Mildred “Mickey” Somerman: A Happy Warrior

Diagnosed: 1999
Survivor: 20 Years

Written By Debra Gelbart
August 1, 2019

Scottsdale resident stays positive through years of health challenges

The next time you’re tempted to feel sorry for yourself, think of Mildred “Mickey” Somerman. She has lived with a diagnosis of cancer four times previously and currently, she’s coping with two other cancers. She also has heart disease and a lung disorder. Yet her attitude is upbeat and her outlook is optimistic.

“You have to just keep going,” said the 91-year-old mother, grandmother and great grandmother while sitting in her home office in Scottsdale surrounded by family mementos and photos. “There really isn’t any other choice.” She embraces this mindset in spite of finding out five days before her interview with the Seena Magowitz Foundation that her heart condition has worsened considerably but surgery or another treatment isn’t an option for her.

Near-Constant Health Challenges

Her older adult life has been a calendar filled with health challenges and second chances: fallopian tube cancer in 1988, cured with chemotherapy so effective that’s it’s still used for the same cancer today; early-stage pancreatic cancer in 1999, eradicated by the most common surgery used to treat that kind of cancer—the Whipple; breast cancer in 2009, managed with a lumpectomy; six spots on her liver diagnosed in 2012, treated with a monthly shot of an anti-hormone drug; a second breast cancer diagnosis in 2013 that resulted in a double mastectomy; a diagnosis of aortal stenosis (a narrowing of the aorta) in 2017; and a diagnosis of lung cancer and COPD last year, treated with radiation therapy and supplemental oxygen, respectively.

In the aftermath of all of her diagnoses, she said, the only pain she suffers from these days is in her knee that’s developed several problems.

You might be thinking that with all of these health issues, Mickey could be almost an invalid. In fact, she walks without assistance much of the time and cares for herself in her apartment. The only hint that she has health concerns is the nasal cannula tethered to an oxygen cannister that helps her breathe. She is so independent that she’s determined to stay in her own apartment in an all-ages community. “I never, ever want to live in one of those retirement communities,” she said. “The people there are just so old and sick. I don’t want to live in a place like that.” She recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas the with her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s husband.

Through everything she’s experienced, including the passing of her husband Bernie in 2007, she still believes life is good. “Attitude is everything in life,” said Mickey, a retired greeting card store owner and floral designer. ”It’s how you look at things. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with cancer six times, I’m very, very lucky. I count my lucky stars.”

An Activist for Pancreatic Cancer Research

After her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Mickey was so grateful for her recovery that she became active in fighting for funding for pancreatic cancer research, through both a pancreatic cancer advocacy organization and by helping to form and serving on the original committee that launched the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)’s annual Step-N-Out 5K Fundraiser to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. The committee was formed at a Seena Magowitz Foundation golf event in Phoenix. “That’s where I met Roger (Magowitz, founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation),” she said. “We’ve kept in touch ever since.” She has attended the Magowitz Foundation Annual Golf Classic every year that it’s been held in the Phoenix area, she said.

She belongs to two other pancreatic cancer networking groups and supports pancreatic cancer research as much as she can.

“I want to be here as long as possible,” she said. “I love my four great grandchildren (who range in age from 5 to 17) so much. I want to be with them for as long I can.” She plans on taking her own advice, which she also believes is especially important for pancreatic cancer survivors to hear: “Keep going; never give up.”

Pin It