Saturday, August 29, 2009

Leah's Mom - Deeply Loved & Admired


Thanks for sharing your mom's story. It is my hope that when my children are grown, they admire and respect me as much as you do your mom!


Below is a survivor story about my mom, Claire B., who survived Stage 3 breast cancer.

Leah V.


I had just brought in groceries when my mother called with the news. Her results were in and the word benign was not part of them. The words floated around and I tried to grab a hold of them, unscramble what I was hearing and have it say something else. But there was no way to make the words malignant and mastectomy into anything but total emotional chaos. At the time I had no way of knowing that the mastectomy was going to be the easy part and that my mother, who had never even driven a car, was about to become a warrior in the biggest fight of her life—a fight for her life.

A few weeks later I had just come back from the beach when my sister called with the news. My mother, our mother, had Stage III breast cancer which had also invaded her lymph nodes. I was numb; I was scared; I was 39 years old and didn’t even know what a node did, let alone what happened when they were gone. I had a lot to learn.

What I soon learned was that my mother, the same woman who buttered my waffles when I was a kid and made meatloaf every Monday, may have lost a breast and a bunch of nodes, but she’d gained a huge set of…pardon the expression…cojones. She braved the chemo, the nausea and fatigue; she held her head high as she came to terms with the altered state of her body and knew radiation might give her the likes of a bad sunburn...without a day at the beach. Her breast was gone and her hair soon followed. As it clumped on her clothes and pillows she made the call—shave it off. We were nervous; it was surreal; for all the times I’d wanted revenge for the bad bang trims she’d given me, I’d never imagined shaving my mother’s head. With the first pass of the razor, we were giggling and rubbing her peachy soft head as if it were a magic lamp and a genie might pop out of her ear. There was no doubt what our three wishes might be and her laughter and courage to walk out of the bathroom bald left me in awe. My mom had yet again managed to be there for me, when it should have been the other way around.

Chemo and radiation not only sought out any remaining cancer cells but it infused her with a strength I’d never known she had. She didn’t shrink from life; she donned her wig and was right where she always was…front and center as part of the foundation that supported and held our family together. Watching my mom fight bravely and selflessly through chemo and radiation showed me something else as well. It gave me a real life glimpse of unconditional love and marriage. My father and mother went through the cancer together; without hesitation; without reservation, they faced it—together. Bald head, one breast and green from nausea, my mother was still the most beautiful woman I’d ever known and I could see the reflection of that in my father. Every time he drove her to and sat through an appointment; when he told her to leave the wig off at home and when he ate soup for dinner because it was all she could stomach, I saw love in its most important form…selfless support and acceptance.

It’s been almost two years since my mother was given the beautiful title of “Survivor in Remission.” It was a title I’d never even heard of nor would ever have wanted to, but when it came to my mother’s brave battle against breast cancer, it was like a Purple Heart, Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and being crowned the Queen of England all rolled into one. It was life being allowed to go on with her in it; it was more time for my kids to be with their Me-Mom; my Dad to be with his wife and more time for all of us to spend with this amazing woman whose hard yet elegantly fought battle with breast cancer left us in awe of her strength and resilience. Along with being a wife, mother, grandmother and friend, she is now a “Survivor in Remission.” With her battle scars fading across her chest, her arm wrapped tight against the lymphedema, and her beautiful salt and pepper hair back on her head…my mom is not only a survivor, she is also the greatest heroine of any story, real or imagined, that I’ve ever heard.

Kathy, Doing Well After Double Mastectomy


Thanks for sharing. So glad to hear that are doing well after your double mastectomy. I have a good friend who also chose that, even though the cancer was unilateral and no lymph nodes were involved. She was 31. I always say that that's my one regret with my cancer treatments ... If I had to do it all over again, I would have had a double mastectomy. Although, when my cancer did return, it was on the same side as I had my mastectomy. Go figure!

Glad to hear that you are doing well.


My breast cancer survivor story

I had my annual mammogram on July 20th, was called back to have a more intensive mammogram done. I was told that I needed to have a needle biopsy done and on August 4, 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early enough that it didn't get into my lymph nodes and it was only on one side, but due to the fact that my mother died from breast cancer and the chances of the cancer returning in the other breast were high, I chose to have a double mastecomy. I am doing well and I praise God for that.

Kathy S.

Terri, 10-Yr. Survivor, Learns God is in Always in Control


Thank you so much for sharing your informative, interesting and inspirational story. Very well written! It's always good to hear from sisters in the faith.

My cancer, too, did not show up on mammogram. The lump was palpable, but very near the chest wall, so it wasn't visualized on the mammogram. Plus, I was 32 so my breasts were dense which also contributed to the mammogram not detecting anything. Ultrasound did show it, and well, the rest is history ... see my previous blog posts for the latest on my cancer journey.


