Cancer Survivor Kelli Mercurio’s Story
Kelli Mercurio of Stroudsburg, PA was a self-proclaimed “schedule stacker”, and already had a full plate when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. “I was 41 when I was diagnosed, after my first mammogram. I received my diagnosis on my son’s 10th birthday. At the time, my parents were living with me and my father had been diagnosed the year before with lung cancer. Our household was cancer times 2. It was not an experience I would have chosen to share with my father, but it was a journey that we took together. He handled himself with such dignity. It was in his weakest moments I saw him exhibit the most strength. We understood each other in a way that we never had before.”
Besides being a wife to John, a mother to Jonathan & Daniel, president of the PTA, working part-time and being active in her church and her sons sports activities – Kelli now had to deal with cancer and the treatment that came along with it. In November 2010 she had a lumpectomy, followed by a surgery to clear the margins & biopsy the sentinel nodes in December 2010. In January 2011 they performed a second margin clearing surgery and then she started radiation (35 treatments) and chemotherapy (Cytoxan & Taxotere).
“The hardest thing for me was being still. So when the effects of the chemotherapy left me in bed for days at a time, it was hard for everyone. My sons did not quite understand why I could not do more. During my own journey, everyday without fail God sent me reminders that I was not alone. I learned the difficult lesson of needing to be still and accepting help from others. I had tremendous support from family and friends. Through my experience, I feel like I gained more than I ever lost. I know that others have not been as fortunate in their battles. I feel very blessed and work daily to make certain that others do not face their journeys alone.
One night, my older son, Jonathan, said to me :”Mommy, was is the worst part about having cancer?” I thought for a moment and said, “Well, it is probably the chemo. It makes me feel pretty sick and I cannot do the things that I would normally do with you. “ But I wanted to find the positive and make this a teachable moment. I said, “Do you know what the best part about having cancer is?” Jonathan thought for a moment and said, “Is it all the meals people are bringing us?” I chuckled and said, “Kind of, yes. Do you see how many people are helping us and supporting us? Taking you to baseball or bringing meals? God put these people in our life for a reason. He never intended for us to go through anything alone. THAT is the best part.”
Kelli feels that sentiment to this day. She is Co-Director of a support based organization: “Two years after I was diagnosed, my friend Vivian (also a breast cancer survivor) started an affiliate branch of Breast Friends in Pennsylvania. Our mission is to help women through the trauma of cancer, one friend at a time.”
And the advice she would give to someone just diagnosed mirrors what she felt got her through treatment: “Allow others to help you through your journey…you cannot do this alone. A friend shared a quote with me right after my diagnosis. She said, “The soft earth absorbs the rain.” She said do not harden yourself to the blessings that others want to give to you. I needed to soak in the love and support that others wanted to shower upon me. And it made all the difference”.
Author’s Note: For more information on “Breast Friends” please visit their website here.