Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lucy D's Essay on Chemotherapy

My name is Jeannie (or Lucy as most people call me). I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in May of 2005. After surgery and a year of treatments I decided to quit my job and go back to school. In English class we were asked to take a word and write an essay of why your definition of the word is different from that in the dictionary. My story is attached.

The Chemo Emotion

The American Heritage Dictionary defines chemotherapy as “the treatment of cancer and other diseases using specific chemical agents or drugs.” This definition, though clear-cut and concise, fails to communicate the overabundance of physical and emotional side effects that accompany chemotherapy. Excessive nausea, lack of sleep, a wholesale distaste for food, and extreme emotional turmoil are just a few examples among the many. I found the treatment to be far worse than the disease itself. My life as I once knew it was literally turned upside down. I experienced a nightmare all in exchange for the possibility of an extended future. It is for these reasons and more that I find the definition of chemotherapy as set forth above to be so remarkably inadequate.
There are a plethora of chemotherapy drugs and, consequently, a tantamount of combinations of these drugs. When determining the proper treatment the doctor will consider the type of cancer, how far it has spread, and the patient’s health. My chemotherapy treatments consisted of three drugs which I received intravenously every third Tuesday for six months. Each session lasted anywhere from three to five hours. To ensure my blood cell count was within normal range, blood work and a booster shot was vital to each treatment. After a few sessions, with arms sore from needles, I became sick just from the smell of the chemo room. There was a feeling of anxiousness that filled the days prior to my treatments while the week following was filled with tears, nausea and depression. I would cling to my one week of normalcy.
There are numerous pamphlets, binders, and other materials which explicate the many side effects of chemotherapy. Nowhere is it written that there is an emotion to be experienced unlike any other. This emotion triggers feelings of pain, fear and helplessness. Life is full of emotions. When we experience an extreme or unexpected emotion it causes great distress. In normal life situations we need only relate this feeling or emotion to something familiar in order to find comfort. The chemo emotion has nothing to relate to. There is no familiarity, therefore, no comfort. And, though you may be surrounded by loved ones, the emotion leaves you feeling weak, scared and lonely.
Chemotherapy will bring tears! A sad story or song, tender words from a loved one have brought each of us to tears at some time in our life. My brother, and one of my closest friends, will say “you made my face leak”. I would feel the tears running down my face and found myself frantically searching for “why?” One particular night after chemo, listening to soft music to help myself sleep, I felt the tears. I laid there sobbing, needing help, needing to be held. I somehow found myself in the middle of the hallway blurting out my husband’s name. He held me throughout the night, through cycles of tears and calm. It is amazing how strong your circle of support can be. This becomes extremely evident during an illness. Although the offers for support were endless, acceptance meant admitting vulnerability. As difficult as it was to finally let someone in, I found this to be beneficial for all involved.
A year later I am still working through the emotions brought upon by chemotherapy. I sometimes wonder had I named the emotion if I would have found the comfort. Although this writing is meant to be informational, for me it is somewhat therapeutic. I have discovered some positive effects to the experience. Here I am back in school getting my degree. Although I still find it somewhat arduous, I’ve learned to ask for help and realize how gratifying it can be for me and for those who are there to support me. I’ve learned to “stop and smell the roses”. Life is much too short to let the little things get in the way.
On July 18, 2005 I said “I will never do chemo”. I can never recover the time lost throughout my treatments. Through the pain, fear and loneliness I’ve learned a lot. Today I say to you “I will never do chemo”.

Marie T., 24-Year-Old, Insists on Further Testing

Ladies, listen to your bodies and trust your instincts!

I, like Marie, know what it's like to be made to feel like a hypochondriac by a physician, and my experience with this was AFTER I had already had cancer! Uggghh! It was time to find a new doctor, asap! I can't tell you how many women I've heard from with similar stories.

