Breast cancer survivor inspires others through art


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 4:16 PM

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. One Central Texas woman is living proof that you can beat the disease and help others in the process.

Lydia Miller is a clinical exercise physiologist at St. David's Georgetown Hospital.  Her work was her main focus until December 9, 2009.

"I was diagnosed with DCIS stage two cancer," she said. 

Miller, an avid runner with no family history of the disease, was told by doctors she may only have a 50/50 chance of living five more years.

"To really think that you go go from training for a half marathon to less than five years to live, I just couldn't believe it," said Miller.

Miller's cancer was treatable but required two lumpectomies, six rounds of chemotherapy, and eventually she decided on a double mastectomy.

After treatments she turned to a favorite hobby -- drawing. A decade before her diagnosis, Miller had created a line of greeting cards that never hit the market.  

"When I got breast cancer, one of my friends called and said, 'Instead of crying about why you would have cancer, you need to get out your greeting cards and re-purpose them to encourage people with cancer as they go through treatment,'" said Miller.

"This is my other favorite one," says Katherine Vaughn, a current breast cancer patient. "It says 'Welcome to the pink team. This is  the road to recovery.'"

Vaughn didn't know Miller a year ago but had seen the cards in a hospital gift shop after her mother had suffered a heart attack. Vaughn is convinced news of her cancer diagnosis helped cause her mother's heart attack.

"I was just really depressed and really scared, and then I saw Lydia," said Vaughn.  

Vaughn saw Miller because, as fate would have it, she was the exercise physiologist assigned to assist Vaughn's mother as she recovered from a heart attack. Vaughn says Miller was living proof she too could survive.

"I saw she came out of it, and she's doing great and running marathons," said Vaughn. "She sent me this card -- 'Not today cancer.'  This stays on my refrigerator. Every time I go into a dark spot, I go and look at this and say, 'Not today cancer. Not today.'"  

"I don't know that I was ever glad to say that I had cancer, but I do think it is part of my journey," said Miller. "I just want to help others if they hear the words that they have cancer, but they can survive it."  
Miller includes the inspiration for each card on the back. She sends a portion of the sales to hospitals and other cancer organizations to help women pay for the medical services they may not be able to afford.

If you'd like to view the cards for yourself or find out more information, click here.