A Survivor’s Story

In November of 2005 at the age of 38, Monica Thompson, wife of Georgetown University Hoyas men’s basketball coach, John Thompson III, received her first baseline mammogram. It was then that she found out she had breast cancer.

“I like to think that it was my parents, serving as my guardian angels, who led me to get that first mammogram,” said Thompson. “After all, I was not considered high-risk and was two years shy of my 40th birthday, the age when it is recommended to get annual breast screenings. In fact, at .5cm, my lump was detectable only via a mammogram. I shudder to think what the circumstances might be had I waited two years.”

In October 2002, while pregnant with her third and youngest child, Thompson’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. In January of 2003, her mother passed away. A year later, the Thompson family relocated from Princeton, N.J. to Washington, D.C. Also in that year, Thompson’s father passed away. Needless to say, in a short period of time, Thompson admits that she had experienced dramatic stress.

“I experienced a range of emotions from shock and disbelief, fear, anger and sadness upon hearing that I had breast cancer. But ultimately, I knew I had to take action, engage a support network and begin the process of healing,” said Thompson. “I immediately turned to my Bible and was led to Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And I thought, “Okay God. You were with me when I lost my mom. You were with me when I lost my dad and I trust that you will be with me through this. And He was.”

Thompson began her chemotherapy six days before Christmas followed by radiation and more surgery in the spring. Throughout her treatment, she sought advice from past survivors and focused on their stories. She knew she had to overcome her illness and did not allow defeatists thoughts to pervade her thinking. “Doubt was not an option,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s treatment coincided with the Georgetown men’s basketball season; however, her husband was there for her at every chemotherapy session. Also, being new to the area, the family received hot meals several times a week from their neighbors. “Not being one to readily ask for assistance, I learned to accept from others,” said Thompson. “I was very blessed to have the support of family, neighbors, and friends.”

Thompson’s aunt, who has been survivor of cancer for over 20 years, called her before each chemotherapy session to provide encouragement. Thompson endured over 12 months of medical treatment. “I approached things step by step. Otherwise the process would have been overwhelming,” recalled Thompson.

She is now in great health, she stated “this November will mark four years since my diagnosis. My personal goal is to maintain good health through fitness, nutrition and spiritual meditation/prayer.” Thompson speaks openly about her battle with breast cancer and encourages women to get regular screenings and to educate others on how to deal with breast cancer. “Since going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I've had opportunities to share my story and am always amazed at the number of people who approach me with their own stories.”

She added “although the saying sounds trite, screening is so critically important because early detection can save lives. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence, especially when you take ownership of your health by getting screened annually when recommended.”