Breast Cancer Survivor Stories
Surviving Breast Cancer: A Story of Hope
For one woman, the power of faith and medicine helped her overcome breast cancer and cope with a personal loss.
By Wyatt Myers
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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As a practicing pharmacist, 45-year-old New Jersey native Jennifer Sands understands and appreciates the power of medicine. But two life-changing events over the span of a few years made her realize that sometimes faith and medicine work together to heal the spirit and body.
Coping With Two Somber Events
By 2001, Jennifer and her husband Jim had been married for five years. While Jennifer had always believed in God, she did not consider herself a devout Christian. That all changed on Sept. 11, 2001, when Jim headed to work for financial services leader Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. “When Jim never came home, I was absolutely devastated and so angry,” she says. Sands ended up directing her anger toward God.
With the help of family and friends, Sands eventually realized that being angry at God meant she still believed in God. Soon, her growing relationship with a higher being helped her gain strength and heal from the events of Sept. 11.
Her renewed spirituality became especially important a few years later, when Sands was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43. “Jennifer had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer in her left breast,” says Nathan Kaufman, MD, a radiation oncologist at Ocean Medical Center in Brick, N.J. “Luckily, this breast cancer has a high cure rate if detected early. It shows the importance of annual mammograms for all women.”
Despite the "good" prognosis, Sands was devastated by the news. “After Dr. Kaufman said the word ‘cancer,’ my mind started spinning out of control, and I couldn’t focus on anything else he was saying. My reaction was similar to the morning of 9/11, though to a much lesser degree.”
Sands' doctors treated her breast cancer over the course of seven weeks. “The treatment included a lumpectomy, to remove the cancerous tumor, followed by several rounds of radiation therapy,” says Kaufman. “Overall, Jennifer handled it great. She even did research and found a good skin cream to reduce the skin reactions.”
Using Faith and Medicine to Fight Breast Cancer
During this stressful period, Sands also used her own methods of healing through faith. She would memorize verses from the Bible and write them on sticky notes, which she would then place everywhere — the refrigerator, car, computer, dresser — to keep her spirituality at the forefront of her mind during her fight against breast cancer. She says, “Not only did praying through the radiation treatments give me peace and calm, but it sure made the time go faster.”
Another important factor on her journey from breast cancer back to good health was her strong network of family and friends. “My family was my greatest source of strength and comfort,” Sands says. “My friends and co-workers continually supported me through the whole ordeal, and my church immersed me in prayer and surrounded me with care.”
Kaufman also noticed the power of faith in Sands’ healing. “Through it all, Jennifer always had a bright, smiling, energetic face, which certainly was pleasant for us,” he says. “It’s hard to quantify the effect of a positive attitude when fighting cancer, but in my 25 years of experience, I can say that it certainly seems to help.”
Sands’ breast cancer treatments were successful, and now she is living cancer-free. She has written three books,A Tempered Faith,A Teachable Faith, andA Treasured Faith, about her spirituality and journey overcoming the loss of her husband and her fight with breast cancer.
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