31 Days of Impact – Day 16, Dr. Sheri Phillips

The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

Dr. Sheri Phillips, Chicago – Physician, Survivor

“My lymphedema had affected my ability to safely care for my patients and my boss at the time called me into his office and said, “A physician who is not clinically capable is of no value to me.” My heart sank.”

“Now as a “patient-physician” I’m a stronger advocate for better health awareness and the need for a cure.”

“In 2010, I participated in the Susan G. Komen Chicago 3-Day for the Cure. At the end of the event, I knew I’d found my calling. I was meant to help change lives on a national scale.”

Ever since I was two years old, I’ve wanted to be a physician. So I studied hard for years and worked my way through school to become a physician and have been for 18 years. I’ve always exercised and kept my body in shape. I’ve always eaten right for the most part. I have no family history of cancer. Nobody has had any major medical issues as far as I know. And still…I’m a 3-year breast cancer survivor.

Surviving breast cancer is a difficult, life-changing event – for anyone. I underwent a partial mastectomy, a lymph node dissection, 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. I now have clinically disabling lymphedema (persistent swelling) of my right arm and hand and can no longer perform hands-on treatment of my patients. But the most difficult part of surviving breast cancer was losing my mom while I was undergoing chemotherapy. Weeks before my mom died I was also diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that was potentially life threatening but not surgically correctable. Coming so close to death caused me to see that although I had spent my life helping thousands of patients and their families in this country and abroad, I merely existed. Helping people became “what I did.”

I began searching for the higher purpose in my life. My lymphedema had affected my ability to safely care for my patients and my boss at the time called me into his office and said, “A physician who is not clinically capable is of no value to me.” My heart sank. My life’s dream seemed to be coming to an end at 42 and after 18 years of service, I was told I had no value.

So I decided to make a difference, not just in my life, but in the lives of others. By helping them through their struggle and showing them their own value, I would find mine again. For years, I was seen as the invincible physician. Now as a patient-physician I’m a stronger advocate for better health awareness and the need for a cure. My diagnoses and treatment have taken away one of my greatest fulfillments in life which was the hands-on care of my patients. But after careful re-consideration of what I still have rather than what I’ve lost, I have a brand new focus and mission in life. I have decided to stop existing and instead have chosen to LIVE!—To Love myself and others; to Inspire those around me; to Voice my dreams and ambitions; and to Enjoy life!

In 2010, I participated in the Susan G. Komen Chicago 3-Day for the Cure. At the end of the event, I knew I’d found my calling. I was meant to help change lives on a national scale. I could share my story, share my voice, share my life, and share my victory with thousands of others that needed help. I am now honored to represent the Susan G. Komen 3-Day as the National Spokesperson. This role affords me the opportunity to raise awareness and educate thousands of women and men throughout the country about breast health and how they can join in the fight to end breast cancer.

From being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, disabled from lymphedema in 2010, to raising my voice as a national spokesperson in the fight against breast cancer in 2011…now that’s living! I’m blessed to have my own healthcare consulting business in addition to sharing my story, my life, my voice and my victory as a motivational speaker and voice-over artist. I’m grateful that my remarkable story of pain, loss and change has inspired tens of thousands of people across the country. I want to continue to inspire others not only by my words, but by living them every day. You can’t make progress if you never take risks. Never stop dreaming. Step out and find out!

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About the author

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Susan G. Komen has written 274 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.