In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am honored to share an interview with a special member of The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. SSG Sabatino Scirri Spoke with Fife Group Leader and breast cancer survivor MSG Susan Moser to hear her story. MSG Moser's journey over the past couple years is inspirational and a testimony of how we can all be Army-Strong. - SFC Ruddle
Interview by SSG Sabatino Scirri, Fife and Drum Corps Marketing and Public Relations
Soldiers of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps are seasoned professionals who perform their duties with passion and precision. Even in the face of adversity, these musicians are committed to excellence. MSG Susan Moser embodies the essence of what it means to be an Old Guard Soldier.
A musician with the Corps for 18 years of service, MSG Moser was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011. After undergoing treatment through February 2012, she fought her way back onto the marks and was marching with the Corps by May of 2012. A trip to the doctor to remedy a broken toe in February of this year would ultimately lead to the discovery that the cancer had metastasized and spread to the bone in her leg. Following surgery, a second round of aggressive treatment, and physical therapy, MSG Moser returned to work in September of 2013.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with MSG Moser about her experience and how she is able to maintain her poise, professionalism, and courage through her illness.
SSG Scirri: Individuals diagnosed with breast cancer often experience relief once they receive the news that they are in remission. Was there fear of a recurrence after your initial diagnosis?
MSG Moser: The doctors say that 5 years after your initial diagnosis, you can feel somewhat comfortable, as your chances of recurrence decrease significantly. The longer you can go the better. It was getting to be 2 years after my initial diagnosis and I was really glad to be almost halfway there. It has been hard to call myself a ‘survivor’ and as I was just starting to get my head around the idea, cancer reared its ugly head again. I knew something wasn’t right with my leg; any little physical ache or pain that arises makes you think, “Is this the cancer coming back?” Indeed it was, and I’m glad that I was aware of my body and didn’t ignore it. Had I waited too long, my situation could have been worse. I feel like I’m in really good hands now. I’m being treated and keeping things under control.
The hard part of this is that my oncologist told me that metastatic breast cancer is incurable. It is treatable, and women can live with the disease a long time, but it forces you to think about your mortality and makes you enjoy the most important things in your life at all times. Don’t take any day for granted. I can dwell on that fact that it is incurable and be freaked out, or I can just focus on the good, my healing and moving forward. I don’t let that aura of Stage 4 cancer run my life. I am going to live my life the way I’m going to live it and I’m not going to get bogged down with it. Otherwise, I couldn’t get up every day. Coming to work has been awesome, spending time with my family and kids and not getting stressed out over the little things.
SSG Scirri: What has been a source of strength during your illness?
MSG Moser: Right now with this phase of recurrence, my children are also a huge source of strength. I look at their shining faces and I think ‘I’ve got to see them grow up’. That’s my biggest impetus; my children. Also, talking with my husband, Matt, about our retirement plans and the future. I’m not ready to let go of our future together; I need to be here a while for them.
I have a really great support system; not only my family and my friends, but a great support group at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that meets monthly. We are all young women with cancer having doubts, having fears, sometimes stumbling along the way and really talking about our issues. They inspire and reassure me and I hope that I help and inspire them. Everyone is in a different stage, but we all support one another and the group gives you a sense of solidarity with each other.
SSG Scirri: In closing, can you tell how the Army has supported you on this journey?
MSG Moser: Yes. A lot of women I know have had problems with support in their workplace. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps has been nothing but incredibly helpful to me and my family. The leadership, in particular, CW4 Ellwein, CW2 Newby, SGM Rock and Chaplain Denning have all been awesome. Former RSM Stitzel as well as our current RSM Cantrell have been wonderfully supportive as well. I can’t say enough. They have allowed me the opportunity to focus on my illness and recovery; that’s exactly what I’ve needed. Additionally, so many people struggle with the financial burden of healthcare. I am lucky in that I have not been denied any test or treatment; my entire healthcare is covered. The Army makes sure that you are well cared for, and that is reassuring. The Army really is a family taking care of one another. If I worked for a large corporation, I don’t know if they would be as understanding or accommodating. It would be another source of stress that you just don’t need.
MSG Moser serves as a fine example of what it means to be a senior NCO. She not only inspires those living with cancer but also motivates her colleagues at the Fife and Drum Corps to keep marching onward. Her personal courage and bravery in defiance of her illness makes her Army Strong.
As one of the United States Army’s premiere musical organizations, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps has inspired audiences throughout the nation for 53 years. For more information, please visit us at http://www.fifeanddrum.army.mil or like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fifeanddrum.