National Cancer Survivor Month – Partner Sharon Iskra’s Survivor Story

Authored by Sharon F. Iskra, Partner and Institutional Abuse & Neglect Team Leader:

A cancer diagnosis is a devastating shock to anyone. Not to be dramatic, but a second cancer diagnosis (despite you doing everything “right” the first time) makes you feel like you are marked for certain and impending death. I was helped through both of these by family, friends, and faith. I was also uniquely strengthened by a stranger who took the time to tell me, boldly and honestly, all the real details of her own cancer story. I will never forget how comforting it was to speak with one who had been there, lived that, and who just sitting across the table from me was living proof that one can thrive during and on the other side of cancer treatments. That’s the person I want to be for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis today.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. I had surgery and several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. All my hair fell out and my white blood cell count dropped to levels that provoked serious concern among my doctors – but we thought, if it’s killing everything else, the treatment has got to be working. I ate right, rested/isolated/sanitized, exercised, etc. Despite all that, and while still on my meds, two years later I found another lump. It looked so uncharacteristic of cancer that my surgeon took it out under local anesthesia. I remember her reassuring me even as I was lying on the op table that it didn’t look like anything. We were both surprised when that proved wrong.

More treatment. More tough choices and a series of complications. In all, a total of six surgeries. Sitting on the couch saying, “I just want my normal back. I want to go somewhere where this isn’t my life.” I had vivid dreams of running through open fields and down desert roads to a horizon where this wasn’t my reality, even just for a weekend.

Lessons learned about obstacles like these: you can’t get around them, you can only go through them. Each of us is given a container with our numbered days, but no one knows the size of his/her container. Your only choice is how you respond to the obstacle and live out the given days. But you’re also far more capable and resilient than you imagined, and you’re not alone: the path you’re on has been trod by fellow survivors like me, who have long celebrated our return of abundant hair. Better yet, I’ve returned to thriving in my niche law practice, in fitness, and community service. I no longer desperately seek an elusive horizon; the cancer lives quietly now in my rearview where I only glance at it when I choose.

May it be so for you. I’ll sit across the table from you if you need me. And I hope you will be someone’s inspiring stranger and burden bearer one day.
Partner Sharon Iskra is the leader of the Bailey Glasser’s Institutional Abuse & Neglect team and is a nationally recognized advocate and voice for the vulnerable. She litigates cases for children, individuals with special needs, and others who have been abused, neglected, or exploited in institutions such as group homes, rehabilitation centers, universities, hotels, foster care facilities, and other settings. In addition to her professional advocacy, Sharon’s personal passion for serving is also unique: in 2004, she paused her successful legal career for nine years to direct children’s and urban ministries at a local church. In addition to her caseload and CASA work, Sharon has served on missions to orphanages in Haiti and Africa in 2014, 2016, and 2019. She plans to continue her lifestyle of personal and professional missions effecting positive change at home and abroad for many years to come.

Learn more about Sharon’s advocacy here.

#Cancersurvivormonth #breastcancer #survivorstory

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