My name is Genese Smith. I am 40 years old, a mother of 2, a healthcare worker, and a breast cancer survivor, but that doesn’t define me.
On February 2019, at the age of 38, I went to see my gynecologist, Dr. Lippert, for a routine checkup and birth control. He’s been my physician for my whole life journey, including the birth of my children. The visit turned into going for a mammography and sonogram because of our conversation, no exam. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Ductal Carcinoma/ HER-2 positive breast cancer.
When I was told I had cancer I was in a state of shock. I received my diagnosis while at work and was devastated. I immediately called my family and we met with all of my doctors at NYU Langone Health in Huntington Station, this included Dr. Siddiqui, Dr. Ahmed, and Alison Hoffman, Nurse Practitioner. Together we decided on my treatment plan. Everything moved so fast; getting diagnosed, bloodwork, biopsies, genetic testing, and back and forth to radiology. It was so overwhelming.
The best advice I would give to someone who just received a diagnosis is to surround yourself with family and friends. Do your best to stay positive and accept that there are events you cannot control.
I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and reconstructive surgery for lumpectomy deformity, which was done by Dr. Noël Natoli, of LIPSG. She was great and made me feel better about my body after cancer. Her work is amazing, and her office promotes a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
I am currently taking the drug Tamoxifen for the next 5 years. But to this day, I remain cancer-free. Having cancer changed my outlook on life. It made me braver. I have been given a second chance at life to still accomplish the things I was set to do before the “C” word, giving up was not an option. I had to cope with the emotional strain and the challenges of the treatments, as well as the stresses of daily life. I realized life didn’t stop, I put time and energy to still live my normal life. I now have a stronger sense of faith and hope, I see things differently, and I appreciate all life has to offer. It’s better to keep a positive mind.
What gave me strength during my treatment was living as if I never was diagnosed. It was not all good days. I had bad ones with aches, pain, hair loss, loss of taste and smell, and not wanting to eat. However, my family, friends, and coworkers would not allow me to give up. All of my doctors and nurses were always available if I needed anything. I had visitors who sat with me during treatments to eat lunch, laugh, or just to keep me company. During it all I still worked full time, did online college courses and exercised. My focus never became about cancer, it became about educating myself on winning this battle.
The support I found helpful was from my social worker at NYU, every treatment she sat with me. She provided information for support groups, work out classes, financial assistance, blankets, wigs, and even makeup. She knew how to make me feel good on the inside and out. There are so many support groups and workshops that are very helpful.
I also posted my story on Facebook and documented my cancer journey. I received a lot of support from my Facebook family and friends. My postings helped encourage many women to have early detection and make their doctors’ appointments. Being a survivor puts me in a unique position to help other people affected by breast cancer, and as a warrior, I will always be here for those who need my support.