My name is Meagan Wright, I consider myself a breast cancer survivor since 24 years of age. I say ‘consider’ only because when do you actually start calling yourself a survivor?? It took me a long time to figure that out for myself . I now believe it should be the moment of any persons diagnosis. I was diagnosed in late August 2011 in Lancaster, PA where I’ve grown up, though originally from Lebanon, PA. My family, very close friends and I chose Cancer Treatment Centers of America Midwestern Location (quick drive from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport) as my treatment center where I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and massive lymph node removal in September, then a year of chemotherapy. I was young enough that they hit me with a pretty high dose! Looking back now, I realize how incredibly LUCKY and fortunate I was to have such support during surgery and onward. Everything happening so quickly it all seems like a blur of faces and names. Except MOST of these faces and names were and are the ones that counted the most. I can tell you my oncologist Dr. Tlemcani with her knowledge and demeanor was the calm in my storm and wore the most beautiful Moroccan jewelry. I can tell you my surgeons name Dr. Misra and every feature on his face while being wheeled in for surgery. My after-care therapist Dr. Mahboub kept me sane with her free spirit. One particular nurses face and life story ( we’d become VERY close during that year). I REMEMBER the Face and friendship with Tony ( may he rest in peace) my chemo-buddy who walked and talked with me on our ways to or from chemotherapy. He was part of the help/rescue efforts during 9/11. I remember being wheeled out (post-op) waking up and crying for my ‘Daddy’ – Larry Funk, Lebanon whom SOMEONE thankfully found and I remember him holding my pinky finger as I was coming out of anesthesia. I know my family sat vigil during my week or two in recovery. I remember exactly where my Aunt Linda ( Dads sister) would sit along with my Dad and ‘former mentor’ cancer fighter Bill Sheely ( may he rest in Gods eternal embrace ). My cousin Elayne, E-town helped me the morning of my surgery and later sat vigil the first night when my fevers were spiking and I was too scared and confused to be left alone. She slept in a chair and kissed my forehead. My mother Lisa Hauer Funk was there in support as well. During those two years my Dad let me stay at his place to heal and regroup, while steadfastly driving me back and forth for treatment. My two sisters Natalie M. and Adrienne P. were a constant support. Whether by phone or in person. During Dr appointments/chemotherapy both local and in Chicago and finally at Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Center. They’re my sisters- not by blood- but by the glue that holds best friends together from a very young age. Truthfully, these special people, and of course MUSIC ( lots of early Florence and the Machine and Katy Perry) got me through those first two years after my diagnosis.
in 2013 I met my now husband David Wright. I had fallen into a deep depression and had issues with addiction. He pulled me out of my ‘I don’t care anymore’ attitude I had slipped into and gently pushed me through the doors of ABBCI where we met a wealth of dedicated teams and my current Oncologist Dr. Horencamp. It was local and easier for me to receive long-term therapy, physical therapy and any other support needed. Through ABBCI I was connected with the CaRE ( Center Rehabilitation exercise) at the YMCA where I bonded and heard testimonials of other survivors of all ages.
During this time ABBCI hooked me up to be interviewed by M. Diane McCormick and photographed by Donovan Roberts Witmer for Susquehanna Style Magazine regarding my cancer-moving-forward experience. Writing poetry, art, support and most importantly LOVE AND GOD were my saving graces. Especially during the darkest hours. They even had passages from two of my poems I had written that year! She included lines from the ‘happier’ poem, ” Carry your wisdom in your vivacious heart/thumping and pounding in ecstasy/soar because you’re NEW” as well as bits from the other ‘darker’ poem Maritime Lover, “murky salty water/crumbling cliffs”. I couldn’t believe it I was SO GRATEFUL. This gave me a sense of purpose I had lost.
During my entire life I had mental health issues. David and close friends knew how bad my panic attacks, depression and as I like to call it ‘general craziness’ were and had been getting. But through it all they’ve helped me put one foot in front of the other. During the first few years of treatment, I genuinely believe I was killing myself slowly. With medications, or not following the rules it was as if I was rebelling against the cancer that was trying to kill me. But how does one rebel against ones own body without destroying yourself in the process? It took me a long time to shift gears. ABBCI’s team were a constant support. I’m still shifting gears today, only Praise God I’m growing and learning.
Fast-forward a few years that included ups and downs, surgeries and love, old friends and new and education and awareness, and a couple breakdowns as well. Most of all a truly serious bond with Christ and an ever strengthening bond with my husband David. Then in 2016 ABBCI and my Oncologist Dr. Horencamp connected me with Susan G. Komen Philadelphia to participate in their STRENGTH AND SURVIVAL: THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE at the Kimmel Center for The Performing Arts. The message was Breast health education-Uniting cultures-Empowering generations. What a surreal moment to know my my tiny voice would be heard by so many! Including amazing Doctors, nurses, men and women from many cultures and other survivors/families affected by cancer. And OF COURSE to have my husband David in the packed auditorium routing for me and loving me as always was the icing on the cake. Performances by the Philly Pops and incredible singers were an ‘added bonus’!!!! It was the first time I had a real microphone in my hands and as I heard my voice crack with emotion it was okay because I also felt empowered and pictured my microphone as my megaphone. Big a-ha moment for someone who hadn’t felt empowered for a long time!
It’s around the same time of year again as I’m writing this now that I had double mastectomy. God granted me another chance at life. He gave me a husband and stronger relationships with old friends and gave us new relationships all the while weeding out toxic people/negative relationships! Manor Church has undeniably supported David and I in a variety of ways. In volunteering with others who have very serious ‘disabilities’ you get out of your own head and imagine what it must be like in another person’s shoes. God is threading our relationships with other Christians who take us as we are, as well as others who are none secular. The church, our home or the houses of others have been peaceful places of refuge, worship and togetherness. MOST IMPORTANTLY our Pastor John officiated our tiny wedding ceremony in our backyard!
I’ve been down the rabbit hole too many times in my life, and I decided to not stay down there anymore. To fight back, and fight back hard. To drop the’ victim card’ and pick up my second chance at life card. Because when your head hits the pillow each night you better be sure you don’t regret the choices you’ve made that day, or you’ll spend your entire life remembering only the bad times instead of the good. MOVE ON and MOVE FORWARD. Spread awareness of breast cancer however you can because SOMEONE will hear you or see you and then think harder about their own health or the health of a loved one. People need to know that you can get breast cancer at 14 or 77. Cancer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age.
When I was 16 I personally felt a weird lump in my right breast. My mother took me to get it checked out. The Doctor said I was too young to get a mammogram, that it was not possible that it was breast cancer. 8 years later I had two tumors in my right breast. Makes you wonder huh?