• Duffy Group Practice Leader, 10-Year Survivor Opens Up About Her Cancer Journey: “There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel”

    10-Year Survivor Cancer Journey

    Most people know of the phenomenon in which droves of Americans are quitting their jobs as “The Great Resignation.”

    Sharon Grace, practice leader and executive recruiter at Duffy Group, likes to think of it in different terms – as “The Great Reassessment,” with workers taking a sober look at their lives and new or untapped opportunities.

    For Grace, that moment came 10 years ago when her doctor delivered an unexpected and devasting diagnosis: “You have breast cancer.”

    How, Grace wondered, could lightning strike a family with no history of the disease three times within one year?

    It was 2009 when her sister learned she had Stage 4 breast cancer at the tender age of 39. A year later, Grace’s mom got the grim news that the disease had stricken her, too.

    Having dense tissue in her breasts, Grace was diligent in getting checked. Her mammogram in October 2010 came out clean, yet intuition drove her to see a doctor for a women’s physical a few months later.

    On a cool morning in January 2011, she called Mayo Clinic. As luck would have it, Grace saw the doctor later that week. She encouraged Grace to get her breasts re-checked – just to be sure. Grace agreed that would be a good idea, as she worried that the high level of stress from her job, recent family events and the economic downturn could make her a culprit for the disease.

    Her intuition paid off: tests revealed two masses and a cyst that would need immediate treatment. “It was then that I knew what my full-time job would be,” she recalled.

    Grace dived into her disease like a medical doctor, looking for pieces to the puzzle and their connection to what was determined to be Stage 1 invasive cancer.

    Three months later, she underwent a double mastectomy, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy, and subsequent surgeries and procedures.

    Along with her physical journey back to good health, Grace spent the next year on a path of personal discovery. “I was evolving,” she said, “into what would become my post-breast cancer life.”

    She dabbled in fashion design, took up sewing and found her inner-dancer through ballet classes.

    “My motto was, ‘I don’t want to look back and say I wish I would have done that,’” she said.

    In celebrating 10 years of survivorship, something else about Grace changed. For someone who put cancer in the rear-view mirror, she is now forthcoming in sharing some sage health advice with others, including to follow your intuition, understand and be aware of changes in your body, do your research and don’t be afraid to take action.

    “Throughout the years, I didn’t talk much about it,” she said, referring to the disease. “But now, after meeting other survivors, including younger women, I want to show people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

    Reflecting on her experience and thinking about those words, Grace came to another realization. “I am that bright light and I like my new life,” she said.

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