TROY — As she approached her 40th birthday, entertainment journalist Samantha Harris had it all — a booming career along with a beautiful young family — when breast cancer intervened.
The former co-host of “Dancing with the Stars” and “Entertainment Tonight” and co-founder of the Gotta Make Lemonade organization, Harris talked about her cancer journey during the annual Bill and Ruth McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium, Oct. 19, in Troy.
Harris shared details of the discovery of her cancer, including finding a lump in her breast 11 days after receiving clear mammogram results, and the decision to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“When I got the news, the only thing I thought of was my husband and kids,” she said.
She went public with the diagnosis and shared details of the surgery and recovery with television viewers.
“After the diagnosis, I was physically and emotionally exhausted,” Harris said. “I made the conscious decision to pick myself back up, to think positive.”
As she recovered, she and husband, Michael, founded Gotta Make Lemonade, an organization that includes a website for people to share positive stories in the face of adversity.
Harris, who is three and a half years out from her surgery, said “each and every day is a celebration.”
She acknowledged cancer survivors in the audience, saying those who went before her in the journey gave her courage, strength and positivity to move forward.
“Women rock … How amazingly strong are we ladies,” Harris said. “It is all about being resilient. It is what allows us to be empowered and to thrive.”
The fact she discovered a lump so soon after a mammogram points to the importance of each person’s being her own health advocate, Harris said. As she recovered and grew stronger, she took a closer look at her life and ridding toxins from it.
Her cancer journey taught her even more about herself as well as others, Harris said.
“I didn’t want cancer, but it gave me a lot of gifts,” she said.
Among her advice to others was to know their own bodies, exercise, do self-exams and get regular mammograms.
The annual symposium is sponsored by the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation and the UVMC Cancer Care Center. It is named in honor of Bill and Ruth McGraw, who between them had cancer five times but neither died from the disease. The program is made possible by a gift from the McGraw Family Fund of the Troy Foundation and a grant from the UVMC Foundation.