2014 Joyful Ornament Recipient

Susan Dupont



My cancer journey began in August 2013, when I was diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.  My brother had successfully battled this same cancer several years prior, and I remembered how frightening it was for my brother and our family.  As with my brother’s cancer, my melanoma was serious enough to warrant surgery, but my doctor was confident that my melanoma was gone.  I remember feeling a huge sense of relief.  I thought I had dodged a bullet. 


Less than four months later, I was told by a very nice doctor that I had both kidney cancer and rectal cancer.  Two independent cancers had taken up residence in my body.  I was shocked.  I exercised daily. I competed in triathlons and marathons.  I was a six time Ironman finisher!  I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, wasn’t overweight, and was under  the age of forty.  I couldn’t understand how I could have three cancers within a four month period when I didn’t fit any of the high risk criteria.  I was forced to take an immediate leave of absence from my job as a high school English teacher at Berea High School, leaving my students two weeks before the semester was over.  I was completely devastated.  My life as I knew it had been completely turned upside down. 


Within two weeks of my diagnosis, my right kidney was removed, and in February 2014 I began six weeks of chemo and radiation treatments.  In May, I will undergo rectal surgery in order to remove the tumor that had developed.  From there I will undergo an additional six months of chemotherapy before finally finishing treatment in January 2015.  It has been a very long and, at times, difficult journey. 


I am extremely lucky that I have my family and a wonderful network of friends who have given me permission to cry, yell, get mad, or feel scared, without consequence.  They have supported, encouraged, and comforted me every step of the way, and I cannot imagine being able to endure this without them.  With their encouragement, I began exercising after chemotherapy and plan on competing in several triathlons before my final surgery.  While cancer tried to  control my life, I have realized that it doesn’t have to.  This journey has taught me that I am fighter.  It has taught me that I am survivor, and it has taught me the real meaning of love, friendship, and kindness.  I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me. 


Update On Susan ~


2014 was a year full of setbacks and struggles, so I am determined to make 2015 a year full of progress and victories.   After having major surgery in May, I ended six months of chemotherapy on December 28, 2014 and participated in a half marathon two months later.  Since then, I have continued to take back the life I once had by competing in two half marathons, three triathlons, and numerous 5K races.  My health continues to improve on a daily basis, and MRI results continue to indicate that my body is clear of cancer.  While I still have some lingering negative effects from my surgery and chemotherapy, I refuse to let cancer define me.   I returned to my job as a public high school  educator and hope to complete my seventh Ironman triathlon in Chattanooga, TN in September.  I will be forever grateful to Joyful Ornament for the support, kindness, and love they provided to me during this time.