Surviving Breast Cancer and Thriving

Norma McNay was a young mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972.  Her two children, Craig and Sarah, were only six and two years old.  Normal shared her story with us as a 41 year survivor.

Will and Norma | Hansen-Spear Funeral Home - Quincy, IllinoisDuring a regular self-exam, Norma discovered a lump and had further testing.  When she had her mammogram, the results were negative.  The tumor she identified was located under her arm, so she and her surgeon (there was no such thing as an oncologist at the time) elected to remove it: to biopsy and if the pathologist frozen section indicated to do further surgery.

The pre-operative time was the scariest, most stressful and problematic, according to Norma, because she and her family had so much new information and a possible cancer diagnosis and did not know what to expect; from a lumpectomy to a radical mastectomy.  The news they received was not good.  Norma’s surgeon informed her  husband and father that her cancer had spread to a number of lymph nodes.  The prognosis was that the cancer would likely recur about six months following her surgery.  Norma received cobalt radiation and one year of chemotherapy with a single drug. With Norma’s strong faith in God and a loving and supportive family, her initial goal as she recovered from surgery and started her treatment was “to see her children, Craig and Sarah, graduate high school.”

In 1975, Norma became a volunteer for American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery, and she has touched the lives of more than 600 women facing the battle with breast cancer.  She shared, “knowing another person’s experience gives hope and encouragement.”  Today, Reach to Recovery program continues with very informative material delivered by the volunteers. Norma emphasized that each person, with a significant other, needs to make informed and educated decisions on her individual treatment plans, because each path through treatment and recovery is unique.After finishing her treatment plan, there was still the fear that the cancer might reoccur and the question of “how long do I have?” was present in her mind, but Norma also felt determined to help others.  In her own words, she said, “if I do survive, I want to be there for others facing the same situation.”

Each year of survival is significant. Norma and her husband, Con, celebrate each year of survival in some way.  On her 25th anniversary, they held a service of thanksgiving, at their church, with their family and friends.

Norma’s path has been filled with many blessings. She thanks God and her surgeon, Dr. Merle Crossland, for giving her the opportunity to see her grandchildren graduate high school.

We thank Norma for taking “the opportunity” breast cancer presented her and using it to truly bless all the lives she touches!


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