Get Pink: Cancer survivor uses her battle to help others with their fight
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
Surrounded by family and friends is exactly where Sarah McLean likes to be.
Their support and comfort have helped carry her through two cancer diagnoses — her first striking in 2003.
"I'm in the room waiting for them to come in and give me the results, and I'm expecting them to say you're good to go," McLean said. "And the radiologist came in with a nurse and she started to rub my back and in that moment it was very surreal. And at that point it was like a roller coaster."
That roller coaster took McLean from a lumpectomy to a double mastectomy.
It's a decision she and her husband, Stephen, would grow to regret.
"At the time, being so young; we didn't have kids, we were newly married," she said. "You know, honestly, we were just doing what the doctor told us. We didn't really understand as a patient that you have to be your own advocate and understand what your choices are and get second opinions and all of that."
The following year would take Sarah and Stephen's marriage on a bumpy ride as Sarah struggled to regain her identity and reconstruct her life.
"I saw her for months not even look in the mirror; go straight past the mirror to the shower, out of the shower straight past the mirror," Stephen said.
As Sarah's physical and emotional scars overwhelmed her, Stephen realized overcoming them wasn't a task they could conquer alone.
"For 9 months, I called everybody," Stephen said, "our surgeon, our plastic surgeon, the Komen Foundation, American Cancer Society, everybody I could think of, 'We need some help. What do I do?'"
His persistence paid off when he found a therapist, who also happened to be a survivor.
She and Sarah immediately hit it off and after a few sessions. The light returned to Sarah's life and to her marriage.
This experience sent the two on a mission to ensure all survivors have the support and tools they need for healing and restoration.
It also gave her the knowledge and strength to overcome a second diagnosis in 2011.
And eventually It helped her give birth to Project31.
"Since then we are in 11 hospitals in the Oklahoma City metro area, two in Tulsa," she said. "We have just branched into Stillwater and Enid. And really my heart is to give these women purpose in their pain."
The same purpose she found in the midst of two fights, both with breast cancer and both of which she's forever grateful to have a survived.
Now, she hopes to pass the torch to all of those taking on the disease across the state and nationwide.