TIFTON, GA (WALB) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. And it’s a time to reflect on the disease that affects hundreds of thousands of women.
Courageous and strong are just a couple words used to describe Gloria Sulkowski, 66.
She’s survived breast cancer not just once but twice.
It was early summer of 2015 when Sulkowski noticed changes in her left breast.
“It just felt like something was wrong. It didn’t look right to me,” said Sulkowski.
The Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College staff member got a mammogram and ultra sound, but both showed nothing.
The next day she got set up for a corneal biopsy.
"My doctor, Dr. Johnson, came in and he said you have cancer. And I said I knew it."
The mass was 11 centimeters. First, doctors at Tift Regional Medical Center had to do chemo to shrink the mass before a mastectomy could be done.
“I started to lose my hair after the first treatment and I said ‘you know what, I have cancer, cancer doesn’t have me.’”
She then called her beautician asking to shave her head.
“Women would cry when they lost their hair. I don’t mind. I rocked it bald,” chuckled Sulkowski.
After fighting and fighting she thought she would stay cancer free.
But in March her breast cancer returned in her back bone, facing cancer for the second time.
Her family provided support, but her husband fighting a battle of his own, still does not know what Gloria faced.
"I've been married for 46 years and I promised him I would never put him in a nursing home."
Her husband has been battling Alzheimer’s.
"It's really hard to watch someone you love going through what he's going through."
Gloria has leaned more on her co-workers too, since she continued to work a 40 hour work week throughout her journey.
“I’ve always heard that attitude is half the battle and just living with her these past few years going through this it is so true,” said Sue Dees, one of Gloria’s good friends and co-workers.
Sulkowski looks to Marilyn Monroe for inspiration, keeping two of her quotes framed in her office.
“'Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.' And that was my inspiration too," read Sulkowski quoting Monroe.
Now Gloria hopes to inspire other women to speak up about changes in their bodies.
“I was my own advocate and I’m really glad that I was.”