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It is what it is.

My mother died of lung cancer when she was 54, 6 weeks before my daughter was born. I was 26. When two of her sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer, I asked for a mammogram and BRCA test at age 35, even though doctors continued to tell me I was too young to worry about cancer. The BRCA test was not covered by insurance and I didn't have the $3,000 to cover it so I was not tested. Life got busy and I never had another mammogram, though I was having yearly annual exams with my GYN. Fast forward to early April, 2015 when at age 38 I found a lump.

My significant other Tyler urged me to get a mammogram quickly. We went to the doctor together, and when they asked him to join me for an ultrasound–being the self-proclaimed WebMD I am–I knew immediately something was wrong. By mid-April I was diagnosed with Stage IIIa Grade II IDC (ER/PR+, HER2-, BRCA-). I opted for a left mastectomy May 1 and have started treatment of 16 weeks of chemo and 30 radiation sessions. Thankfully my PET scan was negative, and I will have reconstructive surgery after treatment is complete. I turned out to be BRCA-, so a test years ago would not have predicted my breast cancer diagnosis.

I consider myself lucky to have the support of Tyler, my kids, and countless other family members and friends around me. Lucky to have a team of doctors that moved swiftly and continue to be honest with me. Lucky to work for a company that has been very supportive of the days I feel like working from home.

It is what it is. I cannot change the fact that I have cancer, but I can continue to fight and remain positive. I tell my story to inspire others to trust your gut, be your own healthcare advocate and find a team of doctors you trust implicitly. Educate yourself about breast cancer. Be supportive of others and their decisions. Laugh every day. Speak up. Smile.

Bethany Rutter
Ashville, OH

Celebrate!

My Mom, Bonnie Monroe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2014. After a lumpectomy and chemo treatments, today was her last day of radiation, and we are celebrating! She is the epitome of hope, strength, and courage for all who are fighting. #Never give up!

Sheri Adams
Brooklyn, MI

To Have a Mammogram or not to Have a Mammogram, That is the Question.

In January of 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no lumps and no pain. Never in my 42 years of life had I had a mammogram. I read articles about how mammograms before age 50 are useless, senseless and sometimes over expose women to unnecessary radiation which can actually cause breast cancer, so I chose not to have one annually and I wasn’t going to until after I turned 50. I really had nothing to worry about. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, no obvious symptom, so?

I was, however itchy. I scratched and scratched. No skin abnormalities, just dryness and I could not get the itching to stop, no matter what product I put on, so my immediate reaction was to go to a dermatologist. However, my boyfriend convinced me to get a mammogram. My mammogram led to diagnostic testing, which led to a lumpectomy, which then lead to a decision, to have a mastectomy or breast conservation.

When I was faced with this horrible disease, all I wanted is it to be gone. I wanted my journey with it to be short lived. I read that many women who elected breast conservation would eventually have to have a mastectomy. After numerous sleepless nights, breast conservation didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I will not pretend that having a bilateral mastectomy was an easy decision to make and the indescribable pain that I experienced during recovery was not something I want to ever do again. But, I will say, my boyfriend pushing me to get tested saved my life, making this decision saved my life, and my surgeons saved my life. My advice to women aged 40+, do not underestimate the power of a mammogram, it could save your life.

Kelly Sanchez
Rio Rancho, NM

3 time cancer survivor

3 times cancer survivor..twice in the breast and once in the brain..all in 2011 and 2012....now it is 2015 and I'm great..after the brain surgery I was partially paralyzed on the right side and had a hospital bed delivered and I slept down stairs for months...now I'm walking fine..lost my hair twice..I had long brown hair..it started to grow back after the breast cancer..and then I lost it again with the brain cancer..second time it grew in gold and very thin..different texture...just did an ultra sound on my uterus to see if the lining is hardening..just hoping for the best..but miracles happen..believe me I'm proof..I'm still alive and so very blessed.. I was sicker than I let anybody know..but I kept a positive attitude..and told myself than I am a strong woman and I believe God and my guardian angels and my mommy.were right by my side..now my cousin just had a mastectomy..and I am happy giving her advice on how to deal with this devil. thank you..Lynda Dewinde..Lancaster Ca.

Lynda Dewinde
Lancaster, CA

Healing With Words: A Boomer Writer's Journey

A short time ago, the food media celebrity Sandra Lee shared that at the age of 48, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both she, born in 1954, and I are smack in the middle of the booming age. So she joins me and others, such as Martina Navratilova and Wanda Stykes, as women afflicted with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), a relatively common form of early breast cancer.

Since my own diagnosis in 2001, my life has never been the same. The first thing my oncologist told me after the diagnosis was, “If this does not rivet you, nothing will.” He was so right.

Some women opt for the double mastectomy, but I opted to keep my healthy breast. I was also warned that because my DCIS was so widespread in the one breast, a lumpectomy would leave me severely deformed, so I chose to have a mastectomy. Having a double mastectomy meant that I would never again feel any nipple sensation and as a sexually-active boomer, I did not want to forego that pleasure, so I opted to leave my healthy breast intact.

