Roberta Schwartz

Roberta Schwartz

It has been 17 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer—17 beautiful years filled with experiences and memories.  I now have a husband, three beautiful children, and a wonderful career.   I have moved to a new state and have nearly completed a doctorate.  One might say that I am the perfect survivor story. 

My survivor story is no different than most—except, perhaps, for my age at diagnosis.  I was 27 when I was diagnosed with a Stage I breast cancer.  The lump was found under my arm by an obstetrician who referred me to a breast surgeon. He was convinced that it was benign, but much to his surprise and mine, I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  I spent most of my 27th year completing my course of treatment with two lumpectomies, one mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy and reconstruction at Beth Israel and Weill Cornell in New York City.

Breast cancer wasn’t the only thing that happened while I was 27.  I was introduced to my now incredible husband in the fall—six months after diagnosis.  He loved me in spite of my treatment (and unsightly hair).  He said that I had a “glow” but the first night he didn’t realize it was due to the chemo. 

Since my diagnosis, not every day has been perfect and rosy.  I lost my mother and a great uncle who were very important in my life.  I gave birth to three children—one of whom has a serious neurological condition.  No one promised that life will be perfect as a survivor—in fact, you survive to live life with all of its ups and downs.  But, you look at life differently. 

I have learned to celebrate both the good and the bad.  I made a choice to have children, despite the concerns that the cancer would return and my husband would have the unbalanced, singular burden of raising the children.  I never gave up my career and loved growing professionally in healthcare administration.   Working is not always perfect—but I love the challenges and celebrations of the hospital.  I got the amazing pleasure of starting the Young Survival Coalition for young survivors, moving to Texas and now, have almost finished a Ph.D. 

I love life.  I love waking up each day and seeing the sun shine.  I love walks around the neighborhood, seeing the flowers bloom in the spring and the crisp, cold mornings of the fall.  I love going to work each morning and coming home to my children each evening.  I love friends and family, travelling and going to local celebrations. 
Seventeen years is a long time.  I used to look in awe at the women who were long-time survivors—wondering if I would ever achieve those years.  Now, I am one of those survivors.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I live each day as though it could be a final one. 

We should all be thankful to Emma, who reaches all of us with a loving spirit.  From each time she starts an e-mail or call with “darling,” you can’t help but smile.  She reaches out to all who are in a challenging time and makes sure that they are not alone.  She embodies the spirit of living each day and welcomes new friends into her fold.  She raises money for a cure and makes most of us feel that we aren’t doing enough for the cause. 

My goal is to be with my family for many years to come and to continue to contribute to society, professionally and personally.   If you are connected with Emma, I have no doubt that each of you will do the same.