Margate Woman says she Won Cancer Fight by being 'Selfish'
By Brian C. Feldman, Sun Sentinel Special Correspondent
Judith Baker, 61, of Margate admits she is "selfish" and urges other cancer suffers to have the same attitude.
"There is a selfishness that you have to exhibit to beat cancer," she said. "You must put yourself first, no matter what. You must take control over the choices you make."
Baker has been dealing with cancer for more than 10 years, including the last three as a stage IV patient. Early in February, however, she was declared NED -- No Evidence of Disease.
"Keeping emotionally, spiritually as well as physically focused has been the formula that has given me the wonderful success I am experiencing today," she wrote in an e-mail. "Gratitude is the word of the day for me."
Baker had a mastectomy in 1996 for early-stage breast cancer and was horrified to find symptoms again in 2003. Tests revealed she had stage IV metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to her liver, lung and clavicle.
Baker participated in several years of cancer treatment trials, but after several years with options running out, she said she agreed to weekly chemotherapy treatments of Abraxane, supervised by Dr. Elizabeth Tan Chiu, of Davie, starting last September.
According to the breastcancer.org Web site, the FDA has approved Abraxane as a second-line therapy, after another chemotherapy regimen has been used and has stopped working.
In Baker's case, a tumor under her arm, which she discovered in 2003, was the first to "disappear," after about two months of treatment.
The experience with the drug has "hardly affected my quality of life at all," Baker said.
"My life has remained full with abundant travels around the world, spending quality time with my husband, Peter, my precious granddaughters, tutoring elementary students and fully enjoying my life with friends and family."
A Broward elementary school teacher for 20 years, Baker said the stress of her illness forced her to retire.
As part of her self-care routine, she practices Kundalini Yoga. Poses, movements, breathing techniques and chanting allow her to take her mind off her illness, she said.
Baker said the classes she attends three times a week give her a strong sense of hope and focus. She recently started training to become a Kundalini instructor.
"I believe strongly in it. Some doctors have found that it is effective for cancer patients," she said. "Kundalini is designed to heal you inside, not to make you beautiful, but to make you healthy inside."
She said her experience has brought new insights into how she conducts her life.
"Breast cancer, even stage IV, can be treated. It's not death sentence," Baker said. "You have to change your lifestyle to live longer. You must be more conscious of your lifestyle. The key is eliminating stress in your life and putting yourself first."