Brian Wogensen is a high school English teacher and department chair at a private school for girls in Los Angeles. In 2005, his wife, Liz Ganem, was diagnosed with breast cancer, five weeks after learning that she was pregnant. Seven years after the successful completion of treatment—and the healthy birth of their son—Liz was diagnosed with and treated for a new breast cancer.
The fear that patients and their loved ones experience is one of the most difficult aspects of a cancer diagnosis. In addition to managing the fear of death, how do cancer patients with kids cope with the fear that their children will lose a parent?
Today I’m speaking with Marissa Weiss, mother, teacher, and dancer, who in 2016 was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction as part of her complex cancer treatment. Marissa talks about dealing with the overwhelming fear that her young children might grow up without their mother and how her husband’s sense of humor and the laughter they shared served an antidote to the terror they experienced throughout the process. Marissa also reflects on the very personal decision to have a double mastectomy and how she has coped with trauma by being in the moment, making meaning, and finding purpose in her cancer experience.