Breast cancer survivor Sharon Hart of Middletown talk about how she managed to keep her sense of humor after her diagnosis.
Sharon Hart’s method for dealing with breast cancer is as simple as it is unlikely.
“I just tried to have fun with it,” the 42-year-old Middletown resident said. “You have to stay positive. And for me, coping with something like that means being able to joke around.”
However, Sharon’s husband, Bill, said it wasn’t always a laughing matter.
“As soon as I heard she had cancer, I wanted to punch the doctor in the face,” he said. “There was so much anger and disbelief inside me. The mental side of it was the toughest part.”
Hart was a 36-year-old mother of two young boys when she first noticed a lump in her left breast while in the car on her way home from a Ladies Auxiliary meeting at the Delaware City Fire Company.
“When I got home, I asked my sister to feel it, but even then I didn’t freak out, because it was late and there was nothing I could about it until the next day,” she said.
But the next day, she took her boys and their friends out of a day of fun and forgot all about the lump.
“It just slipped my mind,” she said. “My mom got really upset with me, so I went to see my doctor the following day – Aug. 14, 2007 – and that’s when I was diagnosed.”
Hart said she had already mentally prepared herself, so she wasn’t shocked by the news.
She says she also didn’t flinch when her doctor later told her she would need to undergo a mastectomy.
“I didn’t want to live in fear of having to go through it again, so I requested that they remove my right breast at the same time,” she said. “I can’t say it didn’t affect my marital life or I didn’t second guess myself, but my husband and I still joke to this day that we’ll keep taking limbs and organs off of me if it keeps me around longer.”
Hart underwent the surgery less than a month after her initial diagnosis. The procedure was then followed by months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“Seeing her going through the treatments and her being pretty much knocked out and not able to do anything; it was hard for me and the kids to see Mom in that position,” Bill said.
Sharon said seeing the concern on her family’s faces might have been the hardest part of her ordeal.
“I think it’s easier to be the patient because you’re fighting and you’re doing what you’ve got to do,” she said. “It can be much harder on the caregiver because they want to do something, even if it’s bringing you a muffin or taking you to an appointment.”
To help ease the minds of her friends and family, Sharon began writing daily e-mails about her battle.
“A lot of them would write me back and tell me how much they liked the updates,” she said. “They said if they ever went through the same thing, they felt more comfortable know what to expect.”
With that encouragement, Hart went on to self-publish a collection of her e-mails in 2010 under the title, “Becoming Part of the Ribbon: My Personal Journey.”
Now cancer free for five years, the dental hygienist is continuing to share the wisdom she gained from her battle by serving as a mentor to other women diagnosed with cancer through the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.
“I’ve worked with four or five women and I just try to be there if they need to talk about something,” she said. “I try to make sure they know about all the resources and support that’s out there for them, because when you’re going through it, you’re pretty focused on what’s right in front of you.”
Having come through the other side of that experience, Hart said she’s actually grateful for the perspective that breast cancer has given her.
“I certainly don’t wish cancer on anybody,” she said. “But I do wish everyone could see the world the way I do after going through it. It really teaches you to never take life for granted, which is why it’s so important to forget your day-to-day frustrations and just have fun.”