Success Stories

Rewriting Her Family Story

Mary Alice was surprised her weight ended up as the focus after her breast-cancer diagnosis.

Mary Alice Mraz, 61, lost 19 lb* 

My sister, Paula, died of breast cancer 17 years ago at age 37. She suffered terribly in the last months of her life. So when I was diagnosed in November 2012, my first thought was, “How can I tell my family?” I knew their emotions would be on steroids because when you’ve watched someone die of breast cancer, you assume that everyone who gets it will have the same fate. But something deep inside me made me believe I could survive. Whatever I had to do, I could do it.

After watching what my sister went through, I’d decided that if I was ever diagnosed with breast cancer, I’d have double mastectomy right away. So when it happened, I thought, “Get it out of me. I’m in the fight of my life—I’ll make the first strike.” The doctors caught the tumor early, and there were treatment options, but I took an aggressive approach. That was the best choice for me.

My husband and son were fabulous, taking care of me, loving me. Sometimes, my husband will say, “We had breast cancer.” Even though I carried it in my body, both of us had to contemplate what our future would be. I realize that he had to put his life on hold, too. So it’s true; he really did have breast cancer with me.

I ended up gaining weight during the process, probably because I was focused on getting through the treatment, not on losing weight. I was surprised; I’d expected the number on the scale to move in the opposite direction. Once I was cancer-free, my doctor told me she didn’t get me through cancer to watch me become diabetic.

“I did whatever my oncologist told me to do. I said, ‘Give me my marching orders; I’m going to be a good soldier.’” —Mary Alice Mraz

Her comment shocked me into action. I’d had food issues since I was a kid, and I’d been a member of Weight Watchers before. The weight always came back after I lost it, but this time around, the program helped me think about who I was as a person beyond cancer. I don’t want my whole identity to revolve around being a “cancer survivor.” Weight Watchers helped me find the healthy balance I’ve always sought.

What’s even better is that my husband joined, too. My diagnosis has made him take better care of himself, and I love that we’re a healthier couple as we enter our later years. I like inspiring others with my sense of purpose, and as I move forward, I hope to accomplish even more. When someone asks, “What are you doing?” I never want the answer to be “Nothing.” After all, I rewrote my family’s breast-cancer narrative: “Yes, you can overcome it; yes, you can survive.”

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