10 year cancer survivor story

Cancer unfortunately will touch many of us at some point in our life. It may not be you or an immediate family member but chances are good that you will know someone that will have cancer. You may already know someone or you may be like me…a Cancer Survivor. I have found that cancer survivors have an instant bond and friendship. I use Cancer to spread awareness. Because of God giving the wisdom to physicians and prayer, will celebrate my 10 year Breast Cancer anniversary July 19, 2009. It’s funny how our minds work. I can’t remember sometimes the details from 2 days ago but I can remember every minute from July - November in 1999. Maybe that’s God’s way of keeping me grounded and keeping everything in perspective. Genesis 21:22 God is with you in all that you do. On July 1st 1999, I found a small lump in my left breast. I kept thinking why should I even worry, breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, I wasn’t over 40 - I was only 37, none of the risk factors of breast cancer applied to me. Little did I know that 80% of women diagnosed with breast Cancer have no prior family history of cancer. All I knew at that moment was that I had two sons, Jeff - 11 ½ and Justin - 10 years old that needed their Mom, and honestly…..I was worried. I had a mammogram at age 35 as a baseline and I felt healthy so when I went to my gynecologist on Wednesday July 7th, I felt the appointment was just for peace of mind. My gynecologist confirmed that there was a cyst and sent me for another mammogram (18 months since the baseline) the next day Thursday July 8th. The mammogram showed nothing…so the radiologist conducted an Ultrasound. So ladies, if you feel you need to be checked further if a mammogram doesn’t show something but you feel in your heart there is something there, insist on an ultrasound. Mammography works well for women that are post menopausal in their 60s - their breast are less dense. Mammograms are great for screenings, but they aren’t foolproof and ultrasounds work well for women in 30-60 age group. Most important, your best defense is monthly self-breast exams and yearly checkups. The statistics show 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. Race is not considered a factor that might increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. White women have a higher rate of developing breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. However, among women under age 40, African Americans have a higher incidence of breast cancer than white women. Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. Roughly 1,900 men will be diagnosed, and about 450 will die of the disease this year. Many men do not even realize they can develop this disease. Unfortunately, this can delay diagnosis and as a result, some cancers are not found until the disease has progressed to a later stage. However, when cancer is found at the same stage among men and women, the survival rates are similar. Because the male breast is much smaller than the female breast, it is more likely the disease will spread to the chest wall. Now that I have probably unnerved you with those statistics let me give you the good news. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89 percent. This means that 89 out of every 100 women with breast cancer will survive for at least five years. Most will live a full life and never have a recurrence. Your chances of surviving are better if the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of your body. In fact, when breast cancer is found early and confined to the breast, the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. I like to believe that I am in 98% since I found the tumor and the cancer had only spread to 2 out of 10 lymph nodes. Enough stats…the Ultrasound did confirm something was there and I went to the surgeon the next day, Friday July 9th for a biopsy. That weekend was hard – just not knowing I found was worse than knowing. I have a controlling personality which made the waiting terrible but I felt God was letting me know I wasn’t in control and just trust him. Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. Less than 2 weeks from the time I discovered the cyst, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and on Monday July 19th, 1999, I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. After surgery and the complete biopsy, I was told my treatment was going to be 4 aggressive Chemo treatments every 3 weeks over a 3 month time period that would begin in August. Now let me share that you can always see that God is there and you can take instances that are perceived as bad but actually can turn out to be well worth the pain and anguish. I truly believe everything good or bad happens for a reason. So my illness brought more to light concerning my children that I don’t know if I would have known if I hadn’t gotten sick. We went to church. My sons were involved in RAs and Sunday school but little did I know that my oldest was really struggling with his beliefs. At the time I was diagnosed I remember thinking - thank goodness my youngest, Justin was too young to understand but I didn’t realize he was just keeping things to himself and he understood more than I realized. I was wrong as well that I thought my oldest, Jeff was in better spiritual shape after all he had even been baptized. But, Jeff shared with me after my surgery that he really didn’t know if there was a God. “How could God let his Mom get sick?” He was struggling with his faith. As a parent, how do you fix this situation again I am a control freak – thinking I can fix everything. But, I prayed to God that I didn’t know how to deal with this issue or how to correct it. My prayer was that my sons know him no matter what happened to me that I really believed he was in charge and I would accept the outcome as God’s Will. When my hair was falling out from the chemo, my husband and youngest son had gone to football practice. I was on the deck on Labor Day trying to shave my head….my oldest son, the non-believer, came out to help me….he said “I can do this Mom, I will shave your head and we aren’t going to cry because this is the last bad thing we are going to have to deal with…you only have 3 more treatments to go”. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I believe the Lord was working that day with the both of us. Jeff grew up a lot that day and I learned it’s just hair, something that first came to mind when I was diagnosed didn’t seem so important anymore…Ladies, I really know what a “bad hair day” really is. After breast cancer, Jeff’s faith grew and he now completely devotes his life to God and is “on fire” for the Lord. He is active in his church and a senior in college and very active with the “Fellowship of Christian Athletes”. Justin got saved after my battle with breast cancer of which Jeff decided to get baptized again since he felt this time he wasn’t just going through the motions any more. Something all parents live to see is their children’s baptism and I had both of mine at the same time. Justin kept his head shaved the whole time I was bald. He actually had a teacher whose sister had Breast Cancer that in his year book stated she couldn’t have gotten through the ordeal without their talks. That was his way of dealing with me having cancer by going through the illness again with his teacher. Justin, a junior in college now is involved in many activities such as community service. His freshman year, he shared with me an Essay he wrote called “The Cancer’s Toll” of which he got an “A”. It was very enlightening for me to read his recollection of our Breast Cancer Family Experience. He writes “many people go through life encountering many unexpected events that will impact them the rest of their life. I believe the greatest impact on my life was when my mother had cancer. Although cancer is always looked upon as an awful situation, it changed many of my family members including myself for the better”. He recaps the events that I have shared with you today and closes with this paragraph “There is a greater appreciation for every moment we have here and he has a totally a different perspective on life. He values the time with each other and thinks everyone should enjoy life with a lot more playing than working (which playing he certainly does more than I wish sometimes at college). He also said “he loves that his Mom doesn’t dread birthdays like most women because that’s just one more year Breast Cancer free”. I wonder if my sons, now men, would have been different if there hadn’t been Breast Cancer and I chose to believe they are better men because of Breast Cancer. I like to believe my husband and I are also better because of Breast Cancer. We don’t sweat the small stuff. With the economy situation, we try to focus on we have our health and each other. Everything else will work itself out. We celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last year and I plan on celebrating our 50th anniversary as well cancer free! Breast Cancer or any cancer for that matter isn’t a “death sentence” provided it is detected early. Keep your Faith – know that God is there every step of the way. Don’t wait until you have this type of experience to tell the people around you how much they mean to you and how much you love them. If you find that are going through illness or bad times in their life, it’s ok if you have a pity party even if no one attends the party but you and God, just have that good cry, pray fervently to help you focus on the good and remember my favorite verse. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

In closing, always trust God to be in control. I will be the first to admit sometimes I still forget that I cannot control or fix everything. There is a Higher power – just let things be and never take life, my family, friends, health and so forth - all these blessing for granted!

Terri S.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Health Update

At the request of a few readers, here's an update on how I'm doing. In a word, Great! I continue on my monthly Zolodex injections, which are now administered by my husband, Danny. (And by the way he is absolutely the best person at doing that. Better than any nurse I've received it from!) Doing this allows us to only have to travel to MD Anderson quarterly instead of monthly, as I've done for the past 3 years. When I say "travel," I mean drive 45-60 minutes. We are fortunate to be that close to the best cancer treatment center in the world, so I can't very well complain. It's just that it's an all-day affair when we do go for my treatments, and I would rather NOT go if I don't have to.

My scans have been spaced to every 6 months now, because all of my results have been consistently good since being put on this current medication regimen of Femara (by mouth daily,) Zolodex, and Zometa. Where there once was a "moderate pleural effusion" surrounding my left lung is now only a small amount of scar tissue. I saw that chest CT scan -- it looked much more than "moderate" to me ... the doggone lung was being squeezed to less than half its normal size due to the fluid around it ... but I digress. The radiologist's reports describe the bone metastasis on my left femur, sternum, and lower spine as "healing" and "stable." Where once my chest's lymph nodes were enlarged, "grape-like clusters," they are now of normal size and barely visible. It's nothing short of miraculous, really! Really!

I've started my 2nd year of training to run a half-marathon. I completed my first one on New Year's Day of this year and plan to do the same as I ring in 2010. It's funny, but I'm in the best physical condition I've ever been in in my adult life -- And I'm a 41 year-old, stage IV breast cancer survivor!

