FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10) – In her new book, a Franklin County woman describes cancer as an uninvited guest.
It showed up in her in 30s, stayed a while, and now her written story provides hope to other women and mothers.
In front of a room full of women at a book signing, Susan Parris has a way with words.
Each person listens as she details the road that led her to writing.
As a banker, Susan never thought she would be in front of a crowd standing beside her own oversized book cover.
“I really felt it was something God wanted me to do,” she explained. That something is the book “Cancer Mom” and it’s touching the hearts of women across the nation.
Forty people showed up on a Thursday afternoon at the Franklin County Public Library to hear Susan speak and sign their copies.
Each one has a connection to her story of survival.
“I think anytime you’ve heard the word ‘cancer,’ through a family member or a friend, you are endeared to people who have been on that journey and that’s why I was drawn to Susan, I think,” explained Barbara Robertson, who read “Cancer Mom” in just one day.
“She didn’t gloss over how hard this road is and I think that drew me to the book, because it wasn’t just a – yes, I had cancer. Yes, I survived. It was, here are the ugly parts of cancer and I’m willing to talk about them,” continued Robertson.
It doesn’t get any uglier for Susan than two doctors misdiagnosing her uncommon, aggressive form of breast cancer.
“His words to me, I’ll never forget were, ‘Susan, you have nothing to worry about’ and I believed him,” she recalled.
Susan describes the spot feeling like a peppercorn. It was small and solid, but over six months the spot got bigger and bigger and she finally decided no matter what it was it had to come out.
That meant a third opinion.
“They took the biopsy and the doctor looked at me and he said we have several places of concern.”
A few days later, Susan and her husband, Stan, received the call confirming what she had feared for months.
“My husband and I, I told him that day. We can’t eat. We can’t sleep. We can’t do anything. You get on one computer and I’m going to get on another computer, we have to learn everything we can about this disease. Within 48 hours, I was accepted into three hospitals, I had appointments at three hospitals – at Duke, at MD Anderson in Houston, and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore,” Susan recalled.
With two boys, ages 3 and 5, Susan thought she would pick one of the hospitals closest to home.
When visiting MD Anderson Cancer Center, she learned researchers were starting a clinical trial, but the day she arrived the doctor said, “’That trial is closed,’ and I looked at him and said if I was your daughter what would you do for her and he said I would put her in that trial and I said can you not do that for me and I just begged him and he said I will, I will,” she said.
Susan underwent 32 chemotherapy treatments in 13 months spending almost an entire year away from her sons.
Later she would learn it was worth it.
She was given the drug and not the placebo. That drug, Herceptin, has been named a medical breakthrough.
Susan documented her journey in a journal that would grow into her book.
“When I was there and I was a young mom, there weren’t as many survival stories of young moms at that time and I realized that stories of survival bring you hope,” said Susan.
Her story even brought hope to Reagan Hunley when doctors found a brain tumor.
Reagan immediately asked to talk with Susan.
“She’s very encouraging and I knew that she’d been through a lot,” Reagan explained. “I want to listen to her because she knows, like, she just knows, she’s been through the same thing, so she can relate.”
At the book signing, Reagan’s mom, Julie, picked up her second copy of “Cancer Mom” to loan out.
“She’s just an amazing woman and going to continue to reach so many people through this book and just through her testimony,” Julie said.
This year, Susan will watch her oldest son graduate from high school.
It’s a big victory for a mom whose first prayer after hearing, “you have breast cancer,” was to live long enough to watch him graduate from kindergarten.
“I think what I want people to realize is that utterly amazing things can come out of very broken places in our life and we can’t always see that,” she said.
The path is very clear now for Susan, she’s helping others find their way.