Monday, October 22, 2012

Breast Cancer Survivor Traded in her Dusting Rags for Dancing Shoes!

Terry Peterson, age 65 and a 20 year breast cancer survivor, recently created, directed, and performed in the 2015 Santa Cruz Follies’ annual musical production - Those Were The Days. When asked how she views her long-term wellness, she is quick to respond.  “My doctor said that my attitude about getting well was 50% of my healing.  There came a time in my treatment plan when I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

                                         So, I traded in my dusting rags for dancing shoes."

Terry’s journey with breast cancer began when she was just 45 years old.  After a second opinion confirmed that a lump in her right breast had changed, Terry received her biopsy results September 15, 1995.  She indeed had stage three breast cancer with seven of fourteen lymph nodes testing positive. After a lumpectomy, Terry completed an aggressive and grueling year of treatment:  four months of chemotherapy, five and one-half weeks of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy.

Amidst the debilitating side effects, Terry remembered her doctor’s words about attitude and outlook.  Along with her unwavering faith, Terry gave herself permission to rest, to focus on getting well, and to enjoy every day.  Even when she was weak and exhausted, Terry walked a nearby mountain road three times a week.  As she breathed in the fresh air and warm sunshine, Terry also focused on her love for her two teen children and wonderful husband.

In September of 1996, Terry began taking the drug tamoxifen.  After two years on the medication and with three more to go, Terry knew she needed to do something more to feel better.  After attending a performance of the Santa Cruz Follies (a 50 plus theatrical ensemble), Terry knew she wanted to be a part of it.  Although still too young to join, Terry immediately started taking beginning tap, ballet, and jazz.  Even during her most difficult times, Terry was dancing up to twelve hours per week. 
In 2001, Terry officially became part of the Follies.  To her surprise, there were several other cancer survivors in the cast: a woman in her fifties, one woman in her seventies (who is a three time survivor), and another woman who is still tapping away at age ninety-one.  Terry emphasizes that

“the camaraderie, encouragement, and understanding of one another’s experiences is invaluable to one’s perspective and healing.” 

Terry’s husband, Lee, joined the Follies in 2002 and credits their faith in God and their partnership in the group as key element s to maintaining a healthy relationship. Lovingly stated, “Performing together gives us joy.”

As Terry reflects on her twenty year journey, she encourages others.

 “Find your passion and pursue it. 
 Fill your days with laughter and fun. 
 And for heaven’s sake, put down your dusting rags and pick up your dancing shoes. 
 Feel your spirits soar. “

To listen to Terry's  amazing journey ...

Although I originally wrote this three years ago for another publication, I wanted to honor my sister again for her unwavering strength and her uncompromising spirit... 

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