Marilyn Hull sits in her favorite chair. And she talks about breast cancer.
“I went in for a routine mammogram three years ago,” Hull says.
But the results were not routine, and doctors told Hull they were concerned. Hull, who says she was frightened about her diagnosis, knew she wanted to keep her family informed.
“I was worked up into an anxious state,” she says about an appointment for a biopsy.
She drew strength from her sisters. They offered support — and motivated her to get rid of the disease.
“It creates an intense feeling of fear, and a lot of it has to do with the unknown,” Hull said, speaking softly.
But after talking with her doctor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, she learned her situation was not hopeless. Her Stage I breast cancer was treatable. She had two surgeries, and then began an 18-month regimen of chemotherapy and radiation.
Hull remembers thinking: “I am going to be dealing with this for a really long time.”
Hull talked about her upcoming chemotherapy with her hairdresser, who offered to shave her head when she began to lose her hair. After the second treatment of chemotherapy, her hair began to fall out in clumps. She decided to take her hairdresser up on that offer.
“I had never thought of myself as a ‘hair’ person, but I realized your hair is part of your identity,” Hull said.
Not having it, she said, branded her as a cancer patient. She wasn’t eager to share her troubles with the world, and she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her.
During the grueling final six weeks of treatments, Hull decided she wanted to participate in the annual Relay for Life, a community event to celebrate survivorship and raise money for research and programs for the American Cancer Society.
“I needed something to look forward to, something to help me celebrate getting through my cancer,” she said.
She helped organize a team with a friend who was going through treatments at the same time.
“Cancer has made me stronger; I am a happier person now,” Hull said. “It has changed my life and I feel a much greater sense of urgency to live my life.”