Survivor Portrait Gallery

Theresa Dering

Middletown, NY
Age 48
Breast cancer survivor since 2007

What does being a Survivor mean to you?
It means rising each morning with a determination to conquer the day. It means taking the time to find the joy in my little corner of the world and to try to bring joy to the lives of others. It means seeking out the beauty and the goodness in people and surrounding myself with it. It means letting go of fear and holding on to hope.

How has being a Survivor affected your life?
When I was first diagnosed, breast cancer was the focus of my every waking moment. I learned everything I could about my disease, and I studied the various treatment options. I educated myself about reoccurrence statistics, survival rates and reconstruction options. I dreamed of the day when I could say it was “over” and I was a “survivor.” I did all of this to try to maintain some sort of control over what was happening to me.

As I moved through treatments and surgeries, I realized that I was a survivor from the moment I was diagnosed — it was not a light at the end of the tunnel, but rather a thread that was woven into the tapestry of my life. I didn’t have to wait for some magical moment to claim the title of survivor — I was a survivor from the moment I hear those dreaded words…”you have breast cancer.” Now survivor is a word that I use to describe myself. Wife, friend, scientist, amateur photographer, student, survivor….all are words that describe who I am.

I have also come to realize a depth of courage that I never knew that I had. Who knew I had such grit and tenacity?! More than a survivor, I am a warrior.

How would you like to be photographed?
I’d like to be photographed with my camera in my hand near the water. I purchased my camera two weeks before I was diagnosed, so capturing images of my life and the world around me has been a big part of my journey through breast cancer.

At first, it was a hobby that kept me busy but then it turned into a way of documenting the tapestry of my life — and it continues today. I love to look at the world through the camera lens and capture the details of life that people are sometimes too busy to notice.

Learn about Survivor Portrait Gallery and how to become a featured Survivor.