NAPLES — Christmas of 2008 brought Suzanne Perry a few surprises.
One exciting: She got engaged.
One disappointing: At 53, the North Naples resident was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I felt sad, angry and humbled,” Perry said. “I believe that’s why God put it on my fiancé’s heart to propose and let me know how much he loved me.”
Now others are stepping up to support Perry in her battle and she is giving back, too.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is pairing up with iWannaHelp.net. They hope to offset an estimated $100,000 for Perry’s treatment.
On Oct. 2 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., Mercato, off of Vanderbilt Beach Road, will host Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which will honor a local individual in our community on the first Friday of every month. Perry will be the fundraiser’s first benefactor.
She is “thankful, grateful and humbled that there are so many loving and supportive people in the Naples community that really want to make a difference in my life and other’s as well.”
Perry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer on Jan. 8. During stage one; her tumor grew to 1.5 centimeters.
Perry is the fourth of six in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My awareness was so limited before I became a breast cancer patient,” Perry said.
Perry has had to endure the battle without insurance.
Charlie Crist passed the Cover Up bill on Jan. 5 2009. Suzanne was diagnosed on Jan. 8 2009. Unfortunately, she was too late and could not receive coverage because of a preexisting condition.
“There are no guarantees on life,” Perry said. “I was a day late and a dollar short.”
According to breastcancer.org, stage I describes invasive breast cancer, (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading neighboring normal tissue) in which: the tumor measures up to 2 centimeters and no lymph nodes are involved.
“I stayed positive. My daily prayer was that God give me courage, strength and good humor,” Perry said.
Perry found the tumor in the first week of Dec. 2008 while she was practicing yoga in her condo.
“My left peck muscle was sore for a few days,” she said. “I started to feel around and investigate but I wasn’t sure if it was a tumor.”
Shortly after, Suzanne went to see a gynecologist, who urged her to go see a surgeon, who later referred her to Naples Diagnostic Imaging Center North, where she was diagnosed with the aggressive gene, Her 2 Nu, on Jan. 8 2009
In Jan. 2009 she under went lumpectomy surgery. In Feb. 2009 she undertook another surgery. This surgery inserted a port into her chest wall where her drugs would be administered to her. She will use this port until March of next year.
“Once they told me I’d need a second surgery, my first thought was no,” Perry said.
However, she says that the surgery has been a blessing. Normally, drugs are administered to breast cancer patients by a needle but, because of the use of the port, she’s able to use her hands.
After her back-to-back surgeries, Suzanne took on the chemotherapy.
“By the grace of God I stayed working.” She has been self-employed at Franco’s Beauty Center since 1981.
Her new vision is to give back because so much has been given to her. She is involved with the American Cancer Society. In Oct. she will go through training to help women in a program called, Looking Good, Feeling Better.
Perry’s expertise of hair will be helpful for women who’ve lost their hair. She will show patients how to use wigs and scarves. During her chemotherapy, she got into scarves. During cancer, the patient loses all body hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows. She is going to teach them how to apply makeup. Also, she is going to help them plan for what they’re going to go through and teach tell them what to expect.
Perry has been staying positive, “the worst is behind me and I’m taking one day at a time.”