Athena Scalise Waitt
Athena Scalise Waitt believes that thriving with cancer is a choice.
Athena Scalise Waitt, born 1965, diagnosed 2007, thriving 2019. Only daughter to my smart successful Greek mother and my deceased warm-hearted and funny CG veteran Italo-American father. Sibling to my BFF sister, and my tough and tender brother. Wife to my soul-mate Scotsman, who I fell in love with in the Eternal City. Mamma to two princesses who mean the world to me, one studious and witty, and the other creative and bright.Despite being on a wellness journey most of my life, thanks to my mother’s food revolution away from processed and back to her Mediterranean roots when I was 12, I have always struggled with my health – allergies, repeated sicknesses, focus, lactose intolerance, etc, which sadly culminated in a stroke in 2005, related to a congenital heart defect most likely combined with a higher risk of clotting blood due to cancer, and then 2 years later, a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis, at the age of 41, with children ages 7 and 4.
Devastating is the word that comes to mind. Heartbroken for my girls and my husband, for the future we might not have together. However, I’m not one to wring my hands and do nothing in the face of a crisis. I learned everything I could about cancer and my options. I would have preferred to follow a natural protocol, but back then studies were vague and expensive, and too many to know which one would be the most likely to work, so I opted to not bankrupt or displace my family without any guarantee of success. Instead, I followed the standards of care covered by insurance and recommended by multiple doctors: lumpectomy, 16 weeks of dose-dense chemo, and 33 radiation treatments, over the course of 9 months. As I write this, it’s hard to believe that all this really happened so long ago, at a time when I wasn’t sure I’d live past the 2-year survivor re-occurrence mark for TNBC patients. I won’t bore you with all the treatment ups and downs, as each of us has our unique experiences of all the glorious and gory forms of torture we endure in the name of saving our lives.
My desire is to share with you something much more important – HOPE. I realized in my studies at the time, that more and more patients were LIVING with cancer, THRIVING with cancer, and not just surviving cancer. Thanks to refinements in diagnosis and treatments, cancer for many is becoming more of a chronic illness, not a death sentence. There are still those tragic outcomes, but thankfully not as many as before. I don’t know why I was spared, maybe God’s not done with me yet, as I am far from perfect and have so much yet that I desire to pay forward through my story and my professional mission “to share wealth through wellness for physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial abundance.”
So what is life like THRIVING through cancer? Whatever YOU make of it. For me, it was embracing a new normal, and over time, for better or worse, resuming some of the old normal. Some people experience an epiphany, others carry their journey on their sleeve, still others just get on with the life they have in front of them as if almost nothing happened. There is no right or wrong way; there is only YOUR way to push forward towards the goal of THRIVING. For me, surviving, sounds so basic, where as thriving sounds so bountiful. Survive Definition: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship. Thrive Definition: to flourish or grow vigorously, and it can be applied to something like a business or to something or someone’s actual health. It’s a choice, no matter how many days are ahead of us; let’s make them abundant, flourishing, vigorous, and most of all filled with HOPE.
–Athena Scalise Waitt, Greater Washington D.C.