I viewed my diagnosis as a wake-up call to take care of myself physically, psychologically, and emotionally. I advocate self-breast exams and maintaining healthy physical and emotional health is vitally important in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to breast cancer.

Some suggestions:

maintain a healthy body weight

avoid cigarettes and recreational drugs

avoid processed foods

avoid unrefined sugars

minimize alcohol intake

eat a plant-based diet of cruciferous vegetables

be aware of your genetic history

minimize stress

remain active

meditate and/or do yoga

be educated about your health

do daily journaling

Diana Raab, Ph.D. is a transpersonal psychologist and she is a regular blogger for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, and BrainSpeak.

Diana Raab, Ph.D.
Santa Barbara, CA

Happy to be Alive

In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, so I decide to go ahead and have the complete bi lateral mastectomy. Surgery went well, a couple of months later they started me on intense chemo, for one year. Once surviving chemo, which was miserable, I am now a 5 1/2 year survivor. Have had scans since then and am doing great. I feel great, during chemo I lost 55 pounds and am now happy that I can maintain the weight loss. I am a happy camper, have lots of energy and very active in spite of being 71 years old.

Patricia Moore
Federal Way, WA

Ashley David 29 yrs old sings a song of courage

Her song can be listened to at the link below..

https://youtu.be/-FbV4NxDT2o

or searched under Ashley David Breast Cancer.

Her walk a thon is can be viewed from the link below.schedule in spring, tx june 28th 2015

https://www.facebook.com/events/104892489851613/104892493184946/

Anonymous
Spring, TX

my story

I am 41...was diagnosed 10-14-2014 with breast cancer and I am brca1+. I had a double mastectomy 11-18-2014 , underwent 3 months of chemo and am currently undergoing reconstruction surgery. I am also having my tubes and ovaries removed (tomorrow in fact) due to the high risk of developing ovarian cancer. Luckily enough ive been able to work throughout all of this, only part-time at times but was also able to find a lot of resources to help thanks to the cancer center , hubert humphrey cancer center in robbinsdale mn. Ive never let this take me down, its only made me tougher and stronger than I already am!

Michelle Posl
east bethel, MN

Survivor, Victim, Fighter: What are you?

On May 5, 2014 I had breast reduction surgery. I have always been a very intuitive person and remember asking my plastic surgeon what the chances were they find cancer when doing reductions? She assured me it rarely happens and it has never happened to any of her patients. Well, 10 days later I was informed the pathology report from my reduction showed DCIS breast cancer in my right breast. Since I had a reduction there were no clear margins, I would require radiation to my full breast and hormone therapy treatment unless I elected to do a mastectomy. Since then, I’ve had a double mastectomy, expanders, implants and fat grafting to complete the more natural look and feel of my new breasts.

Recently, I had an MRI of my liver because a lesion was found as an incidental result of an ultrasound for my gallbladder. The tech asked if I had any surgeries or implants which would show up on the scan, so I told her my story. After hearing my story she says, oh, you’re a survivor. I told her; no I don’t really identify myself as a survivor. And she said, why not? You had cancer and now you don’t. This was hard for me to explain because when I think of being a survivor I think you have to be a victim first. I have never felt victimize by anything in my life.

In 40 years, I’ve been raped, done drugs, seen lives lost, been abused, had skin and breast cancer and now raised a very medically complex child. None of these have ever made me say “why me” or made me feel victimized. I don’t consider myself a survivor for having lived through these things. I am a fighter! I have the “will, courage, determination, ability, or disposition to fight, struggle, resist, any challenge” I face. My life is in my control with how I deal with the challenges presented to me. Life is about choices and how you choose to deal with what has been presented. In tough situations I choose to fight!

Kristy Kargel
Stillwater, MN

Feeling Blessed

November 2013 my mammogram was good. November 4, 2014 my mammogram showed a suspicious mass in the right breast. The doctors wanted more X-rays and ultrasound. November 7, 2014 I had these done. They confirmed the mass. It was .07 centimeters. It was so small that even knowing where it was I could not feel it nor could the doctor. Thank God for mammograms. The doctor wanted a biopsy done. This was done November 20 and came back positive for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. ER+ PR-.

December 26, 2015 I had surgery. A lumpectomy and removal of the first lymph node. The surgeon got clear margins around the lump and the lymph node was clean!!

I completed 33 sessions of radiation on March 25, 2015. I did get a rash all over the right breast. It was not sore. I had wonderful doctors and radiation technicians. My greatful thanks to all of them. They made the process so easy. I am also thankful for my family. Especially my daughter who came from Florida to be with me in NH for my surgery then putting up with us at her home in Florida while I had radiation!!

On May 7 I had a follow-up mammogram done and it looks good.

I have told all I speak to that they should not wait until they are 40 or more to have a mammogram done. Many young women get breast cancer. GET IT DONE EARLY! If I had not had mine done, I probably still would not know I had breast cancer and it would be much worse

Margaret
Hillsborough, NH
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