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Celebrating Survivors: Susan Mars finds hope in the support of others

October 9, 2018

Susan Mars saw several women diagnosed with breast cancer at her job in the Women’s Breast Health and Imaging Center at Aiken Regional Medical Centers. She never expected that she herself would become one of those women.

A routine mammogram at the center detected a mass, which led to an MRI, which led to a blind biopsy. After all the testing, Mars was diagnosed in October in 2016 with breast cancer.

“I was devastated,” Mars said. “My husband was there, and we just looked at each other, you know?”

Mars said that her medical training and experience in the center helped her process the news, but it didn’t make having to experience it any easier.

“Doctors try to tell you all the different options you have, but at that point you can’t hear anything,” Mars said.

Mars felt sick for a year before being diagnosed with cancer. She often felt fatigued and struggled to get out of bed, though at the time, she didn’t know why.

“I was just tired,” Mars said. “I didn’t know what was wrong. My husband made biscuits from scratch for breakfast, he would let me sleep in later.”

In January 2017 Mars began chemotherapy. She also underwent surgery for a double mastectomy, as her doctors told her there was a chance the cancer could return within five years in her other breast.

“The first day of chemo was not that bad,” Mars said. “It was the next day. Oh my goodness, that pain that you have in your body, and the smells and the nausea, and not being able to eat.”

Mars also experienced pain from her surgery. She had difficulty doing simple tasks like writing and stapling things. Her coworkers bought special grips for her pens to help her write while she underwent physical therapy to regain motion and control in her hands and arms.

In spite of the pain she was in, Mars didn’t let her battle with cancer slow her down. She compared herself to the Energizer Bunny mascot in that she “just kept going.”

“I know me, so I knew I had to keep going,” Mars said. “I had chemo, rested, went back to work on Monday. I got to keep moving.”

Mars credits two things to helping her power through her surgeries and chemo treatments: support and prayer.

“You have to try to be as positive as you can,” Mars said. “Try to stay strong. To me, a spiritual routine is very important, and of course, support from whomever you can get, whether it is family, friends or coworkers.”

Mars said that her husband was “excellent” throughout the whole experience, and her coworkers at ARMC were a constant source of strength, even when she was walking down the halls of the hospital.

“You need that cause you have a bald head!” she joked.

Mars said that research also helped her understand her illness better and taught her how to take care of herself during treatments, especially when it came to her diet.

For people who are trying to support someone diagnosed with breast cancer, Mars said that sometimes listening is the best thing you can do.

“Sometimes you don’t always need an answer, even if you’re just boo-hoo crying,” Mars said. “You just need someone to listen.”

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