I was 24 when I found my first lump, and the mother of 2 young kids. My daughter was 5 and my son was 4. I have a strong family history of breast cancer. While I was giving birth to my daughter in one hospital my mother was having a bi-lateral mastectomy in another.
I pleaded with my doctor to start mammograms immediately after having my son. He laughed at me and said "Ask me again when your 40". I felt humiliated, and a little like a hypochondriac.
When I found that first lump I kept it to myself. It had grown to the size of a golf ball before I told my husband, it only took a matter of a few weeks to get that size. By that time I realized it wasn't going away and I was scared to death. I made an appointment with my NEW doctor. She had seen the month before for my yearly exam. So when she seen(yes I said SEEN) the lump she sent me immediately for a breast ultrasound. The results prompted an immediate mammogram.
I was sent to a surgeon the following day, and in surgery the next. It all happened so fast my head was spinning. I had no answers for my kids or my husband, who was supportive through it all.
The results were good. It was a fibroid cyst, but that's not the end of my story. Two weeks later I was having another lump removed. One week later I had A cyst rupture when I bent over to pick something up. I was rushed in for emergency surgery. One again I didn't know what the outcome would be. Still no cancer, but by now I had had enough. I begged my surgeon to remove both breast, I couldn't handle the pain or being away from my kids. Or waking up each morning wondering if today they would find the cancer.
I was 25 and having a bi-lateral mastectomy. They did find the cancer! When they removed both breast and sent it to the lab they found cancer cells. I felt great I had got the jump on it. The hard work was yet to come. I came home with tubes coming out of everywhere. My kids were scared of me. But I was alive!
I felt like I could take on the world. Then I got a severe case of pneumonia. I was hospitalized, and put on morphine to kill the pain so I could breath. My son came to see me once, I told my husband I was feeling better and he could bring him in. I didn't know I would take a turn for the worse. When he came in the door I was throwing up and green. The nurse was trying to braid my hair to cover the bald spots she didn't get very far before I got sick. I heard my son say to his father as they left "Is my mommy going to die?". It broke my heart.
Now seven years later I stand strong. That nightmare has changed us all. My son pulled away from me, it took a long time for him to realize I was here to stay. My daughter turned into a mother hen. She helped me the whole way. And now shes about to turn 13 and I show her my scars, and tell her how important it is to know your body. Listen to your instincts, if one doctor doesn't listen find another and another. Your life is worth what you put into it

Thank you for letting me tell my story. I've never shared it before, the thought of directing just one person in the right direction makes it all worth it.

Marie T.

Carmen Lives to See Her Grandson Born!

Like many survivors, Carmen reached her lowest of lows during her cancer treatment. Family, sense of humor, determination and lots of prayer helped her through, and she continues to celebrate every day of her life as a survivor!

Breast cancer... those two dreaded words were magnified as they became "the" diagnosis. I saw a tear drop fall on my leg in slow motion and the room around me moved. It was 6/12/06 at 10 am....for a few seconds I floated and then I felt I had to snap out of it. My husband and daughter were attentive to every single word the surgeon was saying.... I was just there.

I had a lumpectomy on 6/27/06, followed by 4 rounds of chemo, 33 radiation treatments, a year of Herceptin and cleared on 10/19/07. That's it in a nutshell. Were there "bad" days??? of course. There was a chemo treatment I dubbed "the weekend from hell"; I felt dropping into a black, black hole; I told my husband I was done, tired of "this @#%^&*"; he took me in his arms and said "babe, there is a light at the end of the tunnel....we'll find it" and we did.

With him, my daughter and son-in-law by my side, my son's voice via telephone and tons and tons of prayer buddies, I made it. Humor was a big part of our ordeal; had photo shoot done with my daughter.. she said to me 'mom, you have cancer, cancer does not have you.. let's get some pictures taken so we can remember what you've overcome" I continue with tests as ordered... I owe it to myself.....

The icing on the cake... my grandson was born 12/15/07, so he and I celebrate our birthdays together... Life is definitely good.....

Carmen A.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Softball Girls Going to Bat for the Cause!

This is awesome! I love to hear positive stories about today's youth.

I just want to share a story not as a survivor but as a coach of a 14U girls softball team. We participate in many travel tournaments in the NY, NJ and PA area. When my team found out that a particular upcoming tournament was donating a percentage of all team fees to Breast Cancer the girls wanted to do more. For the entire weekend they are going to wear pink uniform shirts and socks to go along with the pink ribbon tattoo that we ordered from the Pink Ribbon shop. In additions each player on the team is going to donate $0.50 for each run we score as a team during the entire weekend, as well as bake and sell cupcakes to add to the donation. They cannot wait for that weekend tournament. I am very proud of what these girls (young ladies)are doing.

Carmine M.
NY Lady Cobras
14U Fastpitch Softball

Lena, 9-Year Survivor Diagnosed at Age 29


Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure it will inspire other young survivors to continue living life to the fullest.


