Faces of survival: Shirley Arens



FAMILY: Husband, David; four grown stepchildren and eight stepgrandchildren

OCCUPATION: Domestic engineer

DIAGNOSED: June 2006

WHAT HELPED: My close friend Miriam Jerome helped me. I had a sister who had cervical cancer 10 years ago who called me several times a day. I had a doctor who had faced leukemia. I had a lot of inspirational people encouraging me.

OUTLOOK: Cancer gives you a new perspective on everything. It's like you get another chance at life. I've decided I'm going to do the things I like to do. My husband doesn't like to dance, but I do. My girlfriends and I go to Cadillacs and go club dancing.

ADVICE: It is so important for women to get a mammogram every year. I started getting them when I was 40. It was just instilled in me. My cancer developed in a one-year period. I had breast cancer and one year before I did not.

PERSONAL: It was embarrassing losing my hair. I didn't feel great but I was lucky: I didn't get as sick as some people do. After the surgery, I dealt with lymphodema. That will never go away. This June I had to get an injection because my estrogen level was elevated -- which is not a good sign. I'm still dealing with things related to the breast cancer. This experience isn't over.