Can you imagine being only 17 years old and finding out that your mother has breast cancer with a grim prognosis? That was reality for Susi living in Iran during the Iranian revolution of 1978 – 1979. Susi is part Iranian and part Italian. Her father was in the Iranian Imperial Navy and was imprisoned for six months for two reasons: he was an admiral for the former Shah of Iran, and his family was Christian. Her mother, Maria Pia, was dying. She passed away just two weeks after he was released. As the second oldest of five children, Susi and her older brother were the only children who knew the prognosis. Her brother was in college, so it fell to Susi to care for her dear mother and keep her secret. Her mother died at the age of 48. Susi says, “It’s very hard to miss your Mom most of your life. She missed so many births, weddings, and special occasions.”
Cancer definitely runs in the family as her Grandmother also had a tumor in her breast, and several cousins had cancer. Miriam, her younger sister in Italy, was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer when Susi was 40 years old. And two years later, Miriam was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. Susi bought an airline ticket to go and help her with chemo and help care for her three young boys in the summer.
But God had other plans for her. Several weeks after Susi’s 49th birthday, she noticed that one breast was getting heavier and became inflamed with a rash – it was twice the size of the other breast. Her doctor said she had a breast infection and put her on antibiotics. She researched Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) and was sure that was what she had, but her doctor told her to stay on the antibiotics even though he knew her family history.
She was proactive and called to schedule a mammogram, which took days to get in. When the radiologist looked, he immediately ordered a sonogram, and Susi could see his concern. She immediately began to cry and thought about her family, her husband, three beautiful children, and an aging father in Italy. She had the painful biopsy that day and got the result the following day. It was, as she had guessed, stage III IBC. Panic, depression, and confusion set in, and she was overwhelmed with worry.
That radiologist saved her life, and she found an amazing surgeon who was with her for the rest of her journey. After her mastectomy, she had a vision of her mother telling her in Italian that everything would be ok. A few minutes later, the doctor told her that the pathology report showed no sign of cancer. After doing chemo, surgery, and radiation, her doctor used the word “cured.”
She and her sister supported each other. She says she lost her hair here while her sister lost hers in Italy. Her family, relatives, and many friends tenderly cared for her. Susi had to be strong, particularly for her children, as they were looking to her for hope.
Susi is a teacher for a small, Catholic school in Dallas, and she continued to work part-time. The staff, students, and friends there were nothing short of amazing. They even initiated a fund so that Susi could go to Italy with her daughter to visit her ill sister. Friends and family were with her at each chemo treatment. Yes, Susi faced depression, but she is a hopeful person and planned things to look forward to. She prayed that she would be there for weddings and grandchildren.
Susi’s advice is to be proactive about your own health. Misdiagnosis is common, even with all the information out there. She has lost three members of the support group she began, because they were misdiagnosed. “Knowledge is power,” she says.
Fast forward to today. She has been able to do the 5K cancer walk every year and use the word “survivor.” Her sister is also doing well. Susi has been blessed with three grandchildren and is an inspiration to all who know her. She is a strong, intelligent, and extremely kind friend, who is loved and admired by many!
- Reading the Bible and praying continually.
- Books about cancer, such as Promise Me by Susan G. Komen and books on nutrition and healing, such as Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Dr. Patrick Quillin.
- Keeping a journal.
- Regular exercise, especially walks at the Botanical Gardens with her husband.
- An awesome team of doctors and nurses.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
Susi’s favorite motto is: “This too shall pass.” Her favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Dear Father, thank you for the example of faith and hope that Susi possesses. Thank you for her family, medical team, friends, co-workers, and other IBC patients, who cared for her throughout this entire process. She put her faith in You, and You healed her.