What keeps me going

I had the honor last week of addressing  the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) in Washington, D.C.  Now, that's a formidable crowd!

This is their 99th anniversary, and the conference theme was "Women in Medicine:  Successfully Facing Future Challenges and Advances."

The outgoing AMWA President, Dr. Eleni Tousimis, is the chief of breast surgery and the director of the Breast Center at the Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.  As the audience contained all doctors, I was asked to speak about what I go through as a survivor and how the heck I have been able to live with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for 11 years – when the prognosis was three to five years.

Dr. Tousimis also wanted me, as a patient, to address the future of cancer research, patient care, and my foundation for women's cancer research.

It's always difficult to answer: "How have you managed to live this long?"  I respond with several possibilities:

1) Anger. This propels me to the "mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" attitude.

2) Stubbornness. I absolutely refused to leave my children who were 8 and 10 at the time of my first diagnosis

3) Denial. Even running a cancer foundation, I don't think of myself as a person with cancer.  I just keep this Type A personality moving forward

4) Humor. I believe humor heals. Does it cure cancer?  No, but it can sure change your disposition, and we all know that being positive does a body good.

I will never know why I am still here; most things boil down to luck and a guardian angel.  Whatever or whomever you pray to doesn't matter.  Quieting your mind and thanking the universe for all the blessings that have come your way is what's important.

Have you ever written a list of all the things you are grateful for? This is a healing exercise before you go to bed.  Grab a pad and pen on your night stand and write down what you are grateful for that day.  What a nice way to go to sleep.

I am grateful that I was asked to speak to these wonderful women last week.  Every time I am asked to speak is a gift.