Local breast cancer survivor giving back

Christina Elmore/Staff Breast cancer survivor Sue Young was awarded Susan G. Komen Lowcountry’s Charlene Daughtrey award.

Sue Young, 52, of Goose Creek was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2005. Through her journey back to health, Young came to exude strength, humility and above all the will to survive.

The Lowcountry Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure honored Young with its Charlene Daughtrey Award for her dedication to the organization and her courage to endure while inspiring others to do the same.

Seven years ago while taking a shower Young felt a lump the size of a quarter in her right breast, but her first thoughts weren’t of cancer. There was no history of the disease in her family. Something akin to an inflamed fibroid seemed far more likely.

She still had trouble believing the truth days later when her diagnosis was confirmed.

“The first words I said were, ‘Not me, not cancer,’ ” Young said.

On the road to survival Young faced surgery, eight rounds of chemotherapy and a month of constant radiation.

She encountered changes to her body that she never expected.

Doctors made it clear that her hair would fall out from rounds of chemo — she said in retrospect she wishes she shaved her hair off at the beginning rather than suffer through the gradual process — but she was shocked when the treatment caused her finger and toe nails to fall out as well.

While coping with her new reality, Young found comfort in reading “Promise Me,” a book written by Susan G. Komen’s sister, Nancy Brinker.

“I read Nancy Brinker’s book in one evening. I opened it up and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. It inspired me to believe that because of what she did, my diagnosis was found early, my treatment was a given and doctors knew what to do.

“It was detrimental to my life at the moment, but it was a hurdle to get over and I did,” Young said.

The book inspired her to attend a survivor’s luncheon held by Komen Lowcountry.

“That atmosphere was warm and loving and kind and giving. I don’t think I knew but two people there and I didn’t even know that they would be there. I went all by myself, but it’s one of those groups where you’re automatically welcome,” Young said.

Young volunteered with Komen regularly after her first luncheon. She contributed largely through her creative and planning skills, such as inspiring a Wizard of Oz-themed survivor celebration called “Tie One On.”

“It’s not only that (Young) came to our door and said, ‘I think I’m ready to volunteer.’ It’s her not even waiting for us to pick up the phone and call her. It’s her coming in and saying, ‘I have this great idea.’

“Not only was she bringing enthusiasm and commitment, but we could see the opportunity for her to grow with other parts of Komen,” Taffy Tamblyn, Komen Lowcountry’s executive director, said.

Now, Young is serving as a co-chair of the Lowcountry Race for the Cure’s survivor tent.

“I was motivated to give back because maybe, after another 25 years, my nieces won’t have to suffer what I did,” Young said.

When Young looks back on her experience with can-cer she said she doesn’t see tragedy. Instead, she sees a turning point in her life that exposed her to a community of women that she’s grateful to know.

“If you can look back on a life and see the hope and see the courage while they’re facing death, it’s just tremendous. ... Since that first survivors meeting I’ve been surrounded by a group of women that were professional, they were caring, they were active and they gave 110 percent.

“I can’t say whether I measure up with them, but I like being that kind of person. If you surround yourself with those kind of people then you can be one.

“We’re all fighting for the same cause. I love being a part of a group that has vision and that has the energy to go above and beyond and continue to give back no matter what,” Young said.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.