Betsy Achilles is a survivor and thriver. As a longtime ThriveWell volunteer and active Diva in the Diva program her positive energy and effusive nature touch everyone she meets. Diagnosed with stage 2-breast cancer in 2007 it returned as stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in 2013. She tells us about her diagnosis, living with cancer, her love for life, and how she enjoys lifting the spirits of others.
Tell us about yourself Betsy.
I’m Betsy Achilles, and I’m surviving and thriving, thanks to ThriveWell Cancer Foundation and my beautiful DIVA’s. I was born and raised here in San Antonio. I love this city, it’s home for me, and there’s so many fun things to do here.
I have two grown daughters, Marilyn and Barbara, and three amazing grandchildren and I am their “Mammaw.”
One grandson, Clay, is already an adult, and serves in the Army, and Gabriela and Jaxon, are still my “babies.”
What do you do for ThriveWell and how did you learn about the organization?
I learned about ThriveWell back in 2007 from my START oncologist, Dr. Luis Rodriquez. After being diagnosed with ER+ ducal breast cancer stage 2 in 2007, and after a bi-lateral mastectomy and the successful completion of 8 rounds of dense dose chemotherapy, Dr. Rodriguez highly recommended that I continue my new journey by enrolling in ThriveWell’s DIVA program, where I would be able to share my cancer experience with other DIVA’s, exercise on a regular basis, and learn about good nutrition, proper rest, and very importantly, I would learn about self-identifying as a “survivor.” I became an active DIVA and embraced the DIVA program wholeheartedly. Then in 2013, my breast cancer returned and I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
My cancer had morphed to HER+ and I was told it was inoperable, but absolutely treatable with more chemotherapy treatments and radiation, and a fantastic drug called Herceptin, which I quickly began. I will be required to take Herceptin in the form of an IV infusion, every three weeks, for the rest of my life. While I responded 100% to the drug I was an emotional wreak at the start of my second diagnosis. Thankfully, I was a “well-informed survivor,” and because I was in really great physical condition thanks to my DIVA workouts, and because of my DIVA support system, and my family, I was able to adapt my high emotions and carry on and successfully complete more chemotherapy and extensive radiation. I lost my hair again, which seemed to bother me more the second time. At the time of my second diagnosis, I was working as a Certified Prosthetic Fitter, fitting other women with beautiful mastectomy bras, as well as support sleeves and beautiful wigs. I loved helping other ladies select beautiful wigs and bras, and I loved helping them feel safe, hopeful, and feel pretty.
My DIVA’s, my daughters, my family friends, and my faith supported me and encouraged me again, in the second battle for my life.
As a testament to, and in an acknowledgement of God’s mercy, I have vowed to try and be the very best person I can be, and I say that breast cancer has been both a curse and a blessing to me. Life is good, and we each get but one life. We need to take good care of ourselves. Live life to the fullest, and don’t waste a day. Avoid negativity. Look for the beauty that surrounds us all. I attend my DIVA exercise classes regularly and I volunteer at the ThriveWell on a regular basis. I love to lift the spirits of others, and I love life. I love my friends and family and can’t thank them enough for loving me. My goal is to live by example. My goal is to practice kindness. My goal is be a blessing to others. My goal is to take the hand of someone scared and frightened and reassure them. My goal is to forgive.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My hobbies include lots of traveling and working in my yard and butterfly garden. I feed the birds and have a hawk that visits me often and she will sit on the patio chair while I look out at her through the patio window. It’s so awesome to see. I have turned my patio into a beautiful space where I burn incense and practice meditation. I regularly practice yoga and enjoy walks and group exercise. I love music and I absolutely LOVE to dance. I love wine tasting and good food with friends.
What was the last movie you saw?
Recently I’ve seen the Love Story, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and The Mule. I took my precious granddaughter, Helena, age four, to her first movie theatre to see A Dog’s Way Home. We ate popcorn for dinner. We shared much laughter and some tears. But I was there to experience these emotions with her. And I thank God for these moments. Gaby and I are looking forward to seeing Dumbo soon.
Do you have any pets?
My pets are in heaven waiting for mommy to come home.
What would be a dream day off or vacation?
I’m getting ready to experience a “dream” vacation soon. My family and I are flying to Anchorage to spend fun times together with my amazing grandson, Clay, who’s in the Army there. I can’t wait to share a “brewsky” (or two) and make him a home-cooked meal. On my itinerary there is also a helicopter flight and I’ll actually be landing on a glacier. I will give thanks and count my many blessings.