Shelia Arasmith won’t let breast cancer keep her from living
Editor’s note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Columbus Telegram is publishing a week-long series, “Think pink,” sharing the stories of community members who battled or are currently battling breast cancer. The series started on Tuesday; read previously published stories on columbustelegram.com. The Telegram’s masthead is also pink this week instead of its normal red to commemorate the month.
Shelia Arasmith, 52, said she aims to live a healthy lifestyle. She exercises, does yoga and tries to eat right. So she didn’t expect anything to come from her yearly physical.
She even considered putting it off for a year but went in for a doctor visit in March. The tests all came back clean, but when the doctors performed a mammogram, they noticed something unusual.
“I had no idea there was anything wrong with me. I felt perfectly fine,” Arasmith said. “(The doctor) told me right then and there, ‘I think it’s cancer.’ I was strangely calm. I just said, ‘OK,’ and I sat there.”
A biopsy would later confirm that Arasmith had an aggressive and invasive form of breast cancer.
“That is an angry cancer, (the doctor) said. Your cancer is very angry, which that didn’t make me feel good,” Arasmith said.
The cancer had spread to one of her lymph nodes. Four days after the biopsy, Arasmith went in for major surgery. She had surgery on a Friday, went shopping with her daughter on Saturday, and then reported for work at Immanuel Lutheran Daycare on Monday.
“The reason I came back to work on that Monday was I just needed to be by these kids,” she said. “It’s a great environment here. It’s my second home.”
Arasmith said her family and co-workers were quite supportive of her while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The director of the daycare, Lynn Vollbracht, is a breast cancer survivor. Upon hearing about her illness, Vollbracht said she told Arasmith she had her full support.
“You tell me the days that you need to go home and rest, you do that. But if you feel like being here, then this is the place that you need to be,” Vollbracht said. “Being around the kids, they say silly things, they make you laugh, they share love, it’s just sometimes good to around that childlike love.”
Arasmith said she really appreciates her co-workers/friends being there for her.
“She has been great support for me,” Arasmith said of Vollbracht. “Just being here and having Lynn here and all the staff, I can’t imagine it being any other way. I can’t imagine not having the support and just being here.”
Arasmith was open to the kids at the daycare about her health. She said she shared her cancer experience with them in a way they would understand and that wouldn’t scare them. Her message to the children is that doctors are here to help and not to be afraid of them.
“They all know that I had an ouchie inside my body and that the doctor had to take it out. And now I have to take medicine,” she said.
The type of breast cancer Arasmith comes back in one in three women within 10 years after removal, Arasmith said. Currently, she’s taking medicine until April to help reduce the chances of the cancer returning. She recently finished up with her chemotherapy and will finish with radiation treatment at the end of next week.
Arasmith said she appreciates everyone in her life who have gone out of their way to lend her a helping hand.
“I’m so grateful for my husband and mom and dad and daughter and son-in-law,” she said. “And they help me get through every day with a simile,” she said.
Recently, Arasmith’s daughter gave birth to a daughter of her own three weeks ago. The now-grandmother said she plans on being involved in her granddaughter’s life for many years to come.
“When you hear about breast cancer or any type of cancer, you automatically think of all the people who die from it. But the thing that I have learned in having been diagnosed with breast cancer is all the people who have survived from it. The survival stories are amazing,” she said. “I think it’s all about attitude because I always thought if I ever get cancer, it’s going to be horrible. It’s going to be the end of the world. But you know, I have just refused to let it take over my life.”
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.