I guess you could say it all began in the early winter month of November 2000 when I found a lump in my right breast. Thinking it would be just a routine benign tumor(had already had one removed 10 years prior), I scheduled an appointment with my regular doctor. After an ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed the opposite of what was expected, I entered a new phase in my life-the world of Stage II Breast Cancer. I was only 29 at the time, with no immediate family history of this disease. My tumor was a fast growing one-it was as if it had developed overnight. But I have always done self-examinations since an awareness was always a part of my life. I immediately had a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removed. My goal was to get rid of it ASAP. Thus began my journey into the treatment of Chemotherapy that I had only read of in books and seen in the movies. I was sick most of the time, my long, shoulder-length hair disappeared, and the only thing that lifted my spirits were my true friends who didn't stay away for fear of contagion or lack of words to say. But most of all, my 4yr old daughter kept me adamant and strong in my fight to beat this thing. I wrapped up my treatments mid-summer that year and decided to pursue a life that would not ever be taken for granted. My joys and dreams and energy was put into being the best mom I could be for my daughter as a single parent. I also had a network of 6 friends-all survivors too. We shared the same faith, same strength, same compassion for each other. And we always shared our feelings with many tears and quiet moments-because sometimes there were no words to describe what we were going through. But then, in 2002, my small circle of friends began to lose their battle due to recurrences and own recurrence befell me in the month of July of 2002. One of my friends was even hospitalized with me on the same floor. Because I no longer wanted the worry of always looking over my shoulders at this deadly disease, I opted for a mastectomy.......sadly, my friend no longer had that option-hers had already spread to her spine, bones, and eventually her brain. She succumbed in November of that year. But her positive spirit and the boldness she displayed(even taking a trip to Switzerland that year!) gave me the courage to keep fighting. Several more of my friends lost their battle that year and in 2003, but I am happy to say that my memories of the good times we shared will always stay in my heart. I completed more Chemo in 2003 with about 5 or 6 surgical procedures(including three failed medi-port implants). My daughter graduated Kindergarten and in '04 I opted for reconstructive surgery-I didn't want to have to replace the prosthesis my daughter had accidentally damaged while playing with it one day.....I decided after all was said and done, 2004 would be a year of change for me. I moved to Florida and began a new year with my cancer in remission. I am happy to say that 2004 was indeed a year of change-for the better! I married a wonderful, caring man, and we have now settled comfortably near where I have always dreamed of living-right near the ocean. I still have my appointments, I still have my days of the long term aftereffects of chemo, like brain fog, and chronic bouts of pain, but I am happy. And its good to know that any survivor of breast cancer is a fighter, united with others who, as a sisterhood share a common bond.



Dina B., 43-Year-Old Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor


Thanks for sharing your story. I apologize that it's taken so long to respond ... it's just me handling all of this!

You are so right -- the Lord is definitely looking out for you. Our lives are in His hands, always, no matter what happens or how bad or hopeless it seems.

Thanks for doing your part to spread the word about methods of early detection (monthly breast self-exams and yearly mammograms.) And as I said in my recent blog post, it is so important to fund cancer research! Thank you for doing that.


I am a 2 time survivor of Breast Cancer. At the age of 36 I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer, I went through radiation and was very fortunate not to lose my hair. Then again at the age of 40 I was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer in the other breast. After having surgery I went through Chemo and still again did not lose my hair. Someone must be looking out for me.

All the time I went thorough my battle I think of so many other women and men who go through what I have and do not have the same outcome. I think about it every day of my life. That is why I wear some form of Pink everyday and do all I can to let my friends and family know how important it is to do your monthly check and to have a mammogram. I am 43 and working the best I can by doing as many breast cancer walks and runs as I can, to promote and raise money to end this ugly desease once and for all.

Dina B.

Diana B., Fighting Her Way Through Breast Cancer with Poetry


Thanks for sharing your story! You are yet another survivor who's found it therapeutic to write about her cancer experience. Hopefully our stories will encourage others to put their pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard!)


When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had no idea what lay ahead. The surgery, crippling side-effects of chemo and radiation, and the emotions that threatened to boil over pushed me to write for my life. I am first a mother and wife and I feared that I couldn't fight cancer and fulfill my family and work responsibilities. I've dealt with the disfigurement, loss of employment and the travails of insurance by writing poetry. I know I am more than my breast cancer. I wanted my daughter, Ashley, to have a normal life while I underwent treatment and I was determined to make that happen. What I didn't expect, is how much my daughter would help me. I wanted other women with breast cancer to know that they are not alone in the many emotions breast cancer brings with it, fear, anger, sadness, despair; so I expressed these feelings through my poetry.

My book, "Fighting My Way Through Breast Cancer With Poetry" was recently published and is for sale on It takes the reader step by step through my breast cancer journey. It is my first book. I live in California with my husband, Dick and my 16 yr. old daughter, Ashley, and celebrated my 1 yr. anniversary as a survivor in Feb. 2009. I know breast cancer will always be something I have to fight, but I will NEVER allow it to become who I am.

Diana B.

