SU2C Survivor Stories: Noriko Kneip Stands Up
Posted on June 4, 2012, 9:41 AM
Noriko Kneip, 43, was first diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma when she was 15. After a full recovery, she was later diagnosed with cervical cancer and breast cancer in her thirties and forties.
SU2C had the opportunity to speak with Noriko and learn more about her journey. She is now cancer free, and training for the New York Marathon as a member of Team SU2C.
How did you learn you had non-Hodgkin lymphoma at 15?
I was living in Japan at the time. The protocol in Japan was to have yearly check-ups that schools would fund and organize. There was an X-ray truck that came to my school, and that took chest X-rays of all of the students. My cancer was identified during the X-ray. At first they thought it might be a mistake, but it was stage IV.
At the time, what did you know about this type of cancer?
I had no clue what it was. I was so young and so oblivious, and the Japanese doctors at the time operated differently. They weren’t forthcoming about the diagnosis, nor were my parents. I took a year off from school. I was in the hospital and just went along with the treatment plan my parents and doctors suggested. I didn’t know exactly what my prognosis was, but it never occurred to me that it was life threatening. My parents remained so normal and optimistic, so I never had the fear of dying. I figured once I finished the treatment, I would be cured.
How did you later learn that you had breast cancer and cervical cancer?
I went through college, got married and settled down in Seattle. My treatment for lymphoma was really aggressive. I had done several rounds of really intense chemo, along with some intense radiation. At the time they didn’t warn me that it’s actually quite common for children who have cancer to develop a secondary cancer as a result of the radiation. I had been having regular check-ups, and I got to know an oncologist in Seattle, and who told me I might be at risk for developing another type of cancer. She told me that she wanted to keep a close eye on me.
I turned 30 and had my first child. I was vacationing in Mexico and felt a lump on my breast, and I just knew. I went back to Seattle and got checked, and sure enough it was breast cancer. It was stage I, and they weren’t sure if I should have a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Since I went through chemo [when I was 15], they were really cautious about what to put in my body. I had a lumpectomy along with chemo and radiation treatment. The tumor went away with the treatment and I was sent on my way.
In 2010, I had been continuing routine mammograms and getting MRIs every six months. They found more suspicious areas on my other breast and they found out it was DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), and the only cure is a mastectomy, so I had one.
Not long after this, my doctors found that my abnormal check ups were the result of an early stage cervical cancer. I had a biopsy, continued to have irregular check-ups, and finally last year I went through a hysterectomy.
Since then, I have been healthy. I had reconstructive surgery a few months after my mastectomy, and I feel great. I feel really lucky that I live in a city that has such great medical resources.
What kept you going?
Primarily optimism. I have kids. Cancer was just something that I had to get through. I was confident that if I just stuck to my treatment, it would be just be another hurdle I’d be able to overcome.
When I went through my first round of breast cancer, I never missed a day of work, other than from my surgery. Keeping your life going and not letting the cancer take it over was very helpful for me.
I also have amazing friends and family who have been able to support me. There’s an amazing support group for women with breast cancer called the Young Survival Coalition. I went back to church. All of that combined kept me going.
Why did you decide to get involved with Team SU2C?
When I decided to sign up for the marathon, I knew that I had to sign up for a charity, so I looked at all of the different options. I knew I wanted to fundraise for cancer research. SU2C was a name I recognized, but I hadn’t yet participated in any fundraising. I went on to the website and did some research, and I liked what I saw. The research SU2C funded looked very innovative and were different from a lot of other cancer organizations I know about.
What made you decide to run a marathon for the first time?
My New Year’s resolution this year was to run two half marathons. I ran a half earlier this year, and it was my third half marathon ever. I always said to myself there is no way I am ever going to run a full marathon. It was one of those things where I woke up one day and said I’m going to push myself. I thought, if I’m going to do a full marathon, I’m going to do it big. So I figured I may as well sign up for NYC.
Do you have any advice for someone going through cancer?
What worked for me may not work for everyone, but I think a lot of what you have to do to get through it is to dig deep. There’s so much strength within everyone and you just have to find it in yourself. Lean on the people that care about you. If there’s ever a time to seek support, that is the time.
Do the research. I am my best advocate, so I really encourage anyone going through any type of diagnosis to do your homework and get second opinions. It’s your body and you know your body best.
Finally, just don’t let cancer take things over, because it can and it will if you let it. It important to keep finding the good in life, stay optimistic and fight it.
Noriko will be running the NYC Marathon on November 4 for Team SU2C with the goal to raise $5,000.
To donate, visit Noriko’s fundraising page at http://www.crowdrise.com/TeamSU2C-2012/fundraiser/norikokneip.
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