My only real issue these days is something I don't think I've discussed here before. [WARNING: If you're my mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, or someone who isn't comfortable discussing private matters, please stop here ... Please.] The issue is sex. Since my cancer is estrogen-receptor positive, part of my treatment is to rid my body of all estrogen. My ovaries have been permanently shut down with the medication I am taking. I've been put into menopause and haven't had a menstrual period since Summer 2006, the month before beginning treatment for my stage IV recurrence. Consequently, my sex drive has taken a big hit. And on top of that, sexual intercourse is now painful. Unbearably painful.

My husband has been incredibly understanding during all of this and has been more than willing to participate in some alternative "fun." But it still saddens me! We had what I considered a great sex life before my #2 cancer diagnosis, and now it's ... not. I know that he has physical needs, and lately he has trouble accepting that my issues aren't related to feelings for him. I feel like my body has turned against me and has seriously marred this part of our marriage!

My gyn doc prescribed a small amount of testosterone cream, topically to the wrist, to help with the libido issue(My oncologist quickly nixed that idea because testosterone cream may be converted to estrogen in the body. She didn't want to take any chances, and neither did I and neither did Danny!) Gyn doc found nothing that could be causing the discomfort. I did some reading, um, Googling, and many "treatments" were hormone-based, which I cannot take because of my ER+ cancer. Currently I am trying out a definitely "alternative" treatment which I'm a little embarrassed to disclose at present. :) If it works, I'll disclose, I promise!

So there you have it! A complete and thorough update on ME. If any of you have had similar issues, I would love to hear from you. Any suggestions? (because sexual issues really suck!)

Thanks for reading,

Carla, Helps Mom then is Diagnosed Herself

I really feel for Carla who, having been through her mom's cancer ordeal and subsequent failing health, was then diagnosed herself! They say God doesn't give you more than you can handle ... she must be a very strong woman!

Interesting that her cancer came back on her implants. Implants are a subject that I've been wanting to discuss on the blog for a while now. Not implants put in after breast cancer, but implants that women get merely for aesthetic purposes. I'll blog on that at a later date.


In 1998, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to get a lumpectomy, in which they remove part of the breast. Then, she was told she would undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When she did the chemotherapy treatment, it caused her to get sick a lot. The doctors told us that she “would have down days.” I asked the doctor, “What do you mean by that?” In addition, he said, that she has to stay away from everyone because her immune system would break down. In addition, she could get sick easily. Then, my mom’s hair started to fall out. This was caused by the chemotherapy treatments. So, being the daughter that I am, I decided to cut my hair to support her, in her time of need. That seemed like it helped her a little, but you know how mothers are, that was not enough. Therefore, I got my sisters and aunts together and we bought different kinds of wigs for her. That put a smile on her face and she soon realized that her hair would grow back.

Once the chemotherapy treatments were over, she had to go through radiation treatments. The radiation treatments made her feel tired a lot. Therefore, there was not much we could do to get her energy up, again.

Unfortunately, we found out that the chemotherapy treatments caused her kidneys to fail. This is known as “RENAL FAILURE.” She was put on dialysis for one and a half years. My sisters and I got together to see who would match. Fortunately, for my mother, two of us matched, and the others had medical problems. The two that matched were my oldest sister and I. We had to undergo a series of treatments. Once the tests were over with, my mother and I found out that, my oldest sister chickened out, because her husband did not want her to do the surgery. I think that she was very scared, because she did not know what life would be without a kidney…all she had to do was ask the kidney doctors, what it would be like to live with one kidney. At this point, all I was worried about was giving my mom a kidney. Therefore, when all was said and done, I was the one who gave her a kidney.

I told my sisters that I would do it with no hesitation. My mother gave me life, so why not give her one of my kidneys to prolong her life a little more? I was a little mad, no I am lying I was mad as heck. For the simple reason, I just started my apprenticeship. In addition, my oldest sister was not working at the time, which made me have to take off from work for one and a half months. I really did not care, as long as my mother was getting kidney.

Now, the kidney only lasted for five years., due to not having her medication. She was just too proud to ask me for the money, because I gave her the kidney. Therefore, she had to go back on dialysis. Once she was back on dialysis, she began to see things. I found out about this from one of my younger sisters. That she is not doing well. She had shortness of breathe and hallucinated a lot…Once again, I tried to do whatever it took to help my mom. It has been one rollercoaster ride after another. My mother’s health started going down, and she had been in and out the hospital constantly. In and out of consciousness, we had to admit her in the hospital. After being in the hospital for so long, she said, she thought she would never go home. When she finally came home, it was only for two weeks, before she went back to the hospital. The reason for that was shortness of breathe…The last time my mom was admitted to the hospital, we received a call telling us that she would not make it through the night. We went to the hospital, to see her and she relapsed into a coma.

When they said that they were going to remove the breathing tube and not put it back, I got scared. Because, I had never gotten to tell her that I had BREAST CANCER, too. So, I ran in the intensive care room, looked at my mom and said, “MOM THERE’S SOMETHING I NEED TO TELL YOU, I HAVE BREAST CANCER AND I NEED YOU HERE TO GO THROUGH IT WITH ME, LIKE I DID WITH YOU, SO DON’T GO!!!” Once I said that, she moved her right arm and leg to let us know that she is not going anywhere. She was still with us…Unfortunately, on May 23, 2007, she passed away from heart failure, as they say. I talked to my mom three days before she had passed and she remembered that I had breast cancer because she asked me how the surgery went. I said fine. I was so happy to hear her voice, not knowing that would be the last time I would hear her voice.

My experience with breast cancer is weird because I have gone through it all. I had a double mastectomy. I was told that I was a good candidate for implants. I received the implants, and to my surprise, they felt like I was being ripped apart. Therefore, I decided to have the tram-flap, which is a tummy tuck, not to flatten your tummy, but to get rid of your little pouch. They took my pouch area and reattached it to my existing breast area, to make new breasts. It was a good thing that I did the reconstructive surgery, because they found cancer cells growing on my implants. After the surgery, I had to do radiation treatments. Now, I am just waiting to get my right breast lifted to be even with my left breast. Then, I will be all right.

Celeste, Breast Cancer and New Primary Site

Celeste had the misfortune of being diagnosed with bone cancer (chondrosarcoma) shortly after her breast cancer treatment.

