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Washington Hospital's Annual Celebration of Life Offers Hope

April 29, 2014

Four years ago Sherry Higgs woke up one morning and noticed swelling in her breast. Had she not been so proactive at getting it accurately diagnosed and treated, she might not be here today.

Despite being told it was probably just an infection, Higgs insisted on a biopsy. She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a very rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. IBC progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months, according to the National Cancer Institute.

At the time she was 43 with a 7-year-old daughter. Higgs underwent a year of intensive treatment that included chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Now cancer-free, she is a testament to taking action and making the most of a challenging situation. She started a blog (Boob is just Bob with an "O") to share her experience and raise awareness about IBC, and has made her life's work about helping people with cancer.

Higgs will be one of the speakers at Washington Hospital's 5th Annual Celebration of Life on Thursday, May 8. Cancer survivors, their friends and loved ones are invited to this inspirational evening and dessert reception. Speakers will talk about how their cancer diagnosis has allowed them to grow and find renewed strength and zest for life.
Register by May 5

The Celebration of Life will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Register by May 5 online at www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.
"The Celebration of Life brings together patients, caregivers, and health care professionals to show support and celebrate the cancer survivors in our community," said Dr. Vandana B. Sharma, medical director of the Oncology Program and Cancer Genetic Program at Washington Hospital. "There will be a welcome session where participants can socialize, several cancer- related information tables and booths, a welcome address, a physician talk, and a few short presentations from cancer survivors about their personal journey."
Dr. Sharma will welcome attendees and offer opening remarks, which will be followed by the panel of speakers.

'I Can Change My World"

Higgs will talk about her journey from discovery to advocate. She lives by the motto: "I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my world one person at a time."
She is on a mission to raise awareness about cancer and help those who are living with the disease. Higgs particularly wants people to know about IBC, which can be difficult to diagnose, according to the National Cancer Institute. Often, there is no lump that can be felt during a physical exam or detected in a mammogram. And because it is so aggressive, IBC can flare up between scheduled screenings and progress quickly.

"I just think it's important to take an adverse situation and make it something, if at all possible, that can change the quality of your life and the life of those around you," Higgs said. "To take the fear and the complication and try to shine a light for other people. There is no manual for cancer. My message is to keep hope alive. You don't have to lose your spirit to cancer."

Dr. Sharma is also on a mission when it comes to fighting cancer. "I am dedicated to ensuring that our community has access to high quality cancer care in a supportive and caring environment that is close to their home," she said. "Washington Hospital's cancer program is accredited by the Commission on Cancer and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and has received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer since 2009."