Spotlight: Cathy Lenix-Hooker
My journey with breast cancer began thirty years ago. It began in the summer of 1991 when I moved into our new home in an historic district in downtown Newark, New Jersey. My new job with the City was going quite well and my teenaged son, Frank, was striving to adjust to our leaving New York City and realized that he could readily be in touch with his old friends via the New Jersey Transit trains at Newark Penn Station - a brisk walk from our home.
That August, I noticed a lump, about the size of an almond protruding from my right breast during my random breast exams. I called my primary doctor and she said that to be on the safe side, make an appointment with one of her colleagues. It was at that appointment that I remember seeing that “look” once the doctor examined my breasts. Now mind you, I was a perfectly healthy-looking, 43-year-old divorced woman, active and socially engaged, eating a well-balanced diet, full of vim and vigor and with no history of breast cancer in my family.
This doctor sent me to a surgeon who performed a lumpectomy. He reviewed my medical history and he got to know more about me as a person and my professional background. He was very upbeat and a matter of fact about the outcome of my surgery. I remember that “look” when he approached me after that surgery and once the initial pathologist’s report of the tissue was delivered to him. He blandly said that he would call me with the results in a few days.
I was sitting in my living room, staring out the front window when the call came from my surgeon with the results of the second pathologist’s test. It was cancer. I was numb but I kept listening while he assured me that I needed to have a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery and I would be my old self again soon. My only thought was that of my fifteen-year-old son’s well-being and would I live long enough to see him grow-up. I asked the surgeon, “will I be alive come next spring”, and he gave me no guarantee.
It was at that moment that I called on whatever internal and external fortitude I could muster and decided that I needed the strength of my family and friends to help me cope with this diagnosis. I was determined to fight and stay strong for my son. Strange twist of events during the ensuing months, my son was my strength and support through the surgeries (and there were many) and the challenges of six months of heavy chemotherapy and the rigors of post-operative care needed to cope with the various surgeries. He never wavered with his support for me when seeing my physical weakness, my need for spiritual uplifting and assurances which sustained my health though the stormy times. And still I rise!
Catherine J. Lenix-Hooker
Breast Cancer Survivor