Originally posted here, at Be Well Philly @ Philadelphia Magazine.
Bonnie Grant was a busy working mom when she discovered a lump on her right breast. At first, she ignored it. Grant was engrossed in her former career as deputy city representative for the City of Philadelphia, working closely with the mayor. “I didn’t feel the urgency,” she says. “In your mind, you just don’t think these things happen to you.”
Not wanting to miss out on the excitement of the Republican National Convention, Grant held off until afterwards to get a mammogram. When her gynecologist called, suggesting she get a biopsy and ultrasound, Grant says, “that’s when the gravity of it started to hit me.”
Grant received a phone call from her surgeon the following week while she was in New York taking theatre classes: It was more serious than they had originally thought.
After a consultation with Fox Chase Cancer Center, Grant went through pre-op chemotherapy for three months; she lost her hair.
“I accepted it as a way of life for a little while,” she says. ”But I never once thought I was going to die. The fact that I was living in a city with so many resources, I felt comfortable that I could get the top treatment.”
And she did. After her pre-op treatments, Grant went in for surgery, receiving a mastectomy with a TRAM flap reconstruction, in which doctors use live tissue from elsewhere in the body to create a new breast. Afterwards, five of her lymph notes tested positive for cancer, which meant six more months of chemotherapy and five years of tamoxifen, a hormone therapy treatment.
To keep up her energy and spirits through it all, Grant immediately began a physical therapy exercise program. “That made all the difference in the world,” she says. Always up for a challenge, she also enrolled in PAL, a weight lifting program offered through Penn.
“All along, even right after surgery, I would walk everywhere,” she says. “I kept up with the gym, even if it was an abbreviated version of what I usually did.”
Now Grant is cancer-free, and she busier than ever. In 2004, she wrote and produced a play called Women Who Have Walked Through Fire, which touched on living through breast cancer; she sent all proceeds to a breast cancer foundation. Then, a year later, the Foundation for Breast and Prostate Health offered her a position on their board. It was “no question,” she says—she was in.
“I felt like I owed it to them,” says Grant, currently the executive director the Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Congress. “It was a cause very dear to me. I’ve been through it.”