Cancer: It's Everywhere

Whew! Just returned from a 10-day trip to Atlanta for business; Clayton, GA for a mountain vacation; and Slidell & Madisonville, LA for visits with family and a class reunion (I won't say how many years!). Boy did we pack in a lot of activities in those 10 days! Now I need to "recover" from my vacation!

Had a great time, visited with family and friends I hadn't seen in years. I also discovered that a high school acquaintance had recently died from pancreatic cancer at age 39. A friend's sister has just been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at age 43. It doesn't matter where you are or who you're with, you don't have to look far to find cancer's reach. What is it?? The water? The pesticides & preservatives in our foods? The hormones used in livestock? The electronics? Our diets? Probably a combination of all of these things and other factors that we may not even know about yet. But why so many young people? Is it just me or are the numbers of young cancer patients on the rise? What are we to do??

Many cancers, including breast cancer, are becoming more and more "survivable" with early detection, which is why we are so passionate about the awareness campaign. Nonetheless, there are many diagnosed with cancer who have no known risk factors and no family history of the disease. Awareness and early detection are important, but they're not the only answers. We must continue to fund cancer research! Find an organization and donate. Every little bit helps!

Thanks for reading.


P.S. If you've submitted a survivor story and haven't heard from me, please be patient. We were swamped with stories before my vacation, and now are even more behind. Working hard to catch up!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Michele, 44 Year-Old Survivor of 16 Years


Thanks for sharing your story. 16 years -- wow! You certainly are one of the lucky ones, but I like to say we are "blessed," not simply lucky.


My Survivor Story

by, Michele K., age 44

With the rise in numbers of young women with breast cancer, I feel that my story might be inspirational to others.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I think about it every night as I kiss my little girl goodnight and give thanks for all that I’m blessed with.

I was 28 years old and working as a Jr. High School teacher when I discovered a lump in my right breast. There was a history of breast cancer in my family so I was always very good about doing self breast exams. After a few days of poking at the lump and making it red and sore, I called my gynecologist. The nurse explained to me that breast lumps are very common in women my age and I should monitor the lump through one menstrual cycle and see if it disappeared.

The lump did not disappear so the gynecologist referred me to a surgeon. The surgeon believed that the lump was a fluid-filled cyst which could be drained in her office. She took out a syringe with an extremely long needle and inserted it into my breast to try to draw the fluid out. Nothing came out. She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “It’s probably nothing, but we should take it out just to be safe.” I was scheduled for surgery a week later.

I will never forget the look in the surgeon’s eyes when she came to me in the recovery room after the lumpectomy. The look was a combination of disbelief and empathy. She didn’t have to say anything. I knew I had cancer. She explained to me that the lump I’d felt had actually been a benign cyst. However, as she was removing the benign cyst she found a cancerous lump behind it. She believed that it was an early stage cancer, but further tests and more surgery were still needed.

The first thing I remember asking the doctor was, “Do I need to have chemotherapy, and will I lose my hair?” To some people that may seem superficial, but it was a very real fear and concern to me.

I knew my parents were anticipating the news in the surgical waiting room. I prayed that they would be strong and take the news without too much worry. I didn’t want to upset them.

The next few months were almost surreal.

I had a second surgery to remove more breast tissue and lymph nodes. After it was decided that I would receive chemotherapy, I had a third surgery to implant a port which would allow the intravenous medications to go directly to an artery.

I had long, naturally curly, brown hair. I started losing it two weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment. I hoped that it would just thin out. I went to my beautician and asked her to cut it shoulder length to make it look fuller. The hair kept falling out. I went back to my beautician. I asked her to cut it stylishly short. The hair began to fall out in clumps. My head tingled. I hated finding hair all over the house. I went back to my beautician again and asked her to shave it off. When I saw my reflection in the mirror I looked like I had cancer. I never cried so hard and so long. I’m not sure if I was upset about losing my hair or the realization that I was fighting a life-threatening disease.

After a total of four chemotherapy treatments, I returned to my teaching job. My students were wonderfully supportive and happily welcomed me back. I began radiation treatments five days a week for five weeks. It tired me out a little bit, but it was much easier to get through than the chemo. Things were getting better.

My hair started growing back and within a few months I shed my wig and sported a very short hairstyle.

I started dating a wonderful man shortly afterward. We were married nine months after our first date. We both wanted children very much, but we weren’t sure if I would be able to conceive. I had read that chemotherapy often destroys women’s eggs. My doctors suggested that we try to get pregnant without any medical intervention and see what happens.

