I never thought I’d say that this was a good experience. But it has made me a better person than I was before. I’m more compassionate, more appreciative.”
Cindy Ulrich, Cancer Survivor
Cindy Ulrich has an indomitable spirit. Her story is one that sweeps you away with a sense of appreciation for all that you have, reminding you as you hear her speak, that there is much for which to be grateful.
Eighteen years ago Cindy was trying on a dress for her sister’s wedding. Her mother and sisters were with her and by anyone’s account it was a joyful occasion.
“But we each know our own bodies,” Cindy says, “when I was hooking the dress, I felt a lump on my rib. I knew something was wrong and I asked my mother if she agreed.”
Three doctors, one after the other, examined Cindy and determined that it was “nothing.” But this was nearly 20 years ago, she says, and cancer awareness, diagnosis and treatment were not as advanced.
Her friend, the medical director at General Motors, told Cindy that she should have the lump removed immediately – if nothing else, to be safe.
“When I woke up after surgery,” Cindy recalls, “there was a group of people standing around me. I was wondering why.” Then the surgeon came in and said that it was malignant, would require chemotherapy and radiation and…that she might have five years left.
“I gave birth to myself, I tell people,” she says with a hint of humor in her voice. “I spent over nine months in chemotherapy, radiation and recovering from two surgeries.
“It was chilling,” Cindy says. “But he recommended that I read a book by Dr. Susan Love. I not only read the book but years later had the incredible opportunity to have dinner with her.”
“I never thought I’d say that this was a good experience. But it has made me a better person than I was before. I’m more compassionate, more appreciative.”
It was just before Cindy’s 39th birthday when she completed the treatments. She had just enough time at GM to take early retirement. “So, I did,” she says in awe of the thought. “My husband and I moved to Florida to live near my parents and one of my siblings.”
In remission, Cindy recalls how strongly she felt about two things during that time – two things about which she remains resolute:
You know your own body. You are responsible for you. Be vigilant.
Cindy so wanted to give back, to work with those who were experiencing the things that she had experienced, that she became a Marketing and Community Liaison with what is now Tampa Bay Cancer Center. “I love the people I work with, love the doctors and especially the opportunity to speak with patients who need encouragement from someone who does actually know how they feel.”
She is silent for a moment and says, “I am so proud to be a part of this team. We are partners with our patients – partners in their care and healing.”