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"My day of beauty started out with a Swedish massage," Cindy Riggs said. "I had such a busy agenda that I ordered in lunch while having my hair done. The pampering is out-of-this-world."
Sarasota Thursday, May. 19, 2011 3 years ago

Cancer survivor treated to day of beauty

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by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Friday, and Cindy Riggs has just arrived at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota Day Spa and Salon, where she’ll spend the day being pampered.

The Ritz-Carlton Members Club, Sarasota, recently announced Riggs, 48,  as the winner of its first Cancer Survivor Essay Contest. She’s already changed into a light-pink-and-white robe and is sitting in the salon, eagerly awaiting her makeover — a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, hairstyle and makeup.

Last July, Riggs felt a lump in her breast. When she checked again one month later, the lump was still there, so she saw her doctor, who ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. When the doctor phoned that afternoon, he told her to see a surgeon immediately.

“After the biopsy, the surgeon’s office called and confirmed that it was breast cancer,” Riggs said. “I don’t remember what my first thought was. My feeling was, ‘OK. What do we need to do?’ It was shocking because I’ve always been very healthy.”

Telling her children — Tiffany, now 16, and Dylan, now 18 — wasn’t easy, because they had lost their father, Glenn, one year earlier to a heart attack.

“To have to give them more news that was going to rock their world again … it was difficult,” Riggs said. “I told them I would be fine and ‘We’re going to get through it.’ When trials and tribulations come against you, (your) faith is tested, but it is also strengthened.”

Her treatment plan included chemotherapy from August through December, followed by surgery and radiation. The tumor started shrinking from the first chemo treatment, and each time that she saw her doctor, she received a good report.

“For me, I was extremely nauseated, had no appetite and was fatigued,” Riggs said. “At the same time, I was trying to maintain a full-time job, children and a house, and that’s where my mom (Marilyn Seymour) and my sister (Malina Williams) were just amazing help. You have to have help, and you have to accept help.”

Riggs celebrated the news that she was cancer-free in January by giving her testimony at church.

“When I was diagnosed, one of the first scriptures I was given by God was a psalm that says: ‘I will live and not die and proclaim the works of the Lord,’” she says. “I knew I would survive this, and when I did and I was cancer-free, I had to fulfill that promise. When people see you go through things and come out OK on the other end, it gives them hope.”

When it came to the deadline of the essay contest, which Riggs heard about through a co-worker, she still wasn’t sure she wanted to enter. But after a phone call from her sister, who encouraged her to write her story, she prayed about it, sat down and started writing. Within 15 minutes, she had 800 words.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call (about winning),” Riggs said.

The day of beauty last week stated with a Swedish massage and facial. Her agenda was so busy that she ordered in lunch while having her hair done. After her manicure and pedicure, Riggs spent the evening at the Ritz-Carlton with her mother and sister.

“That’s really what made me enter this contest,” Riggs said. “It’s hard to repay somebody for all the care they give you. My mom was at my house almost every day for months. My sister would come out on the weekends. We’re going to hang out in the room and just have girl time.”

Riggs says the pampering also had a psychological effect.

“There has not been one day since I got this diagnosis that I haven’t thought of either the next doctor appointment or next treatment,” Riggs said. “I realized about three-quarters of the way through today that I had not thought about the c-word. That in itself is just wonderful therapy — to be able to have a day where you didn’t have to think about being sick.”

In her own words
The following excerpt is from Cindy Riggs’ winning essay:
It is one thing to say you believe, but when fear whispers or sometimes screams, “give up”; “it’s too hard”; “get your affairs in order”; this is when your faith is tested. Just as iron sharpens iron, it is in those tests that your character is strengthened. It is those tests for which I am grateful. Each of those tests of faith and trust would prove to build more faith and trust to overcome and see me through the next.

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