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Gloria Hughes - Survivor

Blessed...

Blessed...

October 16, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

Blessed. It's a small word. But for Gloria Hughes, it holds a lot of meaning.

She feels blessed to have a wonderful family, good friends and a satisfying career.

She also feels blessed to be a breast cancer survivor.

"I can't begin to tell you how fortunate I feel," the 54-year-old Hagerstown resident says. "My cancer was found in the very early stages. I consider that a big blessing."

Hughes was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2005.

"It's kind of ironic," she says, "but for a couple of years I had been dealing with stomach issues. After having a colonoscopy, I decided that I should be taking better care of myself. So I scheduled a mammogram."

Following her appointment, Hughes says she received a call from the doctor's office, telling her that something suspicious had shown up on her X-rays and more tests were necessary.

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Within a few days, she received the diagnosis she had been dreading - she had breast cancer.

"But my doctor assured me it was in the very, very early stages," Hughes recalls. "I won't tell you I wasn't scared, because I was. But I also knew I was lucky. It could have been a lot worse."

Hughes had a lumpectomy, a procedure that removes the tumor and a small wedge of surrounding tissue.

"After listening to their stories, I'm aware that other breast cancer patients have suffered more than I'll ever know," she says. "Some lost one breast, others lost both breasts. I was blessed."

When she was first diagnosed, Hughes says she decided that "if this is what God wants for me, then I'll accept it. What life I've been given, I would be thankful for."

But now that she has been given this gift, she admits that it has changed her.

"I pick up the phone more often to call friends and ask how they are," she says. "I was never a loner, but now I'm more appreciative of friendships. I never let misunderstandings linger. I don't want to leave this earth with hard feelings."

Hughes says she was able to get through her diagnosis and recovery with the help of those friends, as well as a very supportive family.

"They were wonderful," she says. "I think my children took it well because I took it well. I wasn't going to allow this disease to bring me down."

Hughes says she also received a lot of support and an uplifting of spirits by attending group meetings offered by Breast Cancer Awareness - Cumberland Valley.

"I loved connecting with other breast cancer patients," she says. "I continue to attend meetings as often as I can. There are things that women who have breast cancer can't tell their families. Your loved ones have never experienced what you are going through. But these women know how you are feeling. You can tell them anything."

Hughes says from her initial diagnosis she has not allowed breast cancer to defeat her.

"When things defeat you, they defeat you emotionally," she says. "And I won't allow that to happen. I can tell you that my faith is strong. I can talk to God and pour out my heart and soul and leave it there. I receive a lot of strength to deal with life through prayer."

Hughes says she has worked in the records office at Hagerstown Community College for 20-plus years and is thankful for the co-workers who continue to surround her with love and concern.

"They have been wonderful," she says. "They have made me aware that if I needed anything, whatever it was, they were there for me."

If she had one suggestion for someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer, Hughes says it would be to "find someone to talk to."

"Whether it's a friend, a family member, a co-worker, connect with that person," she says. "Find someone who will listen, someone who can help you get through this. Be honest with that person and hang on to them. I had many people who filled that role. I was blessed."

Marie Gilbert is a feature writer for The Herald-Mail Company. She can be reached at marieg@herald-mail.com.

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