“Going through breast cancer gave me purpose,” says Susie Knopf. “It helped me find out why I was put on this earth, if you want to know the truth, and that is to give back because I was one of the lucky ones—the truly, truly lucky ones.”

    An interior designer, wife, mother and grandmother of two, Susie was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma at age 46. “It was found on routine mammography, a year to the date of my previous mammogram, which was perfectly clear,” she recalls. “They called it ‘garden variety’ cancer, which always makes me chuckle.”

    In fact, it was humor, combined with education and strong family support, that enabled Susie to get through the ordeal, including a mastectomy and nine months of chemotherapy. “I woke up one morning and thought, I can sit in my room and feel sorry for myself, or I can get up and on with life, and that is what I chose to do,” she says. “I made it my goal to find out as much as I could about the disease and what I was dealing with. I believed my only power was knowledge. I knew what chemo was supposed to do, and considered chemo my very best friend.”  Susie also considers mammography a woman’s friend. “I know we have to move to better technology, but right now, this is all we have,” she says.

    In the meantime, Susie personally does all she can to raise money for research leading to a cure. “I am passionate about finding the cures and controlling breast cancer, as well as helping newly diagnosed patients,” she says. She is past president of the Susan G. Komen St. Louis affiliate, which has invested more than $10 million in community breast health programs, including those affiliated with Siteman Cancer Center.

    Susie knows well that excellent medical care combined with family support, a positive attitude and laughter are needed to beat this formidable enemy. “I remember the day so well when I was able to laugh again,” she recalls. “My husband had a little sports car at the time, and he said, ‘Let’s go for a drive.’ I was as bald as a cue ball, and all I could think about was the wig blowing off. But I was able to get on with it—and laugh.”