By Martie Thompson
Sheila Hickson-Curran has lived in nearly all the corners of the world, so for her to live in Ponte Vedra Beach for the past 23 years is quite an endorsement for the area. Born and raised in York, England, she moved to London to attend The City University, where she received her degree and trained as an optometrist. While working at an eye clinic in Kingston, Jamaica, several years later, she met her now-husband, Steve, who was there in the Peace Corps. They moved to Sydney, Australia for her job and lived there for three years before moving to Ponte Vedra Beach.
Hickson-Curran is an optometrist employed as the medical safety officer for Johnson and Johnson, where she oversees the safety of their contact lens products in development and in the marketplace. She is also a breast cancer survivor of 12 years. She and Steve have one son, Henry, who is a recent graduate of Ponte Vedra High School and now attends the University of North Florida.
1) What do you like best about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
We like all the outdoor activities, including going to the beach and swimming in the ocean. My husband and I do about three to five triathlons a year and we like biking and running and swimming to train for them.
2) What can you tell us about your breast cancer diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago as the result of a mammogram. I was completely shocked as I was fit and led a healthy lifestyle. Cancer ran in my family, but not a lot of breast cancer. As it turns out, we have the BRCA-2 mutation and I was the first in my family to find out. I was diagnosed early and had surgery only — six surgeries — a double mastectomy and had my ovaries removed. I felt like I controlled everything I could control and then I got on with my life. I’ve had no recurrence of the disease.
3) How did you come to be involved with dragon boating and Mammoglams?
About 10 years ago, I was involved in Pink Links, a PGA TOUR rehab program through learning golf. I met Jeri Millard of In the Pink and then when dragon boating came to the area, I was one of the first members. Mammoglams is part of the Jacksonville Dragon Boat Club and is a group of women breast cancer survivors. We train and participate in dragon boat festivals around the world. It is a friendly and supportive group and dragon boating is good exercise. We are always open to and welcome new members! (Visit www.jacksonvilledragonboatclub.com)
4) Did you attend the recent dragon boat festival in Florence, Italy with the Mammoglams?
I did! It was wonderful to meet teams from all over the world, like New Zealand, Singapore and Canada. It was an awesome experience in a beautiful city.
5) What is the best advice that anyone told you after your breast cancer diagnosis?
Take your time. Gather your information. And then, if you can make a choice about your treatment, make an informed choice. Be your own health advocate. Nobody cares more about you than you. There is a lot of help out there … use it! I know I asked a lot of questions and also got a second opinion. Early detection is key, because if you are diagnosed early, the more choices you have.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Grissom