During all five of the Live for Chocolate events that have been held in downtown Seaford, Sonja Mehaffey has been busy working in the gift shop Two Cats in a Yard owned by her mom, Nancy Hall.
“We get a very high traffic flow that evening,” she said.
This year, Live for Chocolate’s sixth, Mehaffey expects that she will once again spend the evening in the store, waiting on customers. But the event will have a special poignancy for her: Last April, she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for survivors of breast cancer,” said Mehaffey, 57. But now, she has a greater appreciation of the meaning of the event. “It brings the community together, and brings recognition to our local resources, rightfully so,” she said. “And it reinforces our sisterhood, for women who have experienced cancer and for those who haven’t. It is a great comfort for the survivors to be all together, enjoying a great night.”
Mehaffey was diagnosed with cancer April 27, after a mammogram indicated a possible problem and surgeon Sam Miller, Seaford, performed a lumpectomy. She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, four with one medicine, four with another, and is taking tamoxifen, a breast cancer-prevention drug that she will take for five years.
She said that while radiation is the typical treatment for the type of cancer that she had, she opted not to do it. “I chose to do chemotherapy only,” she said. “The numbers that I looked at didn’t have enough value for me to undergo radiation. I feel like I’ve done what I needed to do, and the best thing for me.”
Mehaffey had all of her treatment in Seaford, including her chemotherapy, which was administered at Nanticoke Health Services’ Cancer Care Center. She could have opted to go somewhere else. “But I didn’t need to put my family through worrying over who was going to take me to treatments, or who was going to sit with me while I was there,” she said. “I wanted to be close to home, and I was confident in the Cancer Care Center’s ability.”
And of course, there’s the view. The center, next to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, overlooks the Nanticoke River.
“Just to sit there, to be able to daydream and watch the otters, the geese or the red-winged blackbirds, is very soothing,” Mehaffey said. “I think that that has tremendous healing power in its own right.”
Just months before her diagnosis, Mehaffey started a home repair and cleaning business, Quick Clean-Quick Fix. While she has managed to keep the venture going, she admits that it wasn’t always easy.
“Having cancer puts everything else on hold,” she said. “Your family is worried, and the illness is very stressful and physically challenging. But having said that, being sick hasn’t really limited me. I feel blessed that I don’t have any life-changing medical issues resulting from this.”
As she embraces life after chemotherapy, and as her hair grows back in, Mehaffey said that she feels optimistic about the future. “I see lots on the horizon,” she added. “After you tackle cancer, you feel like you can tackle anything.”
Cancer also has a way of putting things into perspective, she said. “There are some battles that just aren’t worth the battle. Cancer diminishes the little troubles and helps you to just let them go.”