One survivor’s story: The benefits of a positive attitude and fighting ‘like a girl’

Laurie Burns, a breast cancer survivor and member of Colonial Life’s sales team, provides advice to others battling cancer.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2014

What advice could you possibly share with someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Just ask Laurie Burns of Indian Trail, N.C., who works in sales with Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. Laurie was diagnosed in November 2003 with infiltrating ductal carcinoma.

Tip No. 1: Fight like a girl. “Fight harder. Fight smarter. Fight longer,” she said. “And never ever give up! Attitude is everything. Look at everything as a positive.”

Everything?

Look no further than Tip No. 2: Find yourself completely bald due to your chemo treatments? “Rock it!” Laurie said. “Wear lots of eyeliner and pretty earrings and think how much money you are saving on hair care products, cuts, highlights, etc. And I didn’t have to shave my legs for a year.”

Speaking of hair, there’s Tip No. 3: Ditch the hot, smelling, itchy wig. “You have nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t do anything wrong. Never be ashamed,” she advises.

And keeping in mind that Laurie believes a positive attitude is “everything,” she’s not done. She finds even more benefits to battling cancer.

Tip No. 4: Enjoy the chemo diet. “I hadn’t been that small since my early teens. Don’t try to keep a wardrobe of regular clothes. I lived in hospital scrubs and yoga clothes,” Laurie said.

It would be easy to think that Laurie’s positive attitude developed because her battle with breast cancer was somehow an easy one. You’d be wrong.

Her first surgery in January 2004 was a radical bilateral mastectomy that showed the cancer had spread. The first attempt at a reconstructive surgery followed shortly thereafter.

It was just the beginning of the fight.

Over the next 23 months, Laurie endured 18 surgical procedures. Several of the procedures were done without anesthesia. The wounds forced her to undergo skin grafts, experimental treatments and hyperbaric chamber treatments.

All of the complications forced reconstructive surgery to be taken off the table. But more than 10 years later and still healthy, she is planning to have one more procedure – reconstructive surgery – in early 2015.

“I’m proud, lucky and blessed to say that I am a healthy girl today,” she said.

Positive attitude? Check.

Fight like a girl? Check check.

By Chris Winston

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