Debbie Marks Kahn surrounded by her husband, family, friends and friends of her son at the Museum of Moving Image, all wearing her son's favorite color -- bright or lime green.
© 2012 Mark Jason Photography
Breast cancer survivor since 2009
What does being a Survivor mean to you?
I am strong; I can overcome great adversity, pain, suffering and illness and go on, and be better than before. I can be a source of strength and inspiration for others and help them to know that each one of us can fight to see just one more day. Waking up each day is a gift, and we should never waste it, because it is far too precious. When I look at the world and see nature and see the smiling faces of people and when I feel laughter around me, I know I am in a good place and I feel joy. When I am sad, or in pain, I think of where I have been and what I have gone through and am amazed at my strength. I try to focus on where I want to be and I aim for that place and feel better. And just being able to help other people in any way gives me joy and happiness.
How has being a Survivor affected your life?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. That year was and has remained the worst year of my life. I went through surgery, chemo, developed fat necrosis in my breast and had a mastectomy. One week after my mastectomy, my only child — my son Seth — was run over by a bus while walking across the street in New York City.
I have since made a decision to try to take some kind of control back into my life, because I learned that year that we have no control. I lost 135 pounds, am now eating a healthy diet, exercise regularly and try to stay positive in my life. I help other people, which helps me feel better too. I love what I look like and how I feel and will never go back to what I was before. In 2011, I had breast reconstruction and I feel whole once again!
Having cancer and being a survivor has helped me realize that life is a journey in which we are tested. It is not what happens to you along the way, but how we deal with it and how we overcome it. We can just roll over and play dead and just float on through it. Or, we can consciously make decisions along the way to be in it and just take these challenges as they come and deal with them one at a time. If we do this journey together, we can overcome it. And when you have friends who help you, it certainly makes it easier!
The photo: Debbie was photographed at the Museum of the Moving image surrounded by her husband, Harold, who took care of her when she was sick, as well as her family, friends and friends of her son. They are all wearing bright or lime green — her son's favorite color — because he was there with Debbie during her treatment , and he inspires everything she now does.
Credit: The Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, NY