Once upon a time...When I was 45 years old I had a mammogram
and they found a lump, so I had a biopsy. It was cancer, 1.5 cm
no nodes involved. I did 6 rounds of chemo,(CMF). When I had pre-op
to my surgery they did a bone scan and they found an 8 cm tumor in
my femur. I had an MRI and they said it was not cancer. When I was 48
I had pain in my femur, took an x-ray and the bone was ready to break!!
I went to Mass General they did a bone biopsy and it was also cancer.
It had not spread to bone but a new primary. This cancer is called chrondrosarcoma.
The surgery for the cancer is a bone transplant with a cadaver bone. So they replace
most of my femur. I had 2 years of physical therapy. Last week I went back to Boston
for a follow-up and they found a spot on lung. The words I never wanted to hear.
I had a ct scan just this weekend so I am waiting for results.

My results of the spot found on lungs was NOT cancer it was a granuloma.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Roz Survives and Awaits her "Perky Boobs"

"Perky Boobs" with breast reconstruction ... truly a gift after having a mastectomy! Although in my case it was short-lived because of being blessed with one more baby after breast cancer -- sadly, the sag has returned (and so has the belly! :)

I am a Breast Cancer Survivor Too!

It is nice to see that I am not the only one. When I found my lump, I was doing a comparison between my left and right boob. I did not find when I did my monthly breast exam. I found my Lump in September of 2008. I had my mammogram on October 24th. I had my needle biopsy on the 30th of October. Which was very painful. A few days went by and they called me and said that I needed to see a breast surgeon. I said "okay". I knew right away and I took in stride. I also said to myself I will get through this. They scheduled my surgeical biopsy on December 3rd. A week goes by and I went to the surgeons office and she told me that I breast cancer. I was scared but I knew that I could handle it. I had no choice. I guess since my mom had Uterine, lung, brain cancer, I was able to deal with it. It seemed that when the doctor told me, I felt that my mom was looking over me. We scheduled my lumptectomy on January 3rd 2009. They tried to get it all but there still some cells that were yukky. Since I was big boobed, we thought we would try another lumpectomy. But that was also unsuccessful. We had no other choice but do the mastectomy along with reconstruction. We did the mastectomy and started the reconstruction on February 25th, 2009. And hopefully by early fall I will have perky boobs. That is what keeps me going besides my sense of humor and networking and to help other people. I take each day as it comes. I still keep positive no matter what. Even though it is easier said than done. ;-)

Roz S.

Corina, Diagnosed as 32-Year-Old Newlywed

Corina's story has many similarities with mine -- of course, I've done a lot of "cancer" time during the past 9 years, having been through a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstructive surgery, Stage IV recurrence, and ongoing treatments. I suppose I can relate in some way to LOTS of other breast cancer survivors!

We were both 32 years old at diagnosis. We both had a positive attitude and supportive family, which played a big part in our journeys. And I, too, had a baby after cancer treatment -- my baby boy is now 7 years old and is a total sweetheart.

I just celebrated my 8 year wedding anniversary and not only does it signify another year with the love of my life it signifies my life and being here to celebrate.
8 years ago I thought that life couldn't be better. I had just gotten married and was excited to start my life as a wife and mother. My husband had three teenage children and I loved being a step mom but I couldn't wait to have babies of my own. Three weeks after we were married my husband found a lump in my breast. My choice was to just ignore it. I was terrified, knowing deep inside that it wasn't good. I remember that night I didn't sleep much at all. I prayed and prayed that it would just go away and then I would wake up and feel it still there and pray some more just hoping that God would just take it away. 2 days later my husband drug me to the doctor and a day later I had it removed. I will never forget the day that the phone rang with the news... Cancer .. How could this happen to me? I was only 32 and had no family history of cancer. Why me? Why me? Then it just hit me ... why not me? Thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer every day, why do I think I am any better than they are? No one deserves cancer. I remember that I was standing in my closet finding something to wear and I decided that I could do this one of two ways. I could cry and feel sorry for myself or I could smile and be positive. I had to go through it no matter what and it was going to be miserable enough, so I put on a smile, got dressed and faced it with a positive attitude.
I had an amazing doctor and I put all my trust in him. Some people like to do research and find out every detail about their cancer and be involved in every decision about their treatment. I tried this way and it was so overwhelming to me. I would start to think and then panic and this really effected my positive attitude so I decided that I would leave it in my doctors hands. I listened and asked questions and did what I was told and I took it one treatment or surgery at a time. I never looked ahead any further than the next doctors visit. This kept me sane then and still does today.
The worst part for me was the thought of losing my hair. I could do the surgery, I could do the chemo and radiation, I could be sick, but not bald. I ordered a wig before I even started treatments and dreaded the day when it happened. I decided once again that I needed to be positive and joked with everyone that I was starting a bald club and needed members. This really upset my sister, that I could joke about it. I just told her "hey its going to happen, I better be prepared". I started tugging at my hair about a week after my first chemo and the day that it came out when I tugged was so hard. I always had long beautiful hair that I truly loved. I held this chunk of hair and cried most of the day. I allowed myself to grieve and cry and then I made a plan. Every Labor Day weekend my family has a huge camp out with all my cousins, aunts and uncles. I called my mom and told her to pack her clippers, we were having a head shaving party. If I did it with all my family there and we made it special then it would be less traumatic for me. I gathered everyone together and we formed a half circle around "the chair". I stood to take my place in the chair and tears streamed down my face as I saw my husband already sitting there. I held his hand and cried as my mother shaved his head and then I took my turn. To my surprise my dad was next, then my stepsons and brothers, uncles and cousins. Every time someone got up from "the chair" there was someone waiting for their turn. There were 15 of us that day that joined the bald club. It made a terrible day special, a day I will always treasure. We used a lot of sunscreen that weekend and I am sure the other campers were a little worried about all the strange bald people at the lake. Bald wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I used less shampoo and could finally get ready faster than my husband. I never did wear the wig. I was proud to be bald. I didn't want peoples sympathy, I wanted others to be aware of cancer and see that it isn't a death sentence. I wanted to everyone to see that I was living in spite of having cancer and most of all I wanted people to have hope. If they saw me bald and proud then they would know that there is hope. I am proof of that.
On my first meeting with my doctor there were 2 things he said that I will never forget. First he told me that even though he is the doctor, if there were something that he was doing that didn't feel right to me, then we would do something different and second, that I would probably never be able to have children. That was by far worse than anything. I love children and wanted several of my own. I was so angry that day. Nothing could prepare me for that news. My faith in God gave me comfort and I took it one day at a time. I finished chemo and radiation and started on Tamoxifan. I had such a bad feeling about taking this drug, it never felt right to me. One day I told my doctor that I was quitting Tamoxifan and was going to try to get pregnant. This was only 6 months after chemo and he told me that he thought that I needed to wait at least 2 years but that he would respect my decision. He said I needed to wait 6 weeks after I stopped the drug to try to get pregnant. I decided that I would give it 6 months, if I didn't get pregnant then I would go back on the medication and forget about having a baby. I was 32 and my husband was 38, with 3 teenagers, it was starting over for him and we just didn't see us starting a family if we waited 5 years (if I were even able by then) I think it was 6 weeks to the day that I stopped taking my medication that I got pregnant. I didn't think about the possibilities and dangers, I just enjoyed being pregnant. After the birth of my healthy son, I had a full hysterectomy to stop all those crazy hormones that fed my cancer. I never did feel good about taking Tamoxifan, so I took Arimidex for 5 years. I celebrated the day I got to stop. It felt so good to reach that milestone. I have been cancer free for 8 years now. I still panic if I actually stop and think about all the possibilities. I can't allow myself to worry. I have no control over whether or not the cancer will return, if it does then I will deal with it. Life is too short to worry about it. Life is too precious to worry about it. I take it one day at a time.
Cancer gave me a strength I never knew I had. It made me a better person. If trials don't make us stronger and better then the trials win. Cancer will not win, it will not beat me, even if one day it takes my life .... it will never take the person that I am.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Toni's Inspiring Story of Faith & Survival

