Several months ago, I received a call from an amazing cancer survivor, Dr. Corinna Murray. Corinna completely embodies what it means to thrive in survivorship. She has stepped into a place of power and embraced her beauty, gifts and goals. I am honored to share her story with you.
Corinna is a mother, a very successful veterinarian and in a loving, long term marriage. A year ago this fall, Corinna found a large mass on her left breast. Corinna, please share with my readers your story of the past year and what, if any challenges, you faced going through treatment.
When I found the mass, I had not had a mammogram in over 2.5 years. At 51 years, I arrogantly thought I was immune to cancer because I was so healthy as I’d been a vegetarian for more than 10 years, was an exercise addict and no history of cancer in my family. I was humbled very quickly and embraced by some wonderful doctors and nurses who worked quickly with me to move forward in treating my disease.
Fortunately, my family…or maybe God had other plans. My father-in-law passed away on the day I had my biopsy and my mother broke her hip three days before I was scheduled to have a radical double mastectomy and tram reconstruction (though it eventually turned out I was NOT a good candidate for this procedure).
I then consulted with an excellent oncologist who tailored chemotherapy for the type of tumor I had and supported my exploration of surgical alternatives while I navigated my chemo and my family dramas.
In December 2010, I took a leave of absence from my veterinary career and devoted myself to my new job, my survival.
I gratefully embraced my treatment and thoroughly explored my surgical options, eventually finding, through a friend of a friend of a friend, my surgeon.
I decided to have a nipple-sparing mastectomy at a world-renowned teaching hospital by a truly gifted surgeon. It was a great cutting edge surgery but definitely not a warm and supportive experience. I was truly left in the dark initially, even with my medical background, and very distressed by the experience.
My second humbling moment was when I developed post surgical complications involving an infection. I knew I could not change the system or the surgeon but I realized could change how I engaged in the situation. I made a point to embrace and love my surgeon as a person and TRUST. I softened. He softened too. I subsequently healed and was able to have a successful reconstructive surgery in July 2011.
You were approached recently to do several fundraiser fashion shows. How did this come about? What motivated you to say yes?
I love adventures. I love newness and experiencing new things. I just thought it would be kind of a kick if it did go somewhere. And I am still enjoying the ride, just seeing where it goes. I am so much more than whom I was a year ago when I was diagnosed. This was part of me being open to the lessons and opportunities that this experience could provide to me.
It can be common for women going through breast cancer to experience some challenges around body issues ranging from dealing with hair loss, scars, mastectomy, reconstruction, etc. depending, of course, on many individual factors. Did you experience any of these and, if so, how do you feel doing the fashion shows have contributed to your healing of these issues?
During this time, I was also encouraged by friends and contacts to be a model for others. It turns out that really short hair and 20 lbs weight loss were side effects I would not have experienced had I not had cancer. I contacted a couple of the Breast Care Navigators in order to interview them for my new career model as a Veterinary Navigator. They were delighted to help and also requested my help by participating in local Breast Cancer Awareness Events as a Survivor Model leading to some great opportunities recently.
Join us this Friday to find out how Corinna is re-inventing herself.