Interviews

Breast Cancer Survivor Story: Cookie Weissman

cookie-weissman-loren-ridinger

Second in our Loren's World Breast Cancer Survivor Series, I'd like to welcome someone who has been in my life for a very long time. Cookie Weissman is family to me, her son Andrew like my brother and his wife Natalia like my sister; her husband Marty is EVP of our company Market America. A few years after meeting Cookie she was diagnosed with breast cancer with no prior family history and here she is to share her inspirational story with all of us in the interview below.

Breast Cancer Survivor Story: Cookie Weissman

cookie-weissman-loren-ridinger

Born and raised in NYC (Brooklyn) and still a New York girl at heart.  Following school, my secretarial background led to working for a publishing company, in its junior encyclopedia division.  Then as secretary to the V.P. of Security for Diners Club—at a time when the notion of using plastic credit cards as currency was beginning to make an impact. Marrying and raising a family was my dream that came true.  Fast forward to the seventies when Marty and I relocated from New York to Georgia, where our sons were born.  In 1992 we were introduced to a fellow  with a vision, his name: Jim Ridinger. Not long after, we relocated once again… to Greensboro, NC.

1. How was your cancer discovered and diagnosed?In June 1996, just before my regular mammogram appointment, I did a self-exam (as usual) and discovered a small lump.  I immediately reported the location/approximate size—it was small.  Result showed nothing but I firmly insisted that something didn’t feel right.  Further examining at my insistence to do a sonogram discovered something “vague”. An excisional biopsy confirmed a 7 cm lump resulting in its removal, along with 9 lymphnodes which showed no spread.  I felt lucky…as well as devastated—learning the lump was cancerous but lymphnodes were clear.  By the way…there’s no history of cancer in my family!

2. What was life like during your treatment? I was scared but also hungry to learn all I could about breast cancer.  I went through the regimen of radiation treatments and though chemotherapy was an “option” because of the tumor’s small size and successful removal, my doctor advised to go through with it in order to maximize the chances of it’s not returning.  So I did and it was 4 months of appetite loss, feeling tired all the time and knowing my hair was about to leave me.

3. Were you able to stay positive during the tough moments? How did your mindset effect your treatment and recovery? At first, staying positive was easier said than done.  The support of my family saved me from getting depressed, even though I cried a lot and thinking “why me?” I continued to work at a part-time job—an important factor in having normalcy.  My wig and my collection of bandanas and scarves were important since I never walked around the house without a bandana on my head.  I felt my children didn’t need to see the downside of this life-saving treatment.

4. How have things changed since you were cleared of cancer? Although the experience is embedded in my memory, I’ve come away from it appreciating how good life is and I’m happy and fortunate to use that I’ve learned by encouraging others to self-advocate for their bodies.  For several years, I’ve spoken to groups in high schools and colleges in our area on how to do breast self-exams through the “CHECK IT OUT” program that was offered by the Hadassah organization.  A wonderful experience resulting in many attendees confidentially coming forward with personal concerns.  We encouraged seeking professional medical advice.

5. What message do you hope to give others battling breast cancer? I cannot stress enough that no one knows our bodies better than ourselves.  Pay attention and when you find something that doesn’t feel right, don’t procrastinate, get it checked.  When it’s mammogram time, do it!  Your life depends on it!

Breast Cancer Survivor Story: Susan Ingeman