Susan Cox - - Jackson, MS

Strength in Pink Finalist

Susan Cox

In 100 words or less, please describe an incident involving your nominee in which something they did or said serves as the best illustration of who he/she is:

I'll never forget when I was driving to school on the day of my first tests in medical school when I received a text message from my Aunt Beth (nominee), saying that she was praying for me and named the exact subjects I had tests in that day. What made this remarkable was that she was going to the doctor to learn the results of her post-operative PET scan that day, yet she thought foremost about my anxieties rather than her own. That incident clearly illustrates her selflessness!

What one word best describes your nominee?:


In 500 words or less, please describe why you feel your nominee deserves to be honored for the Strength in Pink Award.  If possible, please provide specific accomplishments:

 In January 2011, the Cox family anticipated an unforgettable snow skiing vacation, and the trip certainly delivered—but with memories unlike any they expected! Beth, fifty-five-year-old wife and mother of two grown daughters, vowed not to ski "because she was not coming home with broken bones." On a sleigh ride, Beth stepped down to snap a family photo—directly into a hole—thus twisting and breaking her ankle and collapsing onto the snowy ground. Fortunately, an orthopedic surgeon was also on the sleigh, and in no time, her family and surgeon arrived at the closest emergency room, where they discovered Beth needed surgery—the sooner, the better. Although she could hardly move and required crutches or a wheelchair, Beth pleaded for her to fly home alone so everyone else could enjoy the rest of their vacation. The next morning, she and her husband Woody were en route to Jackson and went directly to the hospital, for an operation that included pins and plates and 6-8 weeks of recovery.

      Six weeks came and eight weeks went—no sign of recovery. Beth bounced from doctor to doctor, with daily appointments; tests gave only elusive diagnoses. Abnormal blood markers brought the most alarming suspicion, and Beth soon visited an oncologist after one physician noticed breast abnormalities, amongst everything else. A biopsy soon revealed what everyone dreaded—Stage III invasive globular breast cancer, with two tumors, each about 18 months old. All this time, work had not been an option, as Beth still could walk only with crutches to avoid bearing more than 25% of her weight. She visited an orthopedic surgeon, rheumatologist, hematologist, endocrinologist, internist, gynecologist, oncologist, and oncology surgeon, and her head spun with confusion. With her selfless, caring, encouraging personality, Beth worried constantly about how much she depended upon her family, who stood by her side but feared what was to come. Her oncologist outlined four chemotherapy sessions before surgery, followed by four of each chemo and radiation therapy sessions post-operative. Warnings that chemo would likely regress her ankle healing was discouraging. It was now April, four months after the accident that seemed to have started it all, yet many doctors saw no correlations between them. Beth now faced a decision—retire early or somehow go back to work. Having worked for the USPS 33 years, she chose to retire early.

      Beth dragged through each chemo treatment, keeping her put-others-first mentality the entire time. Rather than complaining, she spent her time and energy praying for and encouraging others. Shaving her head brought the family to tears, but Beth was unbelievably strong; even as the medicine burned her arms and hands, taking all of her skin with it, she traveled 200 miles to celebrate her youngest daughter's college graduation, with a permanent smile on her face. Her oldest daughter soon revealed another delight: grandchild #1 was on the way. Beth was overjoyed and reveled in every moment, despite how sick she was. There was no card, phone call, or message that she didn't acknowledge, no gift for which she did not send a thank-you note. The time came for her double mastectomy, which was successful but revealed more aggressive cancer, affirming the need for aggressive treatment. With a swollen ankle and minimal hair on her head, Beth began chemo again. Six weeks later, her ankle is 100% healed, she faces only one more chemo, and hopefully she will have conquered radiation when her grandson arrives in November!

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