Toni, a fellow MD Anderson patient, has gained a lot of wisdom through her cancer experience and years. She has a strong faith in God and has learned to put her trust in Him. Her story is sure to inspire any of you going through a diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer.

My survival story

My name is Toni and I am a SURVIVOR! My story is probably not unique or different than many others but hopefully it will help someone else get through the process of treating the way that other survivors have helped me. Just prior to finding my lump, I had had a new premature grandbaby that I was helping raise, she was so small and fragile when she was born that I made lots of "deals" with God during her stay in the hospital. I was busy working full time in my private practice as an attorney, adjusting to being a Grandma and doing what I could to help my daughter get on her feet.

Soon after that my other daughter had a seizure in my presence and it was determined that she had a cyst in her brain. The cyst was causing her seizures and was in a place where it was not operable. Again, I began bargaining with God. "Please God, she is just starting her life and has so much living left to do, please take this away from her and give it to me, What ever you ask of me or give to me I will gladly bear it, just don't let this affect her life."

Soon after that I found my lump, and instinctively knew this was going to be my test. It was time to pay the piper so to speak. And as I expected it was cancer. I was facing the biggest fear of my life. I was always so afraid of getting cancer especially breast cancer. Suddenly, I was faced with the possibilities of losing everything that made me feminine and womanly, my breasts and my hair. Yeah, I know the hair grows back but . . . in the meantime, you still have to go around bald. And OK I did not want to go through treatment and whine around and look like a big baby. How was I going to handle cancer. Would I be able to handle it with dignity and grace or would I be a whiner??? And, there was the deal I had made with God about "gladly bearing" whatever he wanted to toss at me. Could I hold up my end of the bargain? How in the heck could I be glad about cancer. Ok God, I know I said I would gladly bear it but really do I have to be glad? Oh ,by the way, I did put one condition on God, He had to talk me through it. I had to have clear cut messages from him that he was with me holding me in his arms every step of the way.

Thus began my journey down the rocky path of breast cancer. My biggest concern throughout treatment was how it would affect my family, particularly my father because his health was not the greatest, and I knew my kids were scared too. In more ways than one my concern over the effects my health was having on my family made me stronger, or appear so anyway. I guess it was a "fake it until you make it" situation. The more I pretended that life was normal the less likely I was to let the cancer take control of my life. I was determined throughout to not let cancer run or ruin my life. I continued to get dressed every day and go to work. Often times I would have to make a pallet and rest on the floor but I made it to work. My colleagues were tremendous, offering to cover for me when I had to attend doctors appointments or just did not feel well enough to go to court. Oh, and the messages from God? Got them Loud and strong. Regularly. So much so that I could not possibly tell them all here.

Being an attorney and accustomed to research, I started out researching and reading everything I could about breast cancer , treatment options and of course mastectomies and reconstruction. I found the information out there to be somewhat frightening. The pictures I saw made me cringe. OH God am I really gonna look like that??? I soon decided that I would go against my nature and quit researching anything but where and how I wanted to approach treatment. I wanted thing to be different for me. Fortunately, I was directed to MD Anderson in Houston and found not only a wonderful hospital and very qualified doctors and staff, but what I found there which was more important than all the medicine in the world was the air of hope! The people there all the way from the valet parking attendants to the doctors and surgeons are so upbeat and positive, you cannot help but catch the spirit! That infectious attitude kept me going and in turn kept my family reassured that I would be OK. Additionally, at a teaching hospital you have an opportunity to participate in test study groups and I was encouraged in my own treatment by knowing that I would in some way help my daughters and granddaughter and the women who came after me even if it was a failure, the test study results would help others who came after me. I took great pride in participating in those groups. As silly as it sounds I wanted so much for the study to be a great success I almost willed myself to get better. The results were positive! My study was a combination of chemotherapy drugs which had not been used to treat breast cancer before. The treatment was done prior to surgery to see the effects on the tumor. In 12 weeks my 2 1/2 cm tumor reduced in size to .7 cm. After another 12 weeks of traditional chemo the tumor reduced to such a minuscule amount that the surgeon had to place a marker at the tumor site to be able to find it to remove it. I chose a segmental mastectomy instead of a radical because of the success of the medication. This did require additional treatment in the form of radiation but I felt it was a small price to pay under the circumstances.

I had a friend that just prior to my diagnosis was training and raising money for the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk and I told her she had a renewed purpose because she was walking for me. I was even able to go down for closing ceremonies which was ironically exactly the half way mark in my treatment. Seeing all the survivors walking in the walk arm in arm with their shoes held proudly overhead made me realize that I was truly not alone and that there was life after cancer treatment. In my chemo induced fog, I just marveled at how "normal" these women looked! I vowed at that moment that I would walk in the next three day walk and began training while I was still treating. Not much but I began walking and doing some Yoga.

I think that the theme throughout my story is that even though you are feeling like crap, it is your current reality and you should not quit living with purpose just because you are treating for cancer. Live with a purpose! Get well! and Blaze a trail for others coming after you.

Today, I have a happy healthy two year old granddaughter who is the light of my life. My daughter who was diagnose with the cyst has graduated from college and is now moving on to work in her field, and I am happy and healthy and continuing on with my life.

Strange as it sounds, Cancer has a certain strange beauty about it. Not the cancer itself but the experience you gain during treatment. While I would never want to go through it again, I felt truly blessed through the experience. I met survivors down my path that shared their stories of survival with me, sisters that truly understood what I was going through. I was blessed to add many friends to my life. And I gained a knowledge of my strength that I never would have known had I not had the experience. So, for anyone reading this that is currently treating I would say, Don't look back, don't look ahead, just be in the moment and get through it the best way you can and take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. Your sisters have paved the way for you and are here to hold your hand and comfort you along your journey.

