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I'm still here!

I’m still alive.

Today, July 28 – twenty years ago - I went into the operating room late. I had been scheduled for 9 am but they didn’t take me until nearly noon. Now, those that know me know that I get hungry, that I don’t like to miss meals and that at the best I start getting grouchy so you can only imagine how hungry I was when I awoke in the observation room after my tumorectomy. I finally managed to convince the attending nurse that yes, I was hungry, that, no I wasn’t feeling queasy or any other aftereffect from the narcosis. She finally gave me a yogurt, which although it tasted like ambrosia came back up as quickly as it hit my stomach. So much for not feeling the effects of surgery or the anesthesia.

I got out of the hospital 2 days before my 50th birthday.

It’s now 20 years since that first cancer, which, by the way, I discovered inadvertently by feeling it - it never did show up on a mammography.

Meanwhile both of my parents have passed away – my dad whilst I was undergoing chemo; my little sister lost her battle with cancer. My husband died and there have been other challenges as well, including a mastectomy on the same breast 5 years ago.

On the plus side: my sister-in-law in the USA just passed her 10-year mark and my German sister-in-law is headed for 85 in spite of hers. Both of my sons have turned into fine young men, interesting, entertaining, they lead lives that as their mother make me proud, but that would have also been highly satisfactory to their father.

I have even managed to hit the 5-year mark since the second bout of breast cancer - this time found during my yearly mammography.

My husband called me his pioneer woman – a survivor.

I’m indeed still here and enjoying every moment of life.

Anonymous
Corsier/GE, Switzerland

A Chance to Reinvent Myself

My son was nine at the time of my first diagnosis and eighteen at my second. That first time I was told that, regardless of the surgery I selected (lumpectomy or mastectomy), the survival rate after five years was 80%. I translated this into, “I have a one in five chance of dying before my son is fourteen.” Praise God, my lymph nodes were clear, greatly im-proving my prognosis.

When the cancer returned over nine years later, I told my son that if it killed me this time at least I knew he could go on without me, and he told me that he wasn't ready for me to go anywhere. Again I survived all my treatments with flying colors.

The American Cancer Society boasts of being the "official sponsor of birthdays." I love that, but I tend to think more in terms of graduations. Since my first diagnosis, I've seen my precious son graduate from elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and, in May of 2011, law school.

Time for me is measured in semesters. I followed in my son's footsteps by entering law school myself in 2009 after completing a paralegal certificate. I tell people that law school was harder to survive than cancer!

After three years of my four-year program, I learned that I have the BRCA gene mutation. I stepped up by having two pre-emptive surgeries to remove the at-risk organs between my Summer term and my final Fall semester. I graduated, passed the bar on my first try (as my son had), and became an attorney in 2013—two years after he had.

Since then I have been securing justice at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County for seniors without the finances to hire an attorney. I can think of no better way to spend the remaining years that God may grant to me.

P. Melanie Vliet
La Mirada, CA

my mom

my mom katie easton is 98 years old and breast cancer and she lives by herself goes out with her friends drives i have to ask her every day were she is going and when will she get home i look up to her i wish i could be like her she is the best person i have i know

Sue Easton
las vegas, NV

A Roaring River

As cancer survivors, we all have a worry that lingers in the back of our minds waiting for bad news. Most of the time we're told things are good, keep moving forward. We feel a sigh of relief and move on until the next test or scan or weird symptom. Then we have those moments, the ones where results indicate something's wrong. I had that moment recently.

I honestly forgot about the GYN. My appointment was standard, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, I had a transvaginal ultrasound to check my endometrium lining since Tamoxifen is known to cause cancer after long term use. Afterwards I was told I needed to see the doctor.

Now all cancer patients know this feeling, it's the - wait, no, that's not normal - the sinking feeling you know something's wrong. You're put in that room... the room you never really go into. The one away from the others... stuffed with information sheets.

Immediately the doctor had the head shaking, dang-it, let's rip the band-aid off, "well, it isn't good news" talk. She talked about how my endometrium lining had grown significantly, it should be less than 4 to 5 mm... mine was over 18 mm. There was other talk, but I only heard... potential endometrial cancer.

I left the appointment feeling frustrated, angry, confused, bewildered, worried, heartbroken, and afraid. However, I still held on to hope and the knowledge that the worst-case scenario of cancer was something I'd just have to deal with if I had to deal with it. I could only take it one step at a time, and there was no room to worry until I was told to worry.

Like most cancer survivors will say, we always live with hearing-cancer-again-worry forever after we're first diagnosed. For some, it is like a constant blaring red warning sign that rages and roars in front of them, always present. For some, it is a lingering trickle of noise that can occasionally become a roaring river when reminded of. I live with the lingering trickle, who that day had a roaring river.

Amy Brock
Huntsville, AL

we are stronger together

I was 9 when my mum was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. I had no idea what to think at such a young age and I was so scared. I only visited her once in hospital as I couldn't bare to see her the way she was. Eventually she got better and I thought that was that. last year (6 years on from the first diagnosis) she was re-diagnosed with breast cancer , this time in her other breast. this time I was older and so understood more the dangers of it all. I didn't let it get to me. I took the experience and decided to make best of the situation I set up a JustGiving page and ran some charity runs in order to raise money for cancer research. finally when my mum was better and had won her second battle I showed her the page.

