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Shocked with a breast cancer diagnosis at 26 years old

I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at age 26, five months after the birth of my first daughter. When I went to my post-partum check up, my OB found a lump. On January 23, 2006 I went back to the surgeon for the results of my biopsy, and he uncomfortably let me know that the tumor was malignant. Because the tumor was too large for a lumpectomy, and I was not ready for the though of losing my breast, I began my first round of chemo. I lost my hair two and a half weeks later. The tumor shrunk, and on May 16 I had my lumpectomy. The lumpectomy was not successful, and on October 26, 2006, the surgery was performed. Over the next six years, I underwent a total of seven further surgeries to put permanent implants in, fix an infection, replace deflated implants, biopsy a new lump that appeared on top of the implant after the birth of my second daughter, and have the reconstruction re-performed due to issues with the first reconstruction. Through the course of this process, my marriage crumbled. I went through emotions I never thought I would feel, and grew into a person I never thought I had the ability to become. The strength I found in myself amazed me, and I am a person today that I am proud of, and that I hope my children can be proud of.

Mindy Matthews
Medford, OR

Woman, wife, mother, warrior

My name is Shannon, but my husband calls me “Mimzy”. I am 34, married and have a daughter that is 6 years old. I hadn’t been feeling well in at the end of June of 2014 and went to the doctor for a blood test the following month. He found elevated liver enzymes and requested a CT scan. That same afternoon he called us in and told me they happened to find a mass on my left breast and metastatic spots on my liver and bones. A week later I was diagnosed officially with stage IV invasive ductile carcinoma, estrogen positive, progesterone positive and HER2 positive. The doctors are certain which therapies my cancer will respond to and are positive that they can put the cancer into remission. For each treatment and cancer appointment, I have worn a Beatles shirt. They are shirts I have owned or that have been given to me. At the end of the journey, I will turn all my shirts into a victory banner quilt. I have completed 10 rounds of radiation and will begin my first round of chemo on Aug 29th. I have maintained a warrior-mentality. I have bad days, but then I pick myself up and remind myself why I must fight and press on. My faith sustains and grants me grace to fight. I am so thankful for the family and friends have joined TEAM MIMZY. I had gone recently to a family reunion and my family members were all wearing “team mimzy” shirts. It is so encouraging to have the strength of others to draw from when you are running low some days. My favorite quote for my battle is: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” –Jimmy Valvano.

Shannon Lewis
Erie, PA

My She-roes

In January 2012, my older feisty sister Tenise's breast cancer came back aggressively after she had been in remission for just 4 months. It was the first time I saw fear. She was the smallest of us 6 sisters, but she was the fighter and the protector. We had no doubt that she would beat this second go-around as well. We prayed and believed. Sadly 2 days after her surgery, she received her wings March 26, 2012. A few days before Trenise's funeral, my youngest sister Sonya's husband insisted that she get a mammogram. Well to our horror, about 3 weeks after burying one sister, Sonya breaks the news that she too had breast cancer. It knocked the air out of us all. We were all so afraid. But after the tears, we realized that WE had to dig deep past our fears and be a strong positive support for an already positive Sonya. We dropped everything and drove the 300 miles distance where she lived to do WHATEVER she needed which included wig /scarf shopping and cleaning. We had laughter, some scares, and yes some closet tears.. In August of 2012, the day of her surgery to remove the cancer, there was a hint of fear that lingered in the waiting room. We knew in the back of our minds that this could very well be a replay of the day Trenise had had her surgery and died. Thank God, January of 2013 our baby sister rang that victory bell with a smile that could light the sky. Almost 2 years later, she is stronger than ever. So.. we all feel that my older sister Trenise, the protector, took those wings in order for her baby sister to get that mammogram and discover the cancer at an early stage, and for us to discover an unbelievable love and strength we all possess. We could had lost them both. Trenise saved Sonya and she is my she-roe. They both are..I wrote this song for them,and all who wears THAT Pink color of courage..Thank you and God Bless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y661tgWGq80

Sherri Mosley
Kansas City, MO

Nearing the end of an unfortunate journey

Today, I was overjoyed, when my plastic surgeon removed my bandages, just 6 days after surgery. Let me tell you, it wasn't the most pleasant experience, as everything is still very much sore and tender to the touch. I would have given anything for him to remove my cyborg tubes, but unfortunately, I am stuck with them, until next Tuesday.

