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Susan Kruse

Senior Digital Imaging Specialist
Beyond Proper by Boston Proper

Susan was about to start a new job in 2009 when she got the news. The first thought, naturally, will I be around to see my children grow up? The second was, what will I say to my new boss? To his credit and the credit of her friends and family, Susan says she had an incredible support system, and yet, even being surround by all that love, she still felt very isolated, alone and scared.

“Telling this story has brought up a lot of emotions I wasn’t expecting. It’s a potent reminder of what’s important in my life and what to let go of.”

Susan considers herself extremely lucky. Her test results came back positive for breast cancer, but thankfully stage zero, non-invasive. That was the good news. The bad news, what they don’t tell you, is that no matter how small the cancer may be, they treat it aggressively. Susan went through eight weeks of radiation and a lumpectomy. Eight long weeks of itching, burning skin.

“We were going to post my skin on You Tube to see if anybody could figure out why I was reacting so badly. Turns out it was 2nd degree burns. I was regularly and voluntarily burning my body.”

Susan says it was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to endure. She kept thinking it would get easier, but it never did. Still, she is grateful she never had to go through chemotherapy or have a mastectomy. Sometimes she admits that she feels guilty that her cancer wasn’t as bad or didn’t last as long as others.

People used to ask me how I do it, and I would say you wake up in the morning and you move forward.

For her 50th birthday, she decided to get a tattoo with her best friend. It was designed to remind herself that she is a survivor and that there are certain things that no one can control. Although the cancer has its own way of reminding her every day, be it pings and pains in her breast from her surgery or the unwanted radiation tattoo in the middle of her chest.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my experience, and while it’s a painful reminder, it’s also a reminder that I am here to enjoy another day with my children and my husband and those nearest and dearest to me.

Learning what’s important, letting go of what isn’t and being grateful for every day, that’s what pushes Susan #BEYONDSTRONG.

The Donna Foundation

Through a continued partnership with Dream Vacations and Celebrity Cruises, we came together to create limited edition #BEYONDSTRONG tees for both women and men. Ninety-five percent of proceeds support The Donna Foundation, a nonprofit organization funding groundbreaking research in tandem with the Mayo Clinic and providing economic assistance and emotional support to individuals living with breast cancer.