Super Survivor: ‘Your Whole World Turns Upside Down in a Moment’s Notice’

Super-Survivor-Michelle-BuscherThe call came on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day seven years ago.

Michelle Buscher, then 42 years old, was soundly slumbering, enjoying the last day of a three-day weekend before going back to work. Her phone rang promptly at 8 a.m. The woman at the other end of the line told her that her test results came back. Michelle had lobular invasive carcinoma.

“What did you say?” she asked the woman, waking up her husband, Jerry.

“Honey, you have cancer. You need to come in tomorrow and talk to the surgeon,” the woman explained.

And that quickly, in two short minutes, Michelle’s seemingly perfect life evaporated into a nightmare. “Your whole world turns upside down in a moment’s notice.”

Be Aware Women’s Fair
Michelle is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The seventh annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers, courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa, and their new outfits.

See the reactions of the three Super Survivors when they were surprised with the news.

Michelle’s journey began late summer of 2008 when she found a lump on the upper part of her left breast. She didn’t think much about it because she had found lumps before over the years. They come and go and are typically nothing. This one didn’t go away and began to feel tender when touched.

She scheduled a mammogram for early December, but rescheduled it for the following month to attend a funeral. “They called me back the next day and said they wanted me to come in for another one, because they think they might have seen something on it,” Michelle said.

A sonogram confirmed there was something abnormal. Michelle was scheduled for a biopsy. At the time, “I wasn’t worried about it and really had kind of forgotten about it. I mean, what are the chances I actually had cancer?” she recalled. “I felt great. Surely, you can’t have cancer and feel great?”

Her cancer was diagnosed as Stage 2B. The tumor was an odd shape, like a barbell, which concerned her doctors that it might be breaking off into another tumor.

Michelle had a mastectomy scheduled about two weeks after the cancer was confirmed, which was followed by reconstruction surgery. In March, she began chemotherapy, eight treatments over four months. And that was followed by 30 days of radiation therapy.

The chemotherapy was grueling, but telling her parents and her children—she and her husband have two boys, 23-year-old Jared and 18-year-old Zachary—that she had cancer was one of the worst experiences in her life.

Inspiration for Michelle
Looking back, Michelle can’t imagine going through this journey without the incredible support from her family and friends. She encourages other women to remain positive, as she did during her cancer treatment.

“I’m an advocate for positive thinking no matter how dire your circumstances may be,” Michelle said. “That’s what helped me overcome my cancer.”

Michelle encourages other women to make sure they get their annual checkups and to not ignore the warning signs.

If you’re diagnosed with cancer, “you can’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a fight you can do alone,” Michelle said. “You have to put your guard down and be willing to let other people help you.”