My name is Christine Vanderheiden and I have breast cancer. It has taken me a long time to be able to say this, identify with this and, finally, share this. It’s one of those things you just never thought would happen to you … but it did. I was diagnosed in April 2012 and have had a successful lumpectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy. I began my radiation in October and am feeling great knowing that I am fighting this with everything I have. Breast cancer is now part of who I am, although it does not define me. This is what defines me …
I am a mother. I have two extraordinary children, Evan and Emma Jane. They are my inspiration for everything. People often ask me how I keep it all together during everything that I’ve been through and I say:”You’d do the same thing.” Being a mother reminds us every day of how strong we are. My kids have been amazing since we told them about my “Boobie Bump” and the “special medicine” that I would have to take. They have been sensitive to my “down days” and encouraging when they see I’m sad about having no hair. We’ve grown stronger as a family unit and I thank breast cancer for helping me mould brave, thoughtful, empathetic, tenacious, warm, caring children.
I am a wife. My husband Jeff is simply the most amazing man I have ever met and I was lucky enough to have married him. He sees me; not my cancer, not my faults, not my weaknesses. He sees who I am, my soul, and reminds me every day what I am capable of. When the chemo has clouded my vision and my resolve, he swoops in and reignites the spark that helps me to pick myself up again. I thank breast cancer for reminding him what a great father and husband he is, and for making our marriage even stronger.
I am a daughter and a sister. Who I have ultimately become is a direct result of where I came from and the relationships that I have with my parents and my sister. I grew up understanding the importance of courage, character, empathy, and perseverance. Work hard and be nice to people: these two major life lessons were instilled in me and have gotten me to this point in my life. I thank breast cancer for allowing me to look back and appreciate my roots and these life lessons that have helped me face adversity with the right perspective.
I am a survivor. Although breast cancer does not define who I am it has certainly allowed me the opportunity to look at my life at this moment and be thankful for everything. Yes, everything. I am 38 years old and feel that my life, up to this point, has prepared me to face breast cancer and conquer it. Tomorrow I will look back and know that it is this challenge which has further prepared me for the next, and the next. Thank you breast cancer for doing that.
Although I continue to find the blessings in these moments of difficulty I also acknowledge that cancer, of any kind, is not the adversity I want my children to face. I want my children to grow up in a world without cancer so their lives can be shaped by other challenges that don’t make them sick and need “special medicine.” I do not want my daughter to have to fight breast cancer when she is 38. That is why I will walk today. I will walk to raise money to continue the strides that have been made against breast cancer. I will walk in hope that one day cancer, specifically breast cancer, is forever cured.