Much love and good health,
Toni C.

Faith, 10-Year Survivor, Living Like There's No Tomorrow

Faith's story is another testament to how much cancer changes your life, your outlook, and your whole attitude toward life. Live it to the fullest!

My name is Faith and I am almost an 11 year cancer survivor. My story starts back in 1998 my family and I were getting excited about going on vacation to Ohio to cedar point. One day I was in the shower and just rinsing of the soap and run my hand over my breast and felt something that was not normal it was a lump about the size of a quarter. I just brushed it off because I did not want to ruin our vacation. We stayed in a cabin for our vacation and one night I had finally told my husband what I have found. I was positive at that time that it was just something to do with my period. When we got home from our vacation I had made an appointment with my gynecologist and she reassured me that it could be nothing but wanted me to have a biopsy done on the lump. I followed up with a surgeon to have a biopsy done and come to find out he wanted to do a needle core biopsy. Not realizing what a needle core biopsy I went ahead with it and it was so painful the nurse had a hard time holding my feet down all I wanted to to was cry the pain was excruciating. Well about a week later the doctor called me and told me that I needed to come into his office to discuss the results of the biopsy and I was so positive that it was nothing that I insisted on her telling me over the phone and that was the worst mistake I have ever made. After I had received the bad news that the biopsy came back positive for cancer that is when it hit me and I sat down and cried for about an hour and then I basically slapped myself and told myself that I can beat this, I just have to get through this next visit to find out what I had to do to survive this disease. I went through a lumpectomy and they removed 13 lymph nodes and they all came back negative so the next thing to do was to start the treatments.
So I started chemotherapy and my first treatment I did at the doctors office the same day there was a serious storm coming through town and when I was almost down with my treatment we had lost power they say that a tornado and hit down in town and the streets were flooded. While this was all going on outside I was being rushed to the basement of the building for my safety until this storm was over, we had to wait about an hour. I made it through the first round of chemotherapy and radiation all at the same time. Radiation was an every day trip to midland. The radiation oncology department over there was the best. When I was almost done with my chemo I started to get my hair back and when I went for one of my radiation treatments one of the oncologist rubbed my hair and said that it felt like a baby chicks fur and then he asked me how I don't fall over because my feet are only a size 5. So they made the treatment like it was a vacation. When I finished my last treatment I went out and bought one of the oncologist a coloring book and crayons so he could learn to stay in the lines. when I was doing one of my treatments he made me laugh when he was trying to draw a line and had to redo the line from me laughing.
Chemotherapy on the other hand was not that easy I had a hard time with the second round which was called tamoxifen I had to go to grand rapids for the first treatment because they said that there might be an allergic reaction to this one and they were right about 20 minutes into the treatment i started to get the hiccups and they had to stop the treatment and give me benadryl. After about an hour waiting for the benadryl to kick in they let me go home and when I was walking down the aisle I felt like I was out on an all night drunk I rode home in the back seat of the car and my husband at the time told me when we got home that he had a flat tire so he and my son had to stop and change it and I don't remember that part of the trip at all. So I had to go back to the first set of chemo and finish with that. I lost all of my hair except for my eyebrows and to this day I do not grow a lot of hair on my legs.
When I was going through the chemo and loosing all my hair which was down to my rear my husband at the time decided to shave all of his hair of so I would not feel like the odd duck and everyone at work thought that was special. The first time that I started to loose all my hair I was in the shower and I had to unclog the drain three times before I was done so when I was finally out of the shower I had my husband shave my head and then I set in the bedroom by myself and just cried again.
Every year since being diagnosed with breast cancer I have gotten an ornament for the tree at Christmas to mark another year of being cancer free. On my ten year anniversary of being cancer free I decorated our tree in all pink. That was such an accomplishment knowing that I have beaten this disease and live to tell my story. So much more to go on about this story on how I survived this disease and the other life challenging decisions that I have had to make to go along with this disease like divorcing my husband because he would not quite drinking. I know that probably sounds rude but after going through cancer and surviving it you tend to think that there is better out there someone who takes life sober. Also surviving cancer makes people think about how they came so close to not being able to see things or experience things in life that just days ago you thought you would never see or do. So I made decisions that would allow me to grasp the chance to live my life like it wont be there tomorrow.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Catina L., Diagnosed at Age 32, 5-Year Survivor

Catina has made it to the 5-year milestone -- may she have many, many years ahead as a survivor!

There seem to be so many survivors out there whose husbands either (a)don't provide support during their cancer treatments, or (b)leave them during their cancer treatments. It's amazing how a little adversity allows someone's true colors to come out! The guys who do this -- you don't need them anyway! And the strong ladies that this happens to -- they come out of their cancer journey, and subsequent relationship break-up, EVEN STRONGER!

I thank God for my husband who has stuck by me through my journey, which I like to summarize like this: two boobs / one boob, hair / no-hair / hair again, fat belly / flat belly, and two boobs again. He says he's enjoyed the variety (ha) and his love (and lust!) for me has never wavered. Thanks Danny!


My Survivor Story

Hello survivors and co/survivors,

My name is Catina and I was diagnosed with Stage 2 bilateral breast cancer at the five years ago, at the age of 32. I found a lump on my right breast by doing a self breast exam. I didn't believe it to be a cancer tumor, just a cyst or a boil. So for the next few months I had continued to plan for my wedding. Two months had went by and the tumor had grown in size. While on my honeymoon, I had noticed it was as large as a half a dollar. I still thought and wanted to believe that it was a cyst because I (thought) was to young to have breast cancer.

Well, on the first Tuesday in September (2004), I had my first visit in the mammography clinic at John Stroger, Jr. Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The technician had performed an ultrasound on my right breast. From there I had went immediately to the Oncology Clinic. Devastating after devastation. After learning that I had dense breast tissue in the left breast with a enlarged lymph node along with the huge lump in my right breast. Like I said " devastation after devastation."

On October 28, 2004 I had a bilateral mastectomy. On January 13, 2005 I had begun my first of two cycles of chemo, once every three weeks. What kept me going was another breast cancer survivor. She held my hand the entire way. Even through the dark days when my "husband" felt he couldn't, wouldn't and didn't.

Today, I am happily divorced and living "cancer free." I often tell people that breast cancer was the best thing that has every happened to me. The immediate life lessons has taught me to appreciate the small stuff. I have learned not to rely on anyone to keep my spirits up, creativity is how to keep going. Yes, I have some bad days "cancer days" but the good days and the thankfulness that I have for just being alive is more than AWESOME.

Thank you for listening.

Catina L.
5 year Breast Cancer Survivor

Julia D., Survived Brain & Breast Cancer with Faith & Spunk

Thanks for sharing your story, Julia. Two cancers at one time, oh my! I love your story, which is inspirational in and of itself, but I also love that it is full of helpful hints and inspirational messages. It will most definitely be appreciated by our readers.

