Survivor since 2006_

I was addicted to lying out in the sun. As a college student at the University of Denver in the late 1960s, I would organize my class schedule around the best times of the day to get a tan. I could tan so well people sometimes thought I was Native American.In July of 2005, while shooting a photo assignment at the top of Aspen Mountain in Colorado, a lot of mosquitoes and no insect repellent saved my life. The next day, as I was itching the host of bites around my left ankle I saw the mole and I knew immediately it was no good. It was only the size of a small pea, but it was raised and dark with a network of blood vessels surrounding it. An exam with a dermatologist and subsequent tests indicated the mole was cancerous. At the age of 58, I was diagnosed with stage three melanoma. A sentinel node biopsy found the cancer had progressed into my lymphatic tissue. I said silent goodbyes, cried a lot, felt really sorry for myself and generally wallowed in excruciating misery. Then one day I woke up and got to the business of survival. I underwent surgery and four chemotherapy sessions – each 24/7, for five days – with an IV drip running nonstop through my body. My chemo-cocktail consisted of Vinblastine (2.7 mg doses), Cisplatin, Dacarbazine, Aldesleukin and Interferon. Talk about drug warfare! They did everything under the sun to help me get the cancer under control. My body was resilient during the six-month treatment process and I was able to keep up with my photography and my life until the week following the last treatment, which I spent, exclusively, crawling between the couch and the bathroom. It has been over 2 years since my final treatment, and other than the large gaps created by the loss of millions of brain cells, I am back in fighting trim. I have been to the edge of the abyss and I have peered over its side. I have experienced the possibility of my life’s end, and I understand that when that time comes, it is too late to wish for the things I only dreamed about but never did. I want to make a difference in life, and I want to leave behind more than memories. I want to nurture a healthy environment for this wonderful body, and use it, my skills and my creativity to cultivate awareness and appreciation for being given a second chance. This project, Putting a Face on Cancer™, is a way for me, and for all of us survivors, to reach out to encourage and inspire. Cancer is most definitely a wake-up call and a journey of pain and mortal questioning, but these things are the very stuff of life, and survival for any period of time, can become life on a higher and richer level.


  1. Sharon Hall "Teddy"McBay says:

    Thank you, Sue, for sharing your specific and graphic cancer experience, determination, strength and most critical, HOPE AND ACTION with so many. You are definitely contributing more than memories. All of us need to be alert for “wake up calls” for insidious cancer.

    By CREATING “PUTTING A FACE ON CANCER”, you showed the “power of one” in inspiring other cancer survivors and anyone who visits this site, to take charge of their own health and happiness. We are our own best proactive health advocates.

    Thanks to pesky mosquitoes and more importantly, your relentless vigilence, life is hope-filled and happier for alot of folks.

  2. Lu Krueger-Andersen says:

    Sue, Knowing you for many years, and certainly during the time you suffered with cancer,you never showed, or at least I never saw, self-pity, not that that would have been bad in any way. Who of us wouldn’t cry at the prospect of our life being cut short and wonder…why me, why now, why this? You gathered your strength and determination and, using your talent and heart, put a face on cancer. These beautiful, authentic portraits and stories show that we can survive and there is hope.
    Thank you for your time, effort and inspiration. Lu

  3. Grace Zandarski says:

    You are an inspiration to me. Having just met you recently and seen what a wonderful skier, photographer and cookie baker you are, I had no idea all you’ve been through. Thank you for all the work you’ve done on this wonderful site. It’s a living testimony to the battles and scars and a large reminder of the importance of treasuring every day of our lives.


  4. Pamela Bramhall says:

    “Courage, Unselfishness and Largeness of Heart” are words I heard regularly during a formative phase of my youth, when I thought I knew everything. It is only now, some forty five years later, that the true meaning of “FORTEZZA ED UMILITADE E LARGO CORE” is brought home in the personification of a classmate who also shared those tender years. Brava Sue for showing us how it’s done, for lighting the way, for bringing heroism to life.

  5. Weemie says:

    Sus–this is an amazing piece and major Congratulations on getting it done! What a gift to be able to combine your talent and your story in such a phenominal piece–you truly are a survivor!!

  6. Carolyn Abernethy says:

    Sue, You are a testament to the true strength of women. The site is easy to use, well laid out and the stories in your own words bring lumps to my thoart. You JUST DID IT. Carolyn

  7. Toni Vreeland says:

    Wow…..what a truly wonderful and inspiring labor of love, talent, courage and thoughtfulness this website is for you and many others who will share in it. No surprise to me who have known you, (Susan to some, “Drinker” to me!!), for over 40 years, to see what you have done. Good job….and I will look forward to reading other inspiring stories to come. Every cancer survivor out there who I have ever met is strong and brave and constantly reinforces the need for all of us to live life to the fullest every single day. I send a big cyberspace hug!! xo “T”.

  8. Christie Cantrell says:

    Exquisite contribution you have made in birthing this website and with all your travels and travails on this journey, Susan! Your goddess heart and art abound. I am so very moved by each story, quote and photo. Thank you, Sister!

  9. Helen Reinhart says:

    What an inspiring site!!!! Most of us have been touched by the devastation cancer causes – either personally or via a friend in need. I look forward to sharing this site with friends.

Leave a Reply