Susan Horn: Profile of a Survivor

Susan Horn: Profile of a Survivor

By Sally Absher

 

Anyone who has ever done so knows that running for elected office can be stressful and demanding. We applaud all the candidates who have stepped up to run in the Knox County primary election March 1.

Currently seen as the Fifth District frontrunner, Board of Education candidate Susan Horn is a winner,  regardless of the outcome of the election. She has already beaten one of life’s most dreaded diagnoses – cancer.

Almost five years ago in April 2011, she visited the doctor and began a journey she never expected.  She told us that although she suspected a serious problem, she didn’t share her concern with anyone prior to visiting the doctor.

Women are encouraged to get annual mammograms beginning between age 40 and 50. Horn said, “I was 39 years old and had never had a mammogram, but my doctor wasted no time in scheduling me for one, along with an ultrasound.  After a MRI and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was a very surreal experience.”

During the two previous years, she had walked through breast cancer treatment with an aunt and two very close friends.  “It seemed impossible that I too, could have breast cancer. One of the most difficult aspects of finding out you have cancer is not knowing how bad it is,” she said, adding,  “As a society, we like to be in control of our lives and know everything right away.  When you have a serious health issue, you learn how quickly life can change and waiting becomes a part of life.”

To decrease the odds of having her cancer return, Horn elected to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in June of 2011. In July, she began four rounds of chemotherapy.  She had treatments through the end of September, then more surgeries in October and January.  Fortunately, her cancer was detected early, and was not an aggressive form of cancer.

It’s hard to imagine looking at her now, but she confided, “Knowing I would lose my hair haunted me, since I worried about what it would look like when it came back in.  When it began falling out, I decided to shave it and be done with it!  It was a hard day, but once it was done, I never worried about it again.”

Genetic testing revealed that her particular cancer was not genetically tied, which was a huge relief for her because of her daughters, who were eight and ten at the time.  She said, “I missed so much that summer – driving them to swim practice, swim meets, trips to the park.   It was very difficult for me to let go and allow other people to take care of my girls, but I didn’t have a choice.”

Like many cancer survivors, she is blessed with a strong network of friends and family. She told us, “So many friends and family members stepped in to help and the kids had a great summer!  My precious cousin, Holly secretly arranged for friends to leave anonymous gifts on my doorstep during those months. My friends and family were truly the hands and feet of Christ and I’ve never felt more loved!”

She is also thankful for teachers and parents in Knox County Schools. She was PTA President at Farragut Intermediate School in the midst of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries.  She was able to time her treatments so that she didn’t miss anything and could carry on with all of her responsibilities. She adds, “Our Board was full of competent, responsible parents who carried on without missing a beat!  The other parents, teachers, and the administration at FIS were a huge source of encouragement to me!  I still have a pair of pajamas my older daughter’s teachers gave to me in a goody basket before one of my surgeries.”

Horn also credits her strong faith with helping her through this difficult time, saying, “Even through all I endured, I would not trade this experience for anything!  I’ve been a Christian all my life, but something amazing happens when you completely rely on God and relinquish control. I love to remember God’s faithfulness to me during this time and the absolute peace He gave me. “

She added, “I’ve been able to talk with so many women over the past four years who are just finding out they have cancer.  It has been very healing to be able to help someone walk a road I have walked.  I am a more compassionate person now and my perspective has forever changed.”

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