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Profile: Sonia Gurbaxani

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When Sonia Gurbaxani was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 1994, she was 34 years old and had just celebrated her third wedding anniversary. "I wasn’t feeling well, and I went to the doctor expecting to hear that I was pregnant," she says. "Cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t even know what an oncologist was."

When a biopsy confirmed the cancer diagnosis, Sonia says she felt as though her life was over and that it was the end of the dreams she and her husband, Andrew had for their future. Now, seven years later, she and Andrew reflect on what was a defining period in their lives, one that brought them closer to each other and gave them a deeper appreciation for their lives together.

"It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through," Sonia says of her surgery and follow-up treatment, "and I couldn’t have gotten through it without Andrew. He deserves a gold medal for what he did for me." Both Andrew’s and Sonia’s parents were also very supportive. Although Sonia’s parents live in India, they arrived within 24 hours of learning of her diagnosis and stayed with her throughout her treatment.

"Sonia had so much to deal with. It was a very emotional time for her," Andrew says. "We had to choose a course of treatment, and I wanted us to make informed decisions. The research was something I could do." After weighing the options, they decided on mastectomy and reconstruction.

One of the most devastating things for Sonia was losing her hair. "I think that was worse than losing my breast," she says. Then her normally straight hair grew back curly. She laughs when she recalls running into a friend who asked her where she’d gotten such a nice perm. "I said, 'you don’t want to know’."

Sonia promised herself that when her treatment was over she would help other women who were dealing with cancer, and both she and Andrew are now American Cancer Society volunteers. They are active in Relay for Life, and Sonia is a Reach to Recovery volunteer. Recently they became involved in the Cancer Survivors Network, a new phone and Internet-based program developed by, and for, cancer survivors and family caregivers, which they praise as an invaluable resource for people dealing with cancer.

"A great thing about the Cancer Survivors Network," Andrew says, "is that it’s there for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can get that extra help and support you need when you need it, regardless of the day or hour."

"I only wish it had been available when I was going through my treatment," Sonia says. "It would have put me in touch with other women my age in the same situation, especially at those times when I was awake at 3AM wondering how I was going to get through one more day."

To reach the Cancer Survivors Network, call toll-free 1-877-333HOPE(4673) or visit www.acscsn.org. The Cancer Survivors Network offers a wide selection of topics on coping with cancer, including: Personal stories told by survivors and caregiver; Living with late and long-term effects; Facing fears of recurrence; Family relationships; and What to do when someone you love has cancer.

Para solicitar información en español, llame al 1-800-ACS-2345. Un especialista en información sobre el cáncer le asistirá en español.


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