in 8, volunteer with the Anderson Cancer Association. I also served as a Track Leader for The Lance Armstrong Foundation at the 2008 Livestrong Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Presently, Livestrong Army Upstate SC Dragon Boat Captain & Coach.