Local Women Thrivers Share their Stories
A cancer diagnosis strikes fear in the hearts of so many every year. Statistics say 1 in 8 women may be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their life. The good news is early detection and advances in treatment have lowered breast cancer deaths, numbering about 1 in 37, and more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors are alive today in the United States.
You can beat breast cancer. Two local women share their stories here to prove it.
Sabine Anderson of Moorpark has been cancer free for almost three years.
“I’m still working on my fifth year,” says Sabine. “Almost three years in, there is no evidence of disease, but I have two more years to go to be deemed cancer free…more than halfway there!”
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, Sabine, who has no family history of breast cancer, was overcome with fear and disbelief.
“I truly did not think this could happen to me,” she recalls. “I had just lost a very dear friend to breast cancer the year before—she was the picture of health and vitality and this illness took her life. I feared that I had the same fate.”
After the initial shock, however, Sabine gained courage and determination to beat the diagnosis, with support from her husband—who went to all of her appointments—and an “amazing” optimistic surgeon.
“More than 87% of women SURVIVE breast cancer,” Sabine recalls her surgeon telling her at the first appointment.
“Her one simple and clear statement shifted how I would look at my disease and empowered me to fight and kick cancer’s butt. The odds were in my favor,” says Sabine, who made the decision to keep her anxiety in check by taking things one step at a time rather than spend time worrying about what “may” happen.
During an intense five-month treatment, Sabine took daily walks and got plenty of rest. She encourages women diagnosed with breast cancer to be gentle with themselves and lean on their support systems.
“Stay positive. Ask for help from family and friends. Rest your body and your mind and stay well-nourished, exercise a bit,” she says. Sabine also cautions women about the source of their research and information.
“Remember that every person is different and so is their illness. Try not to jump down the rabbit hole that is the internet chat room and forums… that can suck you into a very scary place,” she says. “Instead, talk to your doctors, ask questions and research reputable websites like the American Cancer Society.”
Today, Sabine volunteers with the American Cancer Society, helping to raise awareness about the importance of annual checkups and screenings. As vice president of a supplement company, wife, mother, stepmother and grandmother, Sabine thoroughly enjoys life, making it a point to avoid stress and negativity.
“I am much more conscious of stress and negativity around me and do my best to steer clear and make a change in approach, both with personal and career matters. Life is too short not to enjoy it,” she says, adding, “And it’s okay to say ‘No’ if you want to!”
Emphasizing the importance of education and regular doctor visits, Sabine reminds women to practice self-care.
“Take care of your body; we only have one!” she says. “Make your annual checkups and self-checks a priority and teach your children to do the same. Education and early detection are essential.”
Cancer free since December 2014, Robin Chesler of Westlake Village says she is in the best shape she’s ever been.
“I’m much more conscious of everything that goes on in my body,” says Robin, co-publisher of Conejo Valley Lifestyle Magazine. “More in tune and also in better shape physically and emotionally than I have ever been,” she adds.
Diagnosed with zero stage in situ breast cancer in 2014, Robin underwent two surgeries and 38 radiation sessions. Family and friends’ support were invaluable in helping her cope with the treatment.
“Unwavering support from Ben, my long-term domestic partner, support from my family and friends and special support from my yoga community,” says Robin, got her through the ordeal, as did talking with other women who have had breast cancer treatment.
Reaching out to others is extremely helpful, says Robin.
“Talk about it, share your experience and knowledge,” advises Robin. “Be optimistic and never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The fact that Robin diligently scheduled regular mammograms made it possible for her doctor to spot the breast cancer at an early stage, when it is most easily treated.
When she was initially diagnosed, Robin was overcome with emotion.
“I remembered the film, ‘First You Cry,’ and I did… as often as I had to, usually in the shower, which is my favorite place to cry,” she recalls. “Then I prepared myself to confront it and beat it. I also spent many hours online doing my own research on breast cancer.”
Grateful for early detection, excellent medical care and incredible family support, Robin cherishes each new day.
“Each day is precious and I try to make the most out of every day,” she says, noting that her experience with breast cancer has given her a new perspective.
“I have a realistic view of my own mortality,” as a result of having had breast cancer, says the long-term domestic partner, mother of two, grandmother of four, child of 90-year-old parents, and sister of two brothers. “You can choose to be happy and not dwell on the negative; try not to be the Queen of the ‘What If’s,’” she laughs.
Today, Robin is healthy and active in helping to promote awareness about the importance of early detection and breast cancer screenings. On September 24, Robin joined her Making Strides Against Breast Cancer sisters in their annual fundraiser and walk. In 2015, her team and their donors raised over $2,500, and they set out, successfully, to beat that figure in 2016.
“This inspirational experience of sisterhood and teamwork for an important cause is a wonderful example of women coming together, not only in raising donations, but in bringing our entire Conejo Valley community together to help finish the fight and find a cure for breast cancer!” says Robin.
The American Cancer Society offers free breast cancer screening reminders at Cancer.org.