A survivor’s story - Katerina Shoko McKinnon
By Katerina Shoko McKinnon
I was 48 years old when I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.
My mother and sister were both healthy so I thought that I would be just the same as them. I never thought I would be diagnosed with cancer. I am not like the stereotypical breast cancer patient. I thought they were single, had a high profile career with an advanced degree and with no children. I didn’t have advanced education and I had three children in my 20’s. I am a native of Japan. I grew up on a plant based healthy diet and I had no major health issues.
My work as a human resources and accounting manager was often so busy that I had skipped getting a medical check up for two years.
The company I that i was working for was being purchased by another company and as a result it was closing. Around the same time, my three children were graduating from law school, business school and undergraduate. It was then that I decided to get a mammogram and other check-ups.
It was then that my world seemed to fall apart. Despite the cancer diagnoses, I still had expenses for my childrens’ education. Furthermore I was one of the last ones working at the company until the company closed its doors. All I could think about was how to afford and go through treatment while still trying to find my next job.
God was watching over me. I was blessed with family, friends, and an excellent medical team. I had surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy. I recently celebrated my 55th birthday and I just received another clean bill of health this year.
I could not have done it alone. I practice Tai Chi, do daily walking, and try to eat healthy. I also try to encourage others who are/were going through the same struggles that I went through.
I still have emotional ups and downs. The thought of cancer coming back scares me, but life goes on and every day is a present. I am truly a survivor. I was in New York on September 11th, 2001 as my job had brought me there. Fukushima, Japan is my hometown and while I was visiting my family there on March 11th, 2011, the big tsunami and earthquake hit in Japan.
It is very important to get check ups. If you are diagnosed, don’t be shy. Share your journey with others and support each other.
Life is full of blessings. I thank God for keeping me going. And you can do it too.
I just moved to Florence from northern New Jersey this month. I have fallen in love with this town. Florence has an excellent medical system and hospitals.
I’m looking forward to settling in here, meeting nice people, finding employment, and exploring all the good places to eat.