My plastic surgeon was very impressed, with how things are healing. It won't be long before the OR will be prepped again, for my next surgery, when I will once again, go under the knife to switch the expanders for real implants. But before such time, I will need to go see him, a couple of times, so that he may "blow up my balloons", to their "optimal" size.

A few months down the line, once I have healed from the switch, I will once again see my surgeon and he will reconstruct some new nipples for me.

In retrospect, had I known then, what I know now, I would have opted for a double mastectomy, instead of having gone through the trouble of a lumpectomy, back in March. How concerned I was, about losing a nipple ... a simple nib of flesh!

When you are given a choice between life or possible death, it's becomes a no brainer!

Just to know, that whatever could have killed me, was removed from my body ... there is no greater feeling!

I had a choice. I made my choice. I chose life. I chose to live!

I am nearing the end of this unfortunate journey, with the biggest smile on my face!

I am truly blessed!

Nina Wozniak
Lachute, QC, Canada

My tat

I'm a 56 yr old 2 time survivor. First at 26 yrs. old (1984) and then again at 30 (1988). This is the tattoo I got to mark the spot of my first bout.

Anonymous
Parma Heights, OH

Strength in the middle of my biggest storm

My cancer was not detected the way one will expect nor treating it was the usual way. I underwent approximately eleven surgeries the biggest one was the double mastectomy. Even though my body went through a lot during this time I thank God that I was spared from any radiation or chemo....that's a miracle.

Three months prior to my diagnosis I lost my dear mom to a different illness and I remember how optimistic and bravely she fought. Her faith and bravery I've taken with me. I've been blessed to have a supporting husband, two amazing daughters and sisters to whom I'm so thankful to have by my side every step of the way.

My body has obviously changed but I choose to look at all my scars as wounds of victory. I have been cancer free for 5 years now. During this journey I've learned so much of myself and really appreciate those who have expressed their love for me unconditionally.

I can't imagine going through something so difficult without faith in God and the support of a church family constantly praying for me and my family.

The future looks bright and I'm so ready for it!

Mayra C. Torres
Pembroke Pines, FL

I am Truly Blessed

I am blessed. Today marks my 5 year survivorship with breast cancer!

Two years prior to my mothers passing, God helped me find forgiveness for her seemingly unforgivable behavior while I was growing up which allowed me to be with her during her final months. Near the end, she began calling out to her father, who had passed away 45 years earlier. I am convinced my grandfather was in the room with us waiting to take my mother home. She passed away within a few hours.

Just three weeks later, my test results were in; bilateral invasive ductal carcinoma. I was thrown into a world where I had to make life altering decisions while trying to understand terms, concepts and doctor's titles that, up to that point, I knew almost nothing about. Witnessing the interaction between my mother and grandfather took the fear of dying out of the equation. After the initial shock, I was able to put 100% of my energy into research and preparation for what seemed like an endless cycle of surgery and recovery. The cancer was cut out of my body via a bilateral mastectomy. Biopsies showed that I had cancer behind the cancer we didn't know about, but they got it all. My lymph nodes were clean as well. I didn't need traditional chemotherapy or radiation - only daily medication for 5 years.

After all this, yes, I consider myself blessed. There were many important life lessons along the way. God put the right circumstances and the right people - family, friends and medical professionals - in front of me every step of the way. I am thankful my heart and mind were open enough to listen.

CarolynP
Raleigh, NC

My Journey with Breast Cancer

I had just started a new job when I found the lump in my breast. It was during my cycle so (being a nurse) I waited to see if anything would change. When it didn't, I decided to wait until the next cycle ended to see what happened. {Nurses are notorious for waiting things out}. Even though both of my grandmothers had breast cancer, I'm 37, I never thought it would actually be cancer. After much prodding from a friend who said she would go with me, I went. I'm so glad she did. I found out on 6/3/14 that it was breast cancer. My husband was on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic when I got the news.I was scheduled to leave for my mission trip to the DR on 6/9/14 and I felt that I really needed to go. That God was saying, "Take this time to process" and it was ok with my doc so I went. I am so glad I did. It was such a spiritual experience for me.

