How Cancer Changed My Life: My Story of Choosing Hope

Linda Nielsen and Paula lundberg

My life used to be normal, or at least normal for me.

Changing Careers and Following My Dreams

I had worked many years in a medical laboratory but decided to return to school for an art degree. It wasn’t easy. I used to think walking into that classroom, after so many years, was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. If only I’d known much more difficult days were ahead.

Five years later and just weeks before I was due to graduate, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 41. It wasn’t a large lump, but one I’d known was there for over a year. I’d done everything right. Gone right in when I’d first discovered it. ”Fibrous tissue. Most women have it, you know.” was what I was told. “Don’t worry, you’re fine.” I wasn’t!

Conquering My Fight

What eventually followed was a mastectomy with invasive reconstructive surgery and chemotherapy due to node involvement. Unfortunately, I started treatment the day before my graduation ceremony so I wasn’t able to attend, but I treasure the diploma I received in the mail shortly after. Chemotherapy is not a walk in the park, but it is doable. I volunteered for a dosage trial research study through the University of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. I felt strongly, and still do, that these studies are very important to the future of cancer treatment.

Starting a Business with Good Friends

Humor has and continues to be one of my coping mechanisms. During this time, I met two amazing women, Chris McHugh and Paula Lundberg. Together we formed Choose Hope, Inc. with the purpose of creating products to bring a smile to people’s faces and offer encouragement. We were off and running. Our goal at first was to brighten up the chemo room. But soon we took it beyond that. Today we offer a full line of cancer awareness products across the country and overseas. The best part… we give what we can to cancer research.

With Choose Hope, my degree has certainly been put to good use. When I left the classroom the day before my surgery, I truly did not know if I ever would utilize that which I had worked so hard to learn. I can only say that now I am even more grateful than ever that I made the decision to go back to school.

Finding Strength in My Cancer Diagnosis

Without breast cancer I never would have known inner courage. Nor would I have met some of the strongest, most courageous fighters out there. I never would have realized who my true friends were, and I would never have had the opportunity to help create the business Choose Hope is today. WOW… you never know what curves life is going to throw you. This one was a tough one, but 19 years later I’m still going strong. I am truly grateful!


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We choose to hope. Our weapons: a positive attitude, faith, hope, love, and healing.

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