Rec Center

Rowan's own Leslie Spencer will be in the store to discuss and sign her book You Can Be Beautiful Beyond Breast Cancer!

Monday, February 11th at 6:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Rowan University Bookstore
201 Rowan Boulevard
Glassboro,  NJ 08028

My Breast Cancer Story
By Leslie Spencer

I was 44 years old when I was diagnosed with invasive, aggressive breast cancer in my left breast.  It came as a shock when the nurse told me the diagnosis over the phone at 4:50 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.  I was grateful that she told me over the phone and didn’t make me wait until my Friday appointment to hear the news, as I knew that something was wrong by the fact that she had called me in the first place.  At 5pm, I was scheduled to meet with two of my students for a personal training session.  I hung up the phone, changed my clothes, and met with my trainers to have a really challenging workout.  I needed to burn off some energy and anxiety at that point!

It’s interesting to see how a person reacts to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  You don’t really know how you will respond until it happens to you.  Fitness, nutrition and general wellness became the basis of my daily life as I proceeded through three surgeries, 18 weeks of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation.  I knew from the start that I was going to live a long time and that I wanted to be as healthy and fit after cancer as I was before it.  I’d seen many people go through cancer treatment and how it aged them; in the space of one year, they would look and feel five years older.  I believed that it didn’t have to be that way.  Having goals and a plan for fitness and nutrition through my treatment gave me something positive to focus on and a reason to get up each day.

My case turned out to be fairly serious and complicated.  Going into the double mastectomy, I knew I had a very aggressive cancer in my left breast.  What I didn’t know until after the surgery was that I also had a different type of equally aggressive cancer in my right breast.  Even though I had mammograms every year, they did not detect the right-breast cancer.  I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have made the decision to have both breasts removed from the start.  Had I not done so, I would have had to go through cancer treatment all over again for the right breast when it eventually was detected.  Because my case was unusual, physicians did not agree on the best way to treat me.  I learned first-hand how important it is to be able to advocate for yourself, gather information from many sources, and then make the best decision you can at the time, knowing that there is no one “right” answer. 

As difficult as it was to go through treatment, there were many gifts along the way.  I literally had over 100 people praying for me on a regular basis.   As a person of faith, I am certain that God was and is with me in a powerful way, providing healing and hope each day.  I learned in a new way what it means to trust God and rest in God’s strength and not my own.  My marriage was also strengthened, and my husband and I feel closer to each other having gone through this experience together.  Having cancer brought the rest of life into perspective and has helped me understand what’s really important and what is (and isn’t) worth my time and energy.  Finally, it has helped me become more compassionate to the suffering of other people; I can walk with them and encourage them in a deeper way as a result of my own suffering.  It is my hope that I will continue to be able to inspire and encourage other women going through breast cancer treatment and continue sharing the “gift” that cancer has given me.