September 15, 2015

Woman Enjoying Life Despite Fighting Cancer

Sept. 15, 2015|Suzanne Gatewood is enjoying life. Though she has been fighting breast cancer for 12 years, she says her outlook on life is more positive now than ever.

“Before I went through this I wasn’t really living my life to the fullest,” she said. “That has changed. Now I don’t take my time for granted and I deliberately enjoy every moment.”

In 2004, Gatewood, of Russellville, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She went through standard forms of treatment and was cancer free for three years. But in 2008, doctors told her the cancer had not only come back, but also metastasized to her bones. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and has been in treatment ever since.

“I was devastated when I first received the diagnosis,” Gatewood said. “Because there’s no cure. It was scary. But now, I just hang in there, hang on to hope and continue to fight.”

Issam Makhoul, M.D., director of the UAMS Division of Hematology/Oncology and associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine, learns something from each of his patients. Makhoul says Gatewood’s happy and optimistic outlook on life has rubbed off on him.

“I remember she told me she was going to see a Broadway play in New York,” Makhoul said. “When she returned she was full of energy and enthusiasm and I said, ‘You know what? I believe I’ll go to New York, too.’”

“Sometimes the treatments are not easy,” Makhoul said. “Patients feel sick and tired. But Suzanne has never lost hope. That’s what I learn from her: live every day one day at a time. She is inspiring to me.”

Breast cancer can spread to the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, brain and bones.
Sometimes breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body and enters a phase of dormancy, even as long as 15 years, before becoming active again.

By maintaining her cancer treatments, “we have been able to keep the disease at bay,” Gatewood said. “I realized I would just keep living and treating it like I would any other terminal illness: one day at a time. It’s turned out to be not so devastating because I’m living life and living well through all of it.”

Gatewood tells others in similar situations to not be overcome with discouragement.

“You can still have a good quality life. I’m living proof that there is hope,” Gatewood said.