October 05, 2011 - Sharon Bergman isn't fighting cancer.
From left: Robbie, Sharon and Alair Bergman, and Joann Schulte, Sharon's mother. Photo by Susan Bromley. (click for larger version)
She isn't battling cancer.
What she is doing is healing cancer.
"I don't want to be in a battle, I want to be in a healing place," said Bergman, 49. "I want to be positive. It's a struggle, but the focus is on healing, wellness, beauty."
During the past year, the Brandon Township resident has learned she could be in no better community for the support she so desperately needs.
Bergman, a single mother of two special needs children, lost her home in Waterford to foreclosure in June 2010 after her children's father's company closed and he was unable to provide child support for a time. Because her children are involved in 4-H Club and raise poultry and rabbits, she found a farm to rent here and what appeared to be a fresh start. What she didn't know was that cancer had been growing in her for more than a year.
During an annual mammogram in August 2009, Bergman was told she had fibrocystic breast disease.
"There were thickenings and lumps occurring, but they never biopsied," she said. "The ultrasound came back benign with suspicion, but I didn't ask for the report to read myself. Ultrasounds are supposedly the gold standard... I ate well, I was physically fit, didn't fit the profile and had no cancer in my family at all. I was so overwhelmed with caring for my family, I just took the fibrocystic diagnosis."
Bergman continued working as a neurofeedback specialist (she has a background in psychology) and homeschooling her children, Alair, now 16, and Robbie, 13, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. But two months after they moved to the township, in August 2010, she had her annual mammogram again, and this time, there were changes.
"I was still thinking, 'They have to aspirate some fluid-filled cysts,' and then the general surgeon said, 'This could be cancer,'" recalls Bergman, who was filled with fear, disbelief, and anger because it had not been caught the year before.
In September 2010, it was confirmed that she had stage 3 breast cancer in her right breast. It had metastasized to the lymph node, but not the bone. Over a nine-month period she underwent chemotherapy, and in July she had a modified radical mastectomy.
"All the scans were coming back clean, so we thought, 'We've done it!' and then they sent tissue from the mastectomy in for pathology evaluation and there was still microscopic cancer activity, including four positive lymph nodes, so now I'm in my third week of radiation," Bergman said this week.
She is thankful for all the support she has received during this challenging time.
"This community has been so awesome," Bergman said. "Ortonville people are so wonderful. Hamilton's Feed has been so wonderful and encouraging...St. Anne Church and OCEF...they came through and helped me get the paperwork done that I needed to get done. I can't say enough.... The 4-H people have been amazing and very supportive in general. This ordeal has been very hard on the kids. It's very humbling and hard to be in the position where you have to ask for help. As challenging as its been, I've never applied for social services before this year. I always took care of my kids and family. Its amazing and wonderful and sometimes you have to realize it's ok to have others help you. I have helped others and I will help again."
The North Oakland Animal Husbandry 4-H Club wants to help Bergman and her family and is holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Oct. 23 at the Ortonville United Methodist Church, 93 Church St. Cost is $8 for adults, $5 for kids and seniors, $30 maximum per family.
"We're trying to raise $2,300, enough money to fill their propane tank to get them through winter with heat," said Michelle Ervin, fundraiser organizer.
Donations are also being sought from local businesses and individuals for a silent auction at the dinner. All donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call Michelle at 248-318-8568 or make checks payable to North Oakland Animal Husbandry 4-H Club and mail to c/o Michelle Ervin, MSU 4-H, 1200 N. Telegraph Dept. 416, Pontiac, MI 48341-0416.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville