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3rd Stage Ovarian Cancer

I was misdiagnosed and went to ER where it was determined that I had a 9 cm lump on my ovary and given a referral to a gynecological oncologist. Tests proved my CA was 2400++ and I had two rounds of chemotherapy with the usual - hair loss etc., - then surgery and radiation for the whole month of September 2005, and I have not looked back since then. Though I keep going to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, in Toronto, for regular check ups.

I pray and as I suffer from depression too - it is not easy - but taking it one day at a time - am hanging in there. Have hope there is a greater purpose to life.

Shedoh Farooqi
mississauga, ON, Canada

Starting over!

October 2013 life was new and exciting. I had just tuned 57 and was newly divorced after 23 years of marriage. Bought a house and was settling in to my new independent life. 7 months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had actually been on high alert since my 20's since my mom and maternal grandmother both had it. Thank goodness I have been diligent about getting my annual mammograms. I was only stage 1. I saw a local surgeon who suggested a lumpectomy and radiation, but I wanted a 2nd opinion. So I went out of town and saw a woman doctor who specializes in breast cancer. She gave me more options, including what my local doctor suggested. After a 3rd appointment with a plastic surgeon and much weighing of options, I opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I think some of my friends and family thought this was a little extreme, but the decision is mine, and I was the only one who could make it, I just wanted to be done with it. I tested for the BRCA gene and was negative. This did not change my decision at all. My surgery was June 12th, and went smoothly. I'm now sporting tissue expanders to prepare for my reconstruction which will be in December. I'll be having a diep flap surgery which uses my own belly fat to reconstruct my breasts. Tummy tuck, perky girls, no radiation no chemo! NO CANCER! Win / Win! Yes this is not been a fun thing to go thru and sometimes I feel so lonely and a bit sorry for myself, but I really am so fortunate that this was caught early and I have great support of friends and family. Looking forward to next year, and perhaps dating?!!

Lurinda
Norton Shores, MI

SAGE'S PRESCRIPTIONS

I was diagnosed with breast cancer, estrogen + and HER2Nu +, for my birthday in February 2010. Here are some prescriptions that I received that I know can help anyone on his / her cancer journey:

1. FAITH - can't have enough of that. He will be with you and will carry you when you can't find the strength to stand on your own. Romans 15:13.

2. ATTITUDE / LIVE FOR TODAY - We never know when or how we will die, but we can choose how to live. Attitude is such a positive.

3. SLEEP - don't fight it. As we sleep, we are healing.

4. LAUGHTER:

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed that she had only three hairs on her head. "Well, I think I'll braid my hair today." She did and had a wonderful day.

The next day, she saw that she had only two hairs and said, "I think I'll part my hair down the middle today." She did and had a grand day.

The next day, she noticed that she had only one hair and said, "I'm going to wear a pony tail today." She did and had a fun day.

The next day she didn't have a hair on her head. She said, "Yippeeee--I don't have to fix my hair today."

Then she put on her Sparkle Cap, went to town and wowed everyone!

5. PRAYER - Prayer is the key to the morning and the bolt on the door at night.

It is not an easy journey, and each one of has to find her way, but we are NOT alone. On my journey, I started The Sparkle Caps Project (on FB), so that God could use me to help other women coming behind me. We have helped over 900 women and 4 men in less than 4 years.

Susan "Victorious" Heimbigner
Sumter, SC

My God is Bigger than Cancer

At 34 years old and pregnant with my third child, I heard the words no woman wants to hear "you have breast cancer." Early in my third trimester, I found a lump in my breast and brought it to the attention of my OB doctor. Due to my history of benign cysts and being so late in my pregnancy, we decided to monitor it until after I had the baby. However at 36 weeks pregnant, I started having a bloody discharge from that breast. I had my 36 week check up on Monday, my OB doctor ordered for a breast ultrasound on Wednesday, then a breast biopsy on Thursday. On Friday we were called into the surgeon's office and was given the news that I had stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Three days later, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy. I wanted that next week to be about the joy of having this new blessing. However, we had to come to grips with my diagnosis and the plan of action to beat it. One of the hardest realizations for me was that I would only have about two weeks of breastfeeding before I had to start chemotherapy. The weeks leading up to my first chemo were the most emotional days of my life. I did have the pleasure of meeting an ovarian cancer survivor and Olympic gold medalist, Shannon Miller who really inspired me to be strong through this battle. Taking her advice, I decided to shave my head because that was one of the few things I could control during this journey. I had close friends and family come over and my sister shaved my head for me. I am now five weeks out from completing chemo and then I will be looking at a lumpectomy with follow up radiation. I have found peace during this journey through my almighty God. He has put people in my life to speak truth and encouragement, to bless us with acts of service and meals, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on Earth.

Kristin Pearson
Sumter, SC

Just Got Home From Iraq...

I am retired US Navy and two years before my official retirement, I was sent to Iraq. No problem, that is my job as a corpsman to my Marines and off I went. Two months after my return, I found a lump in my left breast and had it checked. To make a long story somewhat short, it was malignant, had spread to lymph nodes, and I had chemo and radiation. Ok, again, I did my job and survived for the sake of my little children (My youngest was 2 years old at the time) . My BRCA test came back with an anomaly and my mom was tested too and she had the same anomaly. It seems this little gene does not distinguish between breast and ovarian cancer; my maternal grandmother died some years back from ovarian cancer and my mother had a TAH and ovarian removal over 30 years back. Coincidence? Maybe it was meant to express in my mom's ovaries but they were gone. She has no signs/symptoms of any breast cancer and she is now 74 years old.

I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with concurrent reconstruction from my abdomen and later a total hysterectomy with ovaries removed. My dilemma is how to I prepare my daughter, who is now 10 years old, to make the decision of a lifetime-to be tested for the BRCA anomaly or not. I have six healthy, robust sons from two marriages who are proud of me and my decisions I have made. To add to all of this, I have a profound case of PTSD from my sojourn to Iraq-it is rough for a mom to send boys home KIA that were the same age as my elder sons. But I am a survivor; I retired with 26 years of honorable service to my country, relocated to be closer to my mom and get away from the reminders of Iraq, and I still wake up every morning wondering what the day will bring. I live for my children and 3 grandsons and every day is a struggle, emotionally.

Janet Cooper
Celestine, IN

I know the word Cancer

My 6 year old grandson was visiting. I love getting his hugs. This time I had to tell him to be careful because, I had a “boo boo”. My boo-boo was from a recent biopsy of a mass discovered in my left breast.

We were at the local mall, playing in the water fountain. As we were leaving, we saw a pink ribbons painted on the roadway. He said: “Granny, I know what that pink ribbon is.” I replied: “You do. What does that pink ribbon mean?” “It’s for cancer”, Noah replied.

My response was, “Do you know what cancer is?” “I know the word cancer. I know how to spell cancer. I know cancer makes people really, really sick.”

I now know the word cancer, also.

It was June 2013, the month of my 62nd birthday. Being healthy all my life, with no family history of breast cancer, both my sons born before I was 30 years old, breast feed the youngest, and all my mammograms were void of any suspicious areas: why would I worry about breast cancer? The diagnosis was: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node involvement, and estrogen/progesterone receptor positive. Proof that all those statistics didn't apply to me.

I decided my motto would be "It is what it is and we will do what it takes".

A lumpectomy was first. Removal of my axillary lymph nodes was next. Then two rounds of chemotherapy: 4 consisted of a combination of doxorubicin (red devil) and cyclophosphamide. Followed by 12 treatments of paclitaxel. And, finally 33 radiation treatments.

Yes, my all my hair fell out. I consider this a small price to pay. I wore that shiny bald head like a badge of courage. I wanted everyone to know; breast cancer is survivable.

The first 4 chemo treatments were tough. But, I am tougher. The last 12 treatments were a piece of cake and I flew through the radiation with flying colors.

One year later; I am healthy, active, happy, more appreciative of the small things in life, and value the truly important things.

Take 'that', breast cancer!

Liz Stephens
Braselton, GA

My Miracle...

I want to start off by saying I would go through everything again if that's what I had to do to have the life I have now (not that I'd want to, but I would).

