Success Stories

Lesson Plan

Erika felt helpless during her breast-cancer journey; Weight Watchers gave her something to control

Erika Sears, 40, lost 25 lb*


I’d watched a few friends battle breast cancer in their 30s, so when I turned 40 last October, I decided to be proactive and get my first mammogram. Afterward, I was called into the doctor’s office for what I figured was a routine chat. But my radiologist said she’d found something suspicious. After several tests, I was diagnosed with stage 3 lobular cancer, which begins in the breast’s milk-carrying ducts. The tumor was right under my nipple, where I couldn’t feel it.

When I heard the diagnosis, my heart dropped. I have three children—how would they react? What would my husband do if I died? As I started building the medical team that would help save my life, I realized I needed to take one step at a time. All my choices coalesced into a plan: a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Once that plan was in place, I knew I could get through it.

My third-grade students were on my mind a lot. I love my job as a teacher, I love my school, and I didn’t want my students to worry. I planned to keep working during my treatment, so the school psychologist and I sat down and talked with my class. The kids had a lot of great questions, which we answered as truthfully and completely as we could. The entire school community rallied around me. When I went back to teaching after my surgery, my students threw me a Welcome Back party, which included homemade signs, treats, and an original song that they wrote and played on their recorders. It was so special! 

“I recall the day Erika shaved her head. She sent my mom, my sister, and myself a picture of her shaved head and she had a huge smile on her face. I burst into tears, but I was also so proud of her for having the courage to maintain such a positive attitude.”
Melissa, Erika’s sister

I often felt helpless during my breast-cancer journey, so it was good to control one part of my health: my weight. I’d joined Weight Watchers before my diagnosis, and in addition to attending meetings, I use a Weight Watchers personal coach. We consult on the phone, and she creates an action plan. During my treatment, if she knew I couldn’t track one week because of everything that was going on, she set a different goal for me, like upping my water intake. That was enough to keep me focused. It gave me peace, knowing that I was doing what was best for my body.

One beautiful benefit of this struggle is that you start seeing all the support around you that you may not have noticed before. Everyone cheered me on: my friends, my family, my husband (who operates on the assumption that I will beat this thing), my school, my church, my personal coach, my fellow Weight Watchers members at meetings, my virtual friends on Connect. And my diagnosis has helped others take control of their health. At my urging, girlfriends went for mammograms, even if they thought they were too young to get breast cancer. My younger sister, Amanda, even went for a skin checkup and was diagnosed with melanoma (which luckily was caught early). She sent me a text that said, “Thank you for saving my life.” I can’t tell you how great it feels to know that my disease has actually let me help others.

* People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 lbs/wk.