Focusing on the Future
Two-time cancer survivor runs to support the AACR and research for patients and survivors touched by cancer.
Sarah Happy, just out of college, was at work one day when her left arm suddenly went numb. As she rubbed her arm to work out the tingling that ran down to her hand, she noticed a bump she hadn’t felt before.
Sarah quickly set up an appointment with her family physician – the man who had been her doctor for all of her 22 years. He found that she had multiple, palpable tumors on her neck and he knew almost immediately that she had cancer.
The recent University of Michigan graduate and aspiring lawyer had lymphoma. Stunned by the diagnosis, Sarah put her plans for law school on hold to undergo treatment. She soon began a six-month regimen of chemotherapy, followed by two months of radiation therapy because the cancer was so extensive.
Ten months after her diagnosis, Sarah was cancer-free.
"I had a good prognosis. I had what they like to call the good cancer because it is generally treatable with chemotherapy," she said. "I had a lot of it, which is why I had the radiation, but they were fairly confident that it wouldn’t come back."
Sarah celebrated this milestone with friends and family at an Ann Arbor restaurant and resumed her focus on law school. Working as a law clerk, she reapplied to law school and was accepted at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Around this time, she went on her first date with Noah, the brother of her childhood best friend. During her treatment, Noah had reconnected with Sarah, checking on her regularly to make sure she was eating and sleeping. He then helped her through the sometimes difficult transition from cancer patient to survivor.
As Sarah prepared for her move to Philadelphia to begin school, a routine Pap test came back abnormal. The subsequent biopsy – performed the day before she drove from Michigan to Philadelphia– found early-stage cervical cancer. Sarah returned to Michigan for surgery to remove the cancer.
Six months later, however, the cervical cancer returned. After another operation, Sarah was once again declared cancer-free. Ever since, she has been closely monitored, and reports the cancer has not returned.
Cancer, however, remains an ever-present element in Sarah’s life. The side effects of her treatments include chronic pain and persistent ulcers, which require ongoing treatment.
Meanwhile, Sarah and Noah have gained yet another perspective on cancer. Noah’s sister, Sarah’s close friend, is also engaged, but was forced to postpone the wedding when her fiancé was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer.
Sarah’s experiences and her connections with physicians skilled in cancer survivorship issues, have brought home to Sarah the importance of research.
As part of her recovery from an unrelated illness, Sarah began working out and started running – an activity she never expected to enjoy. To her own surprise she did begin to enjoy it, and is training to participate in the AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia events that feature a 5K, 10K, and half marathon.
"I'm an AACR Foundation Ambassador because I think it’s important as a survivor to talk about what the AACR is doing and make sure that people, not only cancer patients but cancer survivors, know about the latest in science," she said. "I'm doing as well as I am because I’ve had access to doctors that have the best training and know what is going on in the research."