Susan Lanier came out of her cancer struggle with more than the side effects of chemotherapy and a hefty bill.
â€œIt was a lesson,â€ said the 39-year-old breast cancer survivor. â€œI donâ€™t have control.â€
The wife and mother of two had always been the kind of woman who liked to make plans. Now, three years after first being diagnosed, she knows to â€œlet things happen as they should and not plan so much and schedule so much.â€
Lanier discovered a lump in her breast during a self-examination. She credits family friend Patricia Rhyne, who passed away after a battle with breast cancer, for inspiring her to take action.
â€œShe was my angel,â€ she said. â€œSheâ€™s what is allowing me to be here with my boys today.â€
Lanier hopes her own experience with breast cancer encourages others to do monthly self-exams.
â€œItâ€™s very important,â€ she said. â€œIf I hadnâ€™t found it as early as I did, I may not be here today.â€
After the initial â€œtotal shockâ€ of discovering the cancerous lump, Lanier agreed to take an aggressive route in fighting the disease, which included a lumpectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 37 radiation treatments.
â€œIf you donâ€™t get it the first time, you have to deal with it the rest of your life,â€ she said.
She has been cancer-free since the surgery, but still lives with the knowledge the disease could come back.
â€œWe live in percentages now,â€ she said.
Each year sheâ€™s cancer-free, sheâ€™s more likely to remain that way.
That said, â€œYou can never feel 100 percent sure.â€
The disease has affected her entire family, especially her oldest boy Sam, now 9, who could understand what was happening more than her youngest son, Jonah, now 6.
â€œIt was really hard on him,â€ Lanier said. â€œWe think about it every day.â€
It was also hard on her husband, the boysâ€™ father, Tracy.
â€œIt was rough for me to watch her go through it because you couldnâ€™t do anything. If a kid scraped their arm, you can put a Band-Aid on it,â€ he said. â€œThis you have to sit and watch.â€
As of now, however, it seems like the Laniers donâ€™t need to fret over the disease.
The medical bills, on the other hand, remain a presence in their lives.
Although the Laniers have insurance, the cost of fighting cancer is still steep.
â€œTen percent of $300,000 is a lot of money,â€ Lanier said.
She says she canâ€™t imagine what happens to people who donâ€™t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and donâ€™t have insurance.
â€œOur medical system just isnâ€™t what it should be,â€ she said.
What she is happy about, however, is being able to spend more years with her boys. A former graphic designer, sheâ€™s taken a break from deadlines to spend more time with her family.
After a stint as a preschool teacher, she is now an assistant teacher at Battleground Elementary School.
She hopes to get a graduate degree in art and eventually become an art teacher.
â€œHaving kids and then this happening has really made me want to be more family-oriented,â€ she said.
by Sarah Grano