By Kelsey Givens
You are cancer free.
Those four little words may not seem like much to those who haven’t been touched by cancer, either personally or through someone they know, but to a cancer survivor, those words mean everything.
Beka Bergman, 47, has finally heard those words seven long years after a stage four breast cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down, and brought her back to Pahrump.
“Oh my gosh you have no idea. It’s so wonderful; it’s an amazing feat, it really is,” she said about the achievement.
Bergman, who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer just before her 40th birthday, was profiled by this newspaper in 2010, just three years into her remission.
Two years later, she is now officially cancer free, and said it’s all thanks to a positive mindset, her family, community and daily yoga practice.
“In the last two years, I’ve gone from being in remission to being cancer free. I hit my five-year mark. I had stage four invasive breast cancer when I was diagnosed, and they told me I wouldn’t beat it. They told me I had four to six months to live,” she said.
Although she’s in a very positive place now, Bergman said the last seven years have been some of the toughest of her life.
From originally being told she had little time left on Earth, to being thrown into early menopause by the treatment that helped save her life, to losing all of her life savings and going into debt, nothing about her journey has been easy.
“When you’re told that’s what’s happening in the beginning, that’s a lot to put onto somebody and it doesn’t start lifting until you start seeing some medical procedures or medical tests that start going in the positive direction. And that’s what makes it really tough to get through, because even though the tests come out positive, they could still be negative. So it’s been really tough,” she said.
“The biggest thing with me was it was just before my 40th birthday. I had no history of cancer in my family. None. And the doctor said you need to go in for a routine mammogram. And I was like, ‘no, you’ve got to be kidding me.’ Do it they said. Within 24 hours they had me with an oncologist and they did a biopsy and said you have stage four. The only one in my family ever. It’s brutal,” she said.
And what made it even more difficult for Bergman, was the cancer was caused by 26 years of using birth control pills. Had she had a child sometime during those years, her doctors told her the cancer could have been prevented.
“Mine was caused by 26 years of being on birth control pills. It was estrogen-induced overdose. It’s called the HR2 factor, and that’s what caused the breast cancer. It has nothing to do with environmental elements or whatever it may be. It was strictly the hormones I was putting into my body, because I chose not to have a child. So, I ingested the estrogen, and that’s what created the cancer. Even the doctors told me, if you had had a child, you wouldn’t be in this position. It’s like you have to be kidding me. It’s ridiculous,” she said.
To add to that having children now isn’t even an option for Bergman. The two years of intense chemotherapy she took to rid herself of the cancer threw her body into menopause.
“I was diagnosed at 40 and I went through two years of extensive chemo, which threw me into menopause, so I can’t have children. And I’ve never had a child and I can’t have one now. So it’s been tough, but on the flip side I have my health, I have my life, I have my happiness and that to me is a great feat.”
Although she beat the odds given to her by the first oncologist she saw after her diagnosis, Bergman said what she believes truly helped was staying positive, which she was able to do through her yoga practice.
“I’m a certified yoga instructor; I have been for over 30 years, and I used my yoga to help maintain the right mental frame in this positive aspect for combating this,” she said. “You have to look at the positive and omit the negative and I used that through everything. I refused radiation, I refused a mastectomy, pissed my doctors off … I pissed them off, they wanted to take the girls and radiate what was left and blah blah blah, and I said no you’re not doing that, I’m going to beat it. And I did and I still have my girls.”
In addition to staying positive, Bergman wants other women to know it’s OK to go for a second or third opinion when deciding how best to proceed with treating whatever level of cancer they have.
“From what I’ve gathered, just because one doctor tells you something doesn’t mean that’s necessarily what it’s going to be. And I know that because my original oncologist told me you have four to six months, go live your life,” she said. “I spent two days and I went wild, completely wild, and then I settled down and I went, wait a minute, what if they’re wrong? And I went and got another opinion, and they said yeah you can beat it, it’s going to take a lot, but you can beat it.”
Had she not gone for the second opinion, Bergman said she wouldn’t be here today.
And though it’s been nearly a decade of battling this disease, Bergman said she’s looking forward to the future now that she’s officially cancer free.
Bergman also wants anyone in the community going though this to know they have her full support and can call her any time they need someone to talk to.
“I’m 47 now, all my 40s have been battling this. I was diagnosed at 40 went through two years of chemo, five years in remission, now I’m at the cancer-free mark and now I finally in my 40s, when you’re supposed to live your life to the best.
“I’m moving on,” she said.
I said no you’re not doing that, I’m going to beat it. And I did.”