A Chat With Breast Cancer Survivor Diane Becker Krasnick

Beating Breast Cancer With Faith, Family, Friends and Fun

Diane Becker Krasnick was diagnosed in 2001 with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer, and joined a clinical trial of Herceptin. She was living a fully active life, serving as a Cantorial Soloist and Bat Mitzvah educator, raising two daughters, and being supportive of her husband. Diane barely slowed down during treatment. Diane tells her breast cancer survivor story here.

Meeting the Irrepressible Diane

Diane and I met on my Forum during a discussion about the movie "Living Proof" which is based on the life of Dr. Dennis Slamon, who helped develop the breast cancer medication Herceptin. She wanted a DVD copy of the movie, because in 2001, she was one of the 1,000 women included in the clinical trial for Herceptin. As we chatted, Diane agreed to share her story with all of us. As you will see, she is very resilient!

Diane Becker Krasnick has been married to her best friend Marc for over 37 years. They have two lovely daughters, Jessica and Meredith. Diane and Marc currently live in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), where Diane is a Cantorial Soloist and licensed wedding officiant.

Diane's Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Q: Did you grow up singing? Your bio is full of tales about singing for special occasions.

A: Yes, I minored in Vocal Music Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I have sung with the Madison Symphony Chorus, at weddings, and soloed in the choir at Temple Beth El-Madison. I've played guitar and sung at Bar and Bat Mitzvah services, Friday Shabbat gatherings, and conducted funeral and Shiva services for Jews who are unaffiliated with my congregation.

In 2000, before I was diagnosed, I began serving as the High Holiday Cantorial Soloist for Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, Massachusetts. Right now, I serve as the first year-round Cantorial Soloist/Educator for the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas in the USVI, my dream job, and I am also a licensed wedding officiant in the USVI.

Q: Talk to me a little about your diagnosis and treatments.

breast cancer treatment
breast cancer treatment. Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images

A: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. As a result of having advanced breast cancer - stage 3 C invasive ductal carcinoma, in the past eight years I've had several cancer surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy, bilateral oopherectomy, three different types of chemotherapy over 64 weeks, five weeks of daily radiation, lymphedema, and numerous bouts of cellulitis, a life-threatening infection.

Despite the odds against me, I've known how to live each day as if it were my last.

Q: You seem very upbeat and even joyous. So what's your secret to recovery?

A: Looking back, I would say many elements played a part in my road to recovery - my loving husband, Marc, my family, hundreds of friends, but also my strong spirituality and belief in God which enabled me to become a survivor, which regrettably, for many with this advanced disease, is not usually the outcome. I insisted that Jewish spiritual and healing music be played while I was in surgery. Whenever I was down, I would chant my favorite and most meaningful prayers, which enabled me to not only continue on, but also actually gain more strength than ever before.

Q: Your husband is a cancer survivor. How did he cope and support you?

A: Marc wrote a series of e-mail updates, so hundreds of friends and family members could be “kept in the loop” after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. The emails were a way for him to cope with his own pain. The responses from his many readers were a continuing source of strength for Marc and I during this most difficult period. He collected these emails and published them in a book titled “...only Diane,” which is our love story.

Q: Do you recommend an email support network?

A: Yes. An email support network is an approach others have started to use during their life's challenges that not only helps them, but also helps their family and friends stay informed and bonded with those who need their love and prayers more than ever.

Q: How do you offer support to others these days?

breast cancer ribbons
breast cancer ribbons. Jason Kempin/Staff/Getty Images

A: I believe that every day is a gift and I try to give back to others constantly. I enjoy telling my story, which includes not only the importance of faith and prayer, but also important information about the BRCA mutation, a genetic disorder most common among Jewish women of Ashkenazic ancestry. I've written a chapter for the book edited by Rabbi Douglas Kohn and published by URJ Press “Life, Faith, and Cancer”. In the book, I tell about a very special and unique ceremony I had at the conclusion of my chemo treatments.

Q: What do you think are the best healing instruments?

A: The Four “Fs” - Faith, Family, Friends and Fun! Marc also calls them love, humor, faith and hope.

Many thanks to Diane and Marc, for the wonderful mitzvah of sharing your story and encouragement with others. Sharing your experience helps educate others and inspires women to stay on track with annual mammograms, clinical exams, and positive attitudes.

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jewish women and BRCA gene mutations.

By Pam Stephan
Pam Stephan is a breast cancer survivor.