I had a miscarriage eight months after we started trying. It was devastating yet it gave me hope that the chemo hadn’t destroyed all my eggs. We consulted a fertility specialist. Within six months I was pregnant.

On July 31, 1997 I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. We named her Jayna which means “gracious gift from God”. I was able to nurse her for twelve months with just the use of one breast. My right breast was unable to produce milk due to the radiation treatments I had undergone for the cancer. Breastfeeding Jayna was the most incredible bonding experience I’d ever had with another human being. I felt so fortunate to be able to share that with her.

It is over 16 years since my initial diagnosis. Today my checkups are good. There is no more cancer in my body. I truly believe that I am a survivor. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Michele K.

Lois, 9-Year Survivor, Recommends Genetic Testing before Treatment

Lois, a nine-year survivor, offers advice regarding the timing of treatment options. From my experience with the medical establishment and also from hearing from 100's of breast cancer survivors, there is a wide variety of treatment recommendations among medical professionals.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I just wanted it out of my body, asap! Tough decisions had to be made, somewhat hastily. There was pressure from my biopsy surgeon to act quickly -- and I don't mean this in a bad way ... I appreciated this about him! Due to the extent of my cancer (dirty margins at biopsy,) lumpectomy alone was not an option. My options were: mastectomy with immediate reconstruction or mastectomy with delayed reconstruction. In my case, there was no question on if I would have chemotherapy. Radiation was mentioned, but it seemed to be a far-off notion. Genetic testing was also mentioned, because I had 3 daughters, but again, it certainly did not seem to me to be a priority. My priority was getting rid of the cancer!

Bottom line is this: gather as much information as you can (and that your brain can handle during this crazy time,) get 2nd and even 3rd opinions, and make informed decisions to the best of your ability about your healthcare.


If I can help someone can gain knowledge from my story- than I will be thrilled

In 2000 I was diagnosed with breast cancer- my Mother was a survivor- I went through the normal panic and fear but moved forward with a traditional lumpectomy, 6 months of chemo, 6 months of radiation.

When that was completed I was extremely fearful, as we all are, that this could re-occur- my doctor suggested going through the genetic test (BRCA1-BRCA-2) I had to fight my insurance to get the test (and I have good insurance or so I thought- BCBS) anyway 3 months later the test returned positive- I had both genes BRCA-1 BRCA -2 - I went into counseling and they told me I had a 85% chance of recurrence and the second time you get breast cancer- it hits harder- so it was very clear to me to have a double mastectomy- with reconstruction- again I had to fight my insurance to get this procedure.

Well if someone can learn from my mistake- I wish I had the genetic test before I went through chemo /radiation- because the reconstruction failed because the radiation had destroyed my tissue so severely that the skin could not heal. Nonetheless- I am thrilled that I had the double mastectomy- I am healthy and happy - my doctors have suggested inplants which is a great option right now- but at this point I really am not interested- they have some wonderful bras out there and swimming suites- so I am healthy and thank God for each new day!!!!

I did work hard to get my health in good order- I lost 57 lbs, I run on the treadmill everyday and I try to eat as healthy as possible.

I know how tough the decisions are when you are hit with the horrrible news- but my suggestion is that women consider the genetic test before they go through chemo or radiation-

Lois M.

Debbi W., 10-Year Survivor, Offers Hope


First, allow me to apologize for taking so long to respond to your story. We were a bit overwhelmed with the response to our call for survivor stories, and we are still working our way through them. It is our intent to personally respond to each one, perhaps add some commentary before posting to the blog, and to make sure that each contributor receives their free pink ribbon pin or bracelet. These things take time!

Thanks for sharing your story, and for your uplifting words to others who've been diagnosed. It's a big reason why we're collecting survivor stories ... to encourage and uplift others who are now walking in our shoes.

10 years, how wonderful! May you have many, many years ahead as a survivor.



I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in August of 1999. I found a lump in my left breast while in the shower. I was in denial as I assume all who find a lump are upon finding one. My youngest daughter,Denise was 16 at the time and when I told her what I had found she made an appointment for me to have it examined. To this day I credit her for saving my life. I had a lumpectomy....four rounds of chemotherapy and 36 radiation treatments. I lost my hair ....but I didn't lose my life. I have been going to my doctor every three months ever since. And Glory be to God I have been cancer free for ten years.I am not going to lie...I had a trying time but I am still here to tell my story ten years later. I just want to tell women not to give up...keep the faith because cancer is not a death sentence...I AM LIVING PROOF THAT THERE IS LIFE AFTER BREAST CANCER!!! I hope that if this is published it will give women hope who are going through what I went through....THINK PINK....FIND A CURE IN MY LIFETIME....Deborah W.