Cancer Diagnosis is a Challenge That Can Also Bring Blessings

May 23, 2019

Paula Furiness

Wow! May is a busy health and wellness month. There are more than 30 events recognized as health and wellness observances in May.

Wilson Medical Center celebrated National Hospital Week this past week with many fun and memorable activities, an annual treat for employees, physicians and volunteers. Relay for Life’s “Passport for a Cure” was this past Friday night. The community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society was held at Wilson Medical Center’s walking track.

The event was a wonderful opportunity for cancer survivors, caregivers and friends and family to gather and show support in the fight against cancer. I personally walked in the opening Survivor’s Walk, my second walk as a survivor. What a great time to join with other survivors to celebrate life and living.

I also attended the American Cancer Society’s Survivors’ Dinner this past week. I spent a lot of time throughout the evening observing others as they interacted amongst each other and other caregivers and our wonderful Wilson cancer care team.

Healthcare professionals, who were a part of my treatment team, interacted with former patients and caregivers, sharing smiles, hugs and conversations. It warmed my heart and mind to see others like me have the opportunity to rekindle these relationships that will be with us forever.

I celebrated my first year as a cancer survivor this past March, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a year ago. Life takes interesting turns sometimes, as mine did in 2018. Today is a new day and one to celebrate new opportunities to be healthier in mind, body and spirit and appreciate the love and support of others.

So what do you do after receiving a cancer diagnosis, experiencing surgery and treatment, and like many others, taking medicine hoping to ward off any return of cancer? I can only speak for myself. I try to live each day to its fullest, and like everyone, many days I’m successful at this and some days not. Cancer is not my identity, yet is a very real part of who I am now. Cancer is not a blessing but has brought me many blessings.

What does this mean? I have a greater appreciation for my own good health and the opportunity to take even better care of myself with daily exercise, healthy nutrition, spiritual health and proper rest and relaxation. All of these can be a challenge depending on the week, but I am giving it my best shot. I am blessed to have such a wonderful support team, which includes my family, friends near and far, and my work and church “family.” Having a great support team is a tremendous asset while tackling cancer or really any illness or challenge.

I am sharing my personal cancer story in an effort to encourage you to think about your daily self-care choices. What are you doing to best take care of yourself? What we do and how we live really does matter. Cancer did cross my path, but I feel confident that my healthy lifestyle and outlook helped me to not only get through a rough patch in 2018 but also helped improve my prognosis and personal abilities to tackle whatever is my future.

I also want to remind all of us that while life does bring us struggles, it also brings us priceless opportunities to share and learn. For those of you that have experienced breast cancer as a survivor or thriver (living with stage 4 or metastatic cancer), there is an upcoming opportunity to share, remember and to learn.

Susan G. Komen, in partnership with the Wilson community, is providing a luncheon, “Understanding Stage IV,” Thursday, June 13, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Hardy Alumni Hall located on the campus of Barton College. So if you are a breast cancer survivor, thriver, or provider, please consider attending this special event. For more information, call 919-493-2873 or email The luncheon is $5 per person, and scholarships are available.

Paula Furiness is the wellness coordinator at Wilson Medical Center. She is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist. Paula has worked in the health and wellness field for more than 30 years. Have questions? Contact her at