Printed on a small pillow on the couch in Liz Harrison’s living room is the phrase “The Lord Comforts me.” A few feet away is a small plaque that reads “Nothing is Impossible to a willing Heart.”
These aren’t just decorative items but a reflection of the KFSN (Channel 30.1) anchor’s strong faith that is helping her deal with breast cancer. She was scheduled to have surgery Monday.
“I am not afraid. My days were numbered from the get-go. God knew from then how many days I would have. So I don’t care what the statistics are. he has the only answer,” Harrison said a few days before the surgery. “It makes you pause and take stock of your life. you get a reality check that you are not going to live forever.
“But I am able to deal with this because of my faith. with everything I’ve been through, I think my faith has increased because God has been faithful all the way through.”
That is the big reason why Harrison, 52, was able to approach the days before the surgery with a positive outlook and a deep sense of calm. She also found strength in the love she has been getting from her husband, Keith, the relaxation she has found in being an amateur painter and the support of friends, including a weekly prayer group that meets in her home.
“I feel great. That’s the thing about breast cancer. you don’t feel any different. A lot of people ask why I am still working and I’m like ‘Why not?’ I am going to start feeling crummy after the surgery on Monday,” Harrison said.
“I’m appreciative for every day. I have my bad days. I get very down sometimes and get mad. with this, I think it’s much harder on the people around you than it is on you because they don’t have control over the situation.
“My favorite Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. it says whatever trials you encounter, God will give you what you need to get through. he will always get you through.”
Harrison has known since she was 20 that while there is no immediate history of breast cancer in her family, the fibrous tissue in her breasts gave her a higher potential to face cancer. During a self-examination in June, she found what she describes as “a blob” in her left breast.
After she met with her doctor, Harrison was scheduled for a mammogram and an ultrasound in July.
“It’s a good thing they did the ultrasound because the mammogram didn’t pick it up,” Harrison said. “But you know when there’s something there that shouldn’t be there. I knew when I went in for my mammogram that I probably had cancer.”
Doctors discovered a type of cancer known as invasive lobular carcinoma. it begins in the milk-producing glands of the breast and becomes invasive when it has broken out of the lobule and has the potential to spread to other areas of the body. because she discovered the mass so early, it was at stage one, which generally means it’s localized to one part of the body.
Current statistics show one in eight women will have breast cancer and 10% of them will face the kind Harrison is fighting.
The cancer was discovered in one breast but Harrison decided to have double mastectomy surgery to dramatically reduce the chances of the cancer recurring.
She already had decided to have reconstructive surgery and her plastic surgeon was scheduled to be in the operating room to place spacers behind the muscles that will slowly create a place for implant surgery after six months.
Harrison will find out Thursday, after the pathology work has been completed, whether she will have to undergo chemotherapy.
The cancer has been just the latest challenge for Harrison, who laughingly said she should write a book. Harrison has kept a journal and had plenty to write about, from the death of her father from a brain tumor in March to the eight years she was off the air — 1995-2003 — to spend more time with her sons — Ben and Jason — who battled drug addictions.
Harrison also has had two hip replacement surgeries and a mild form of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, that kept her in bed for a month.
Then there was Ben’s much publicized arrest and trial that ended with him being sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to armed robbery and grand theft.
Harrison said she believes her sons are back on the right path as Ben has two more years on his sentence and Jason is studying to be a hairstylist. Her daughter, Lindsay, is in college in Dallas.
The fact Harrison has been at KFSN since 1983 has put her in the public eye through all of her trials and tribulations. She has dealt with the attention by being as honest and open as she could be. in this case, she has been willing to talk about the cancer in hopes it will be a reminder to others the importance of self-examination.
Best-case scenario has Harrison back in the anchor chair at the beginning of October. Until Harrison returns, Amanda Perez will be the primary fill-in on the ABC station’s 11 p.m. weeknight news. Perez shouldn’t get too comfortable because Harrison has complete faith she will be back on the air soon.