By: Gerri Willis
FOX Business Network news anchor and breast cancer survivor Gerri Willis.
Congratulation on your recent news of showing no sign of the disease! Can you share with us what it was like hearing you were diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed in April 2016. I had my annual mammogram six months prior to my diagnosis, but everything was normal. Months after this, I noticed a physical change where my nipples started to invert themselves, and was later diagnosed with lobular carcinoma breast cancer, which is not always easy to diagnose through a mammogram.
From there, I embarked on a nine-month treatment journey which started with bilateral mastectomy of my right breast, four months of chemotherapy, radiation and breast reconstruction. It was a long tedious process that wore on me both physically and emotionally.
It wasn’t until a pretty difficult chemotherapy session that I realized I needed to be mentally present for my treatment, and an advocate for myself. I set tiny goals throughout treatment and marked them off with pride. I slowly was able to come to the realization that I would thrive and survive throughout this process. This change in attitude helped me keep on going.
Tell us where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news about your diagnosis.
I was at work when I received the call from my doctor. She said, “Your test was positive,” and my response was, “My breast cancer test was positive?” I couldn’t truly wrap my head around the news. I called my husband immediately, who was truly my rock throughout my breast cancer journey.
Breast cancer isn’t something you can take in and understand during just one phone call. It can take hours, days, weeks, or even months. I felt like I had lived a very healthy life, so the diagnosis was a huge shock. There is some shaming out there that if you didn’t eat a certain diet and or exercise you kind of did this to yourself, but that is clearly not true. Things happen all the time to people that they didn’t cause or create themselves and everyone needs to be understanding of that.
Can you explain how the diagnosis affected your life and relationships?
On top of re-connecting with family, my colleagues at FOX were truly amazing. I cannot imagine being in a situation where your work place is not supportive. My bosses called every month, not asking when I would be back, but seeing if there was anything I needed. They realized that my number one job was getting better.
I was blessed with a terrific support system. Cancer really makes you more spiritual and empathetic – I felt like I had an emotional growth spurt. I was able to connect with so many people who suffered from all types of cancers. Understanding these different journeys really helped to play a role in me “beating cancer’s ass.”
FOX News/FOX Business Network team with "Get A Mammo" bracelet.
What gave you hope throughout your journey?
Mostly my husband, mom, brother and family. The staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) where I was diagnosed and received treatment was truly amazing. They know how to truly connect with their patients. I didn’t want to be pitied, but I wanted to be understood. They were able empathize with me and somehow managed to know what I needed.
What would you like to tell other women who have recently been diagnosed, or are still fighting?
Treatment will not be what you expect. It really changes your priorities. There are actually some incredibly positive moments that come out of treatment. It’s really hard to explain to others who have not gone through the process but treatment gave me a huge mental transformation – mixed with moments of pain and complete gratitude.
I was able to spend more time with loved ones. We can get so caught up in the nonsense of everyday life and breast cancer helped me rediscover what truly matters most.
You have been an amazing supporter of Komen and recently participated in Komen NYC Race for the Cure. What drew you to the organization?
Susan G. Komen is an organization that has been around for a very long time. Nancy Brinker was able to communicate across the country that breast cancer is something we should talk about and has been a huge advocate for fundraising and education. It’s hard to not support her and Komen. One of my favorite things about the organization is that they get into the community – they are hands on in a way that many organizations are not.
What do you hope to accomplish and have other people learn from you breast cancer journey? I hope to help communicate and demystify breast cancer. I want to talk directly to women who are in the same boat and encourage them that they are not alone. It’s too common that that women with breast cancer tend to isolate themselves, and I’m hoping I can help them by sharing my experience and that the negatives of this disease can actually have some positive outcomes. I want everyone to come out the other side stronger and empowered.
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