I only made it through both diagnosis due to the support from those around and I think we all need to be there for those who are affected by the cancer not just directly but also those affected by a family members diagnosis because I believe that often we neglect tot think about how it affects those closely linked with those diagnosed.

I want to help everyone to make the word 'cancer' become less of a taboo and for people to realise that the word doesn't have to have negative connotations. people fight it and can survive. it not pleasant but in the end it will make us stronger as long as we don't let it consume us and weaken us. we are all stronger than it will ever be if we stick together and support each other.

Abi
London, United Kingdom

Make Today Amazing

May 9, 2017 was when I heard the words I thought I'd never hear, you have breast cancer. Shortly after that I was in Boston, at Dana Farber going through a clinical trial. During that time I started a blog based strictly on the cancer I had and posting encouraging thoughts and post. You can make Today Amazing is my theme during the past year. I would on purposely look for things to make my day amazing. The things I'd look for were like Make Today Amazing by Not getting Discouraged, or by helping others. Make Today Amazing by looking for "I love yous from God". I had my surgery in November of 17 at which time they were 99.9% sure all cancer was removed. On January 8, 18 I was starting a second round of chemo when I went into anaphylactic shock, I came within minutes of dieing. However, the Lord other plans and next Wednesday, May 3 I'll finish radiation. God has blessed me and my family! I serve a mighty God who loves us all, if it weren't for him the medical staff in Boston and Augusta I wouldn't be here today God gets all the glory from my journey of Cancer. I have tried to use my journey to be a blessing to others, staying positive, sharing Christ. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...." "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding in all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path." I've been Blessed beyond measure.

Paula Seavey
Vassalboro, ME

Always have HOPE

I was only 24 years old and diagnosed with breast cancer, just got divorced from a very abusive marriage and a 3 year old, this was a huge set back in my life.

I lost my marriage the previous year, my breast the next year and also my ovaries and womb in the same year after my heart stopped during my chemotherapy. Only my child by my side and my one friend I had to go through this terrible time. Eventually I decided no to let this be the end of me and I stand up and decided to fight this fight not only for myself but also for my 3 year old daughter. She was my motivation, my hope, my strength and my only reason for living at that stage.

I got through the chemo, through the mastectomy, the hysterectomy and also lost my job but all it was worth while at the old end as I recovered, find a job and is still in remission for more than 21 years already. My vision was to live from one highlight to the other, from seeing her go to school, then High school, then matric dance, university, graduation, marriage and also to meet my grandchild. So far I was so blessed to see and experience this all by the Grace of God and He never let me do this on my own, he was waking with me side by side and holding my hand and gave me HOPE to carry on.

After my heart stopped for 4 minutes and i was resuscitated I promised myself that I will never again give up as God gave me another chance and I have to live life.

Kowie Erasmus
Roodepoort Gauteng, South Africa

my mom

my mom katie easton she is 93 and has breast cancer and she is able to live by herself drive and go out with her friends i have to call and find out when she will be home

Sue Easton
Las Vegas, NV

It strikes again, but not me!

In December of '15 after my yearly mammogram, I was called back for another test and an ultrasound. A mass was found on the rear wall of my left breast, almost on the rib cage. I wouldn't have felt it, at least not until it was too late. I had a lumpectomy, chemo (which, for me, wasn't as horrible as I feared), then radiation. This week I had my 1st follow up mammogram. Praise God, it was clear!

The odd thing is, just last week, my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. It is rare for men to get this type of cancer, only 1 to 2% of men get breast cancer. I wish more information was available about male breast cancer. We are told his is related to his NASH disease, (liver disease). He is having a double mastectomy, then very specialized chemo. He is also having genetic testing.

We are strong, I am strong. We will get thru this also!

Dalene Kolk
Jackson, MI

My 3-D Mammogram Never Caught My Breast Cancer

I am a 50 yr old, active, and healthy plant based vegan. In early May 2017 I found a small lump in my left breast by chance. I was not doing manual exam.

Mid May I went and had a manual exam, 3-D mammogram and ultrasound at a breast center.

The 3-D mammogram report stated I had 'extremely dense breast tissue' and they didn't see anything-all looked normal.

Then I had a ultrasound immediately following the 3-D mammogram the same day which showed a mass that was 'suspicious.' No biopsy was done at that visit.

I wanted a second opinion at a local diagnostic center I trusted. So I had a subsequent 2nd ultrasound in early June 2017. The Radiologist agreed that the mass was suspicious and a biopsy was performed the same day. Within 2 days I had results, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, stage 1A.

I was lucky as my cancer, while invasive, was small with no involved nodes. I had a lumpectomy and I chose to not take any hormone blocking medication or have radiation with my oncology doctors support.

If I had caught my cancer later my story I'm sure would have been very different.

My cancer was never seen on 3-D mammography.

When would they have caught it!? If I had not felt the mass when would it have been caught?

Nobody has EVER told me I have more risk of breast cancer because I have dense breast tissue! They also have never told me to go have more screening tests such as ultrasound because of my dense breast tissue.

Now that I have had breast cancer and have dense breast tissue I will never have another mammogram. Only ultrasounds or MRI will be performed on me.

My oncology doctors support my opinion on that. Thousands of women with dense breast tissue need better screening tools such as ultrasounds or MRI vs mammograms that cannot see our tumors!

I am sharing this with anyone who will listen! I don't want other women to learn this information the way I did.

Tami
Portland, OR
Pink Ribbons and Hearts Packable Backpack
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