I would like to share what I can remember of my journey.
With the process of monthly self examination, I was able to locate something not just
the same with my left breast.
September 22, 2000: Annual physical, pap test, and bilateral mammogram.
October 03, 2000: Bilateral mammogram was suspicious, therefore,
a Diagnostic mammogram was ordered.
October 17, 2000: Diagnostic mammogram - Possible benign findings category 3.
October 18, 2000: Additional evaluation x-ray required due to mammogram findings and an ultra
sound of left breast was performed the same day.
November 01, 2000 Lumpectomy was performed.
December 05, 2000: Lymph node removal - had moved into all stations.
December 29, 2000: Insertion of implanted venous access port.
January 05, 2001: Began chemotherapy/5FUCM. During this time my caregiver (husband) noticed
that I was slurring my speech and holding my mouth in an odd way. He reported this to my oncologist.
January 25, 2001: Investigative MRI was performed.
February 22, 2001: Secondary MRI performed. Discovered tumor on the brain, right frontal lobe.
February 23, 2001: Chemotherapy was stopped at this time.
February 28, 2001: Craniotomy performed, determined the tumor was cancer: Oligodrenglioma, Level 2.
May 01, 2001: Radiation treatments began on left breast and brain.
June 01,2001:Completed radiation treatments.
December 13, 2001: Chest x-ray required.
December 18, 2001: Started back with chemotherapy/Temador.
August 23, 2001: Completed Chemotherapy.
September 17, 2001: Follow up Chest x-ray required.

The breast and brain cancer were two separate cancers.
Breast cancer was discussed in length with surgeon, and my husband.
We decided to only do a partial mastectomy at this time.
My husband was my caregiver and accompanied me to every treatment
and all doctor appointment. He was educated as to how important listening
to your body is. Each person knows their own body better than anyone,
so listen to it when something is not just right contact a doctor as soon
as you are able. Also, it is okay to get second opinions, in fact it is
encouraged by most surgeons and physicians. Breast cancer not only effects
your breast, it involves your reproductions system. Therefore, get to know
your oncologist well, if things are changing - let him/her know. Keep a
Positive mind set and that will help you heal faster. I was lucky, my
Mother-in-law had colon cancer and we were seeing the same oncologist -
a wonderful man who truly cares about his patients - that is important too.
My Mother-in-law was given three months to live, but she held on for 19 years.
She also participated in new treatment studies until she just could not any longer.
She was my inspiration. No one knows how long we have to live, physicians are just practicing.
Remember they are human too and do not have all the answers. Do Not Give into Cancer.
that you just want to give up, Don't ... get up and look outside at the beauty
we have been blessed with. Self pity parties will happen, just try hard not to dwell
on it too long. Talk to someone about anything.

The hardest part of breast cancer was not knowing what was going to happen:
The surgeon and I talked about the procedure but that just does not tell you what will happen.
When I made the decision to do a partial mastectomy I said, "I don't think Playboy
will be looking for me anytime soon and I really don't think I would fit in at Hooters.
I am way past the baby years, so I really don't need my breast. My husband kind likes
them though." He cracked up and said I will do just fine, I have the right attitude.

How would I look after surgery? Different of course, but not as bad as I imagined.
Is it going to hurt? Yes, it hurts, but only for a while - our minds help us forget.
Doctors will tell you that you won't feel anything, that is not true.

Will people avoid me because I have cancer? Yes, some will.... this is why it is a good
idea to find a support group near you or by email.

The chemotherapy treatments give you a chance to reflect on your life. You sit there hooked
up to the medication and watch others come in and leave. Each time you must have a blood
work up and I was so grateful to the staff that they knew exactly how to get my veins.
I had a implanted venous access port by choice, since I was working. The other port is
called Grishon and it is outside the body which requires flushing daily to make sure a
clot does not form in the tubing. When they explained how the port is inside the body, it
can be very scary. It is routed through your veins in the neck down into your chest.
Chemotherapy is poison and it smells awful, this is why you may get nauseated. Some foods
will set you off as well, the smell or taste. Just know, this to shall pass. The implanted
venous access port is place on your chest just under the skin, it leaves a bulge there.
Sometimes it will be soar from the chemotherapy insertion, but it does not last long. You
can ask for some medication that you put on it prior to chemo, it helps some. I found that
when I would lay down on that side, it would hurt. Getting it removed hurts too, has to be
done surgically (out patient).

I was working during my cancer and many people would not even talk to me anymore.
When I would get sick from the chemo treatments,they thought I was putting on.
Good thing my department manager had been through it and he knew. Often he would come by to
check up on me and tell to head on home and beat the traffic. My supervisor thought I was
making the whole cancer thing up. She even came to the hospital to make sure that is where
I was. You just have to let these things roll off, it is hard because of all you are going
through. The people at the oncologist will become your best friends, they understand.

A childhood friend connected me with another friend(Susie)by email to help support her and
she helped support me. Angels come to us in the strangest ways, I have learned to count my
many blessings.

Brain Cancer was really scary, I just could not imagine what opening up my head and cutting
my brain was going to do. The neurosurgeon was very blunt and said that we had to do the surgery
to find out what kind of cancer it was, I agreed. He then said that I would probably die, have a
stroke and lose my memory during the surgery. Oh, that was real comforting. I tend to be a bit
of a smart alic when I am scared so I said "Well, sign me up." He did for the following week.
Then he said go home and get your things in order because this will probably be the last chance
you get. It did not hit me until I was on my way home, my husband asked "Is this what you want
to do?" What other choice did I have? Our daughter was away in college and we drove up there to
let her know. We did not want to tell her on the telephone because she was alone. She handled it
well and that weekend she came home to help make my funeral arrangements with us. Funerals are
just way too expensive for a body just being place in the ground. I opt for cremation which makes
better since to me anyway. With that taken care of, we went home and tried to go about our routine.
I sat in the dark late that evening and wrote a letter to my husband and another to my daughter.
I just wanted them to know how much I loved them and that I was not giving up without a fight.
I refused to let any doctor tell me I was going to die, how does he know anyway. I am of Irish
decent which I inherited stubbornness and the Don't give up attitude. I truly believe that is
why I am still here. Praying had a great deal to do with it as well. I turned it over to God, he
knows what I need. My Aunt who lives in Philadelphia and is a Catholic Nun sent me holy water to
place on my forehead before surgery. That too played a big role in my survival.