We have 3 little girls so we decided to wait until I returned from my trip on 6/18/14 to tell them. They were devastated. I had a double mastectomy on 6/20. I started chemo on 7/30/14. It took awhile for my Oncotype DX results to come back. In the study with % from 1-50, mine was 69% chance of recurrence in 10 years! My oncologist said he had never seen a number than high...guess it's my good genes :) The first treatment landed me in the ICU with a white blood cell count of 0.6 and a temp of 105.5! I was there for 5 days! I just had my second treatment yesterday. I'm not sure where this will all lead. But I know that God has shown me that no matter what, I will be ok. That I will be here for all of those firsts still yet to come with my girls. I am getting through this purely through God's strength. Without Him, I don't know how I could face all of this.

Shana Carnes
Statesboro, GA

Okay, I have Breast Cancer.. now what?

When I felt the lump that would forever change my life I knew without a doubt that it was Cancer. I was 29, a single mother to a 7 year old, and 100 % sure that I had Cancer. After all the initial doctor appointments and scan as well as biopsies the results were in. It was the day before my daughter turned 8 that I received the Confirmation. To my surprise my cancer was proven to be unrelated to a family history of breast cancer. i had triple negative Braca negative as well. My cancer was unique for the tumor was large and had grown completely into my peck muscle. This type of location so rare many of my doctors had never treated a case as mine. I was thrown into an aggressive chemotherapy regime. I would go on to 4 cycles of the red devil as well as 16 consecutive weeks of two other drugs. I followed the expected route hair loss, low blood counts, blood transfusion, and extreme nausea and exhaustion. I completed my chemo three days after my 30 birthday. I went on to have a mesectomy. They took all breast tissue,peck muscle, and some chest wall. A week after I came home to recover I became septic and had to have the expander removed. I have been home three weeks since that last surgery. I feel like a different person now, that first day that I looked in the mirror and saw the indent in my chest was hard. I felt my women hood slip away, but I worked hard on myself.I now look at all my wounds as battle scars. I am proud of the road that is behind me. I can look in my young daughters eyes and feel secure in my self, in the type of role model I am to her, and to other young women who have to walk down this road. I start radiation in a week and am eager to get it started. I am still moving forward and greatful for every step I CAN take!

Staci Rinehart
Kettering, OH

A Family Affected

I am a 35 yr old wife and mother. I have struggled with lumps and pain throughout my breasts for the past 16 months, suffering with fibrocystic disorder. My initial visit, my gynecologist referred me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I was asked to return 6 mos later for a follow-up. 6 mos later I was then referred for another ultrasound, upon the results they ordered my first biopsy. Results were negative. 3 mos later extreme tenderness and pain along with several other lumps began appearing, I returned to my gynecologist and was referred immediately to an Oncologist. He did an ultrasound and stated he didn't see anything of concern and sent me for an MRI. The next day he called and stated they recommended an additional biopsy. I waited for almost 2 mos with no call from them to schedule the second biopsy, so I began to search for another doctor. Upon locating one, I sent over all my reports from the several mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsy and MRI. they scheduled me an immediate appointment. My initial appointment, was there for 5 hrs as they completed additional extensive testing on me and I was directed to return in one week for the second biopsy. The following day I received the results and the news that I had breast cancer. I am now scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy next week. I would like to urge ALL women young or older, PLEASE do not wait or allow a doctor to "throw you on the sidelines". Had I not been persistent, who knows when I would have been diagnosed and the results could have been a lot worse. I am a wife, who's husband was wrongfully convicted of a crime, whom sits in prison as my children and I have to endure this journey without him. We have children ranging from ages 16 all the way down to 7 years. I'm not scared, I just wish I knew what to expect post-surgery. I know that God has given me the strength to endure this, and in the end He will be glorified.

Victoria Hernandez
Salton City, CA
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