Find a doctor/medical team that you feel confident with. I once had a doctor that did not look at me when she talked to me. This gave me the impression that she was not seeing me as a person, so I sought a second opinion and it changed my whole experience for the better!
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ivy King.
Ivy King, who was treated for breast cancer at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, is a twice cancer survivor. She survived a bout with sinus cancer 30 years ago and more recently was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. She recently retired from 40 years of federal employment and now in her spare time hopes to inspire others who are battling cancer.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I had a normal childhood. I was an excellent student in grade school and was raised by both parents. There was never a dull moment as I grew up with six siblings. Later I had a 40-year career working in the federal government. While working full time I was a single parent who raised one son.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s not about the problem but what can be done to resolve it and to do what is needed to get through it.
When I have a problem, I may sulk or stress over it. However, once the shock has worn off then I research different options for the best one to handle the situation.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
A tumor was discovered in my right sinus cavity 30 years ago. It was discovered after a two-year period of doctor visits involving many misdiagnoses. There was a wide range of symptoms including the inability to breathe through my nostril, headaches, drainage, and nosebleeds that had to be treated in the emergency room. Eventually the tumor began to grow and was visible outside of my nose. This was a very rare type of cancer.
As for the breast cancer, I found what I thought was a small pimple/bump on my right breast. I had already scheduled an appointment for a full physical. I showed the bump to the doctor during the physical. This physical included a mammogram. After the mammogram and an ultrasound were performed, the pimple/bump was found to be cancerous.
I started my journey with breast cancer at a downtown Chicago hospital but quickly decided to get a second opinion at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center where I felt like would be a better fit. I felt confident with my care at Illinois Masonic because it had a tumor board and an entire group of specialists and doctors making the decisions on my case. Not just one doctor calling all the shots.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The scariest part of the sinus cancer was having the tumor removed. Plastic surgery was performed because my face had to be cut open to remove the tumor. Also, a skin graft was needed to repair the incision. Special attention had to be paid due to the tumor being near my brain stem. The worst thing I thought could happen was I would die or become facially disfigured. I was also afraid that the radiation could damage my brain.
The breast cancer diagnosis was not extremely scary since I knew the bump was discovered relatively early. Due to the bump being on the surface and so small, I hoped extensive surgery would not be required. I was disappointed to be diagnosed with cancer for a second time. I thought that the worst that could happen would be needing a mastectomy. However, I think this just goes to show that every journey through cancer is unique.
How did you react in the short term?
In the short term, I cried a lot regarding both diagnoses. After getting over the shock, I was determined to do my best and be the best patient possible.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
In both circumstances, I learned to pray and trust God. I learned to meditate and utilize visualization techniques. I was also grateful to be alive and defeat cancer two times. I appreciated the doctors, specialists and medical teams that treated me with both cancers. The sinus cancer was more difficult to treat due to being so rare.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
I would like to thank Dr. Michael Friedman, Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, for his extensive knowledge and research in treating such a rare case as mine and my having such an excellent outcome. I would also like to thank my best friend Brenda Williams and my son Marshawn King. Brenda was there for me day or night to console and support me with a positive outlook. My son encouraged me to have faith and be fearless. As he does the same, while going through kidney dialysis.
For my breast cancer care, shortly after coming to Advocate Illinois Masonic, I was referred to Dr. Celeste Cruz. The first time I met with Dr. Cruz I knew this was going to work. She’s a real blessing. And not only that but the radiation team and Dr. Ann Mauer were wonderful too. Every day I came in I laughed. Sometimes I even forgot my purpose for coming to the hospital. The environment was very conducive to healing.
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
I think cancer would want me to realize that sometimes the things you are giving value to are not what is important and to make sure to reevaluate and take time for the things that are.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I learned that I am stronger than I thought I was and to face my fears. It has also taught me to lean on God and believe that miracles really do happen.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
After being successfully treated for the sinus cancer, my case was presented to an international medical conference and documented in a medical journal.
I also was a recent speaker at and Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center breast cancer event this summer where I shared my story of diagnosis and shared advice to other patients going through similar experiences.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
Everybody who has cancer does not die. Never lose hope. My advice is to stay positive and make sure you trust your instincts and are confident with your medical team.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
- Get a second opinion, in both instances, my cancer was successfully treated by the doctors I received the second opinion from.
- Find a doctor/medical team that you feel confident with. I once had a doctor that did not look at me when she talked to me. This gave me the impression that she was not seeing me as a person, so I sought a second opinion and it changed my whole experience for the better!
- Trust your instincts. You must be able to trust whomever you work with to treat your cancer.
- Take time to find laughter and stay positive.
- Find a support group. It was very helpful to be able to talk to people who understood what I was going through.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I would form a movement based on the fact that cancer is not always a large mass. It can be as small as a pimple.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Al Green or the Isley Brothers. Songs from both artists are uplifting to me.
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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!