I do not remember much about the brain surgery except that the surgeon said I talked the entire time.
I do know that my head was cut from ear to ear and my face pulled down to my chin. Got a free face lift.
You have to be partially awake to perform brain surgery so the surgeon can tell just how far to go.
Your brain and a tumor look the same, not like a tumor in your body. I do remember bits and pieces
from recovery - my whole family was there, my husband's whole family too. People came in and out for
about an hour to see me. At one point- I said "I have a head ache." My older brother was in the room
and said "No Sh##, you just had your head cut open." The nurse came in and gave me a shot, that put me
out and I don't remember anything after that. I do remember how much trouble the nurses were having with
my IV's, I finally said get someone in here who knows what they are doing. My right arm swelled up like
Popeye's. I worked hard everyday to remember all the names of people who came to see me. The nurses would
right their names on the board, but I could not focus to read it. I was in complete darkness which was
wonderful. The nurse would come in and ask me what day it was .... how the heck do I know, I don't even
know if it is day or night. The nurses always told my husband or daughter that I was the most polite patient
they had ever had. You never get any sleep in the hospital. The blood pressure cuff is squeezing the heck
out of your arm, then the leg pressure things squeeze your legs and the nurse wants to take your temperature
during all of this. She carries a small flashlight so she does not have to turn on the light - Oh thank you so very much. Dark good, light bad. Several days later I was released (never had gotten into a room), still in NCU because they did not have a room available. The ride home was AWFUL, there was way too much sunlight, and every
thing was moving around me. Motion sickness is not fun, I just wanted to close my eyes and sap myself home.
That made it worse. Got home, truly funny watching me attempt to walk in the house - everything was all out of
wack. I had a bandage/turbin on my head that looked like a huge football helmet, which was pushing my right eye closed. Then my sweet husband turned on the television for me - Oh my goodness, looked like strobe lights in color.
I would have to get MRIs on a continual basis to see how things were progressing. MRIs are the worst thing ever invented. It felt like I was a hug hot dog being pushed into a bun. Then all this racket starts, banging like a rock band that needs help, hammering like a jackhammer, and this goes on for about 45 minutes.
Then you are pulled out only to discover that they are going to inject a dye and put you back in. The whole process takes about an hour. Needless to say, if you did not have a headache before, you sure will after.


Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.

Julia D.

Karen, 22-Year & 2-Time Survivor

Thanks for sharing your story, Karen.

Whew, you have been through a lot, lady! So glad to hear you are doing well.

I, too, couldn't believe my misfortune when I had a "local" recurrence at the site of my mastectomy scar from 6 years prior! I read that only about 1% of recurrences occurred there. I thought, "Why must I be in that 1 measly percent!?" Unfortunately I later learned that this new lump on the same side was not an isolated recurrence ... the cancer had also metastasized to the bones, lung and many lymph nodes. :( But that was 3 years ago and I continue to live life to the fullest despite my stage IV diagnosis. I am blessed ... nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. Were it not for modern medicine, I am certain that I would NOT be alive today.

Let's keep funding cancer research. We need more success stories like yours and mine!

I was first diagnosed in 1987 at the age of 31. At the time I was married and had one daughter age 6 and a step daughter age 16. Stage 1, node negative. I chose a lumpectomy with radiation. At this time there wasn't any breast cancer awareness, you just dealt with it. My husband did not deal well and to make a long story short, within a year I filed for a divorce. It got very messy and he ended up committing suicide. So much for no stress in my life. Now I was 33, a widow with a young child to raise and a breast cancer survivor although no one really wanted to talk about that. It only happened to older women.
Life went on, as I knew it would. I met a wonderful man who became hubby number 2. He accepted me as a breast cancer survivor, my hodge podge family, (I was also helping my best friend raise her daughter) and I gained another step daughter.
Life was great and we got the surprise of our lives when I was 39 and we found out I was pregnant. After a difficult pregnancy we had us a healthy baby boy!!!!
I celebrated each year on the 6th of March, thanking the Lord for giving me another year.
Then the year 2000, my breast doctor called out of the blue wanting me to get an ultrasound. Funny I just saw her a couple months before, we had looked at my recent mammo, decided spot was more than likely scar tissue when comparing it to several past mammograms, now she wanted an ultrasound. It just couldn't be cancer again, I was 13 years out, even though in the back of my mind I knew. Sure enough, stage 2b, didn't even bother to check nodes again as I already have lymphodema, 7 cm her2 neg. ER pos. Had mastectomy with 4 rounds of A/C and 4 rounds of Taxol. A tram flap reconstruction and 5 years of Arimidex, couldn't take Tamoxifin because of blood clot in lung while going through chemo. I just knew I was going to die this time. My son was only 5. I could not find anyone who had breast cancer twice unless it had metastasis. I was so afraid. Finally I found a wonderful support group at Gilda's Club and on line at FIN. It was at FIN that I met someone who just like me had it more than once. finally HOPE!!!
Now I am 53 years old, a 22 years a cancer survivor, 9 years no evidence of disease, I feel blessed. I sign every relay for life sign with this:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exercise and Breast Cancer

As I start my second year of half-marathon training, I feel compelled to encourage all you couch potato ladies to get out and do something! Like you, I had a million and one excuses for not starting or sticking to an exercise plan. I'm too busy with work. I'm too busy with my kids. I'm too tired after work. I'm too tired after a day with my kids. I've never been a runner. I'm just not athletic. I can't even jog to the end of my street. I get tired just going up and down the stairs. Or, my own personal favorite (that I myself said frequently): I'm fat and happy!

When people hear that I ran a half marathon after training for just 6 months, I sometimes get, "You're obviously gifted athletically." This couldn't be farther from the truth. In school I never ran track, played volleyball, basketball, softball, or any other sport. I danced during high school, but after that I was rather inactive. My sedentary lifestyle led to a gradual weight gain and with that, a poor self esteem and embarrassment of my own body. Four kids and two bouts with breast cancer later, I was heavier than I had ever been, and I didn't feel good.

At age 40 and with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis, I joined a running club that met once a week for a group run and provided a during-the-week training schedule that, if followed, would prepare you to run a half marathon in six months. It worked! The sense of accomplishment of completing a half marathon, even at my slow jog pace, was amazing. What's even more amazing is the transformation my body has undergone. It's still far from perfect, but I feel so strong! I AM strong!

I know that not everyone with cancer can go out and start running. I know that I am truly blessed with the physical ability to do all these things, especially with Stage IV breast cancer. But I am here to say that the human body is an amazingly made thing! I went from total slough to half marathon runner in 6 months. Along the way, I lost 26 pounds and gained self-confidence, endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would run for fun and exercise. It's not the actual running that feels good (sometimes it's quite difficult and painful.) It's the results of the running that feels good!

Additionally, studies have found that women who exercise regularly have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. And among women who have already had breast cancer, those who are active can reduce their risk of recurrence. Here's a link to an awesome Q&A by the experts on So what are you waiting for??

Thanks for reading.