When my husband and I decided to have kids we had no idea what that journey would look like. After three miscarriages (the first of which made me so sick I couldn't work, eat, drink..) and at the age of 41, I finally got pregnant with our daughter. The time between the miscarriages and finally having one "stick" was almost exactly a year. I was just a month or so off my last miscarriage when I found out I was pregnant. It was a tough pregnancy, the horrible, debilitating "morning" sickness, a test that could mean our daughter had down syndrome (she didn't), and health issues of my own. But we were so excited! I was scheduled for an induction, as I have had two open heart surgeries, one of which I had my aorta valve replaced, so the doctor didn't want me to have any hard labor (that didn't really work out, but that's another story). About a week and a half before my induction I found an egg sized lump on my right breast. Everything happened pretty quickly after that. I had a breast ultra sound, met with a surgeon, and had a biopsy all before my scheduled induction. The surgeon and some of the folks assisting with the biopsy thought it was going to be benign. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. The day after our daughter Lily was born, we were informed that I had breast cancer, caused by my pregnancy and perhaps by the three miscarriages as well. But I was lucky, it hadn't spread.

Chemo was tough, I missed a lot of time with Lily in the beginning. But, my family and friends were amazing and supportive. I couldn't have made it without them. And especially my husband, I am so blessed to have him by my side.

And now I have my miracle, my Lily.

Missy Hines
Ruston, WA

My Husband just came home from Deployment and now I have what?! Cancer?!

One week to the day after my husband came home from deployment, I found a lump in my breast. It had just been our 2 year old and myself for a year now we were ready to restart our life. But, I went to the doctor, they sent me to an ultrasound, then to a surgeon who removed the lump which at that point grew to 2.8cm. Then I got the news. Its breast cancer. Stage 2A Ductal Carcinoma. "The good kind'. But he wanted to take my breasts with no real other option. I said send me to a cancer center. So off to Nashville I went with amazing doctors who said you are in control of your cancer. After another surgery, it was onto chemo.

I just kept thinking, how am I going to get through this. How am I going to deal with the pain and the exhaustion? I would look at my son and realize he was the light at the end of my tunnel. I went to all of my treatments, And when I got tired, I would snuggle with him and say I am going to see you graduate and dance with you at your wedding. I had to. I had no choice in the matter. I am 'too young, I'm only 32' to have this happen to me. I was NOT ready to leave my son. So I pushed through chemo, and radiation. I just kept thinking I have to be almost done. Then finally came the last chemo and then the last radiation. I was there, at the finish line and finally came the mammogram to tell me if it had all worked. The test that would say, let's remove the port.

So after 3 surgeries, 9 1/2 chemo, and 28 radiation, I am done. And today I can say I am cancer free. Hair can grow back, the body will heal itself but it couldn't have done that if I had chosen to take care of myself for my son and my husband because I was not ready to leave yet.

Melissa B
Edmonton, KY

Breast Cancer??...But I just turned 30!!

On July 15th, 2014, just two months after my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma. My world was turned upside down: Why me? Why so young? Why now?

At an age when you’re supposed to be enjoying other things in life, I have cancer. Now I know that cancer definitely does not care about your age and I refuse to let cancer get in my way! I won't say or think that I'm sick...the mind is our most powerful tool :)

I am now grateful for my diagnosis. It has changed the woman I am today and the woman I will become. It has taught me more about life, my family, my friends and myself than I had learned in my first 30 years. I have always been a positive and optimistic person but this has truly tested my courage, my strength and my faith. I am 100% sure that “things happen for a reason” and that God chooses his best warriors for his toughest battles; we are truly blessed.

Since I am a single woman in her VERY early 30’s, I made the choice to undergo fertility treatment and freeze my eggs before starting treatment. I was unaware that chemo can leave you sterile. I am currently undergoing 24 weeks of chemo, followed by surgery and possibly radiation. Amongst many of the things I have learned in the past three months, I am also BRCA-1 positive. I still have to meet with my surgeon again to discuss my options but knowing that I have a mutation has made it easier for me to make the decision of having a double mastectomy.

It has been a definite rollercoaster of news, feelings and emotions but it helps knowing that I am not alone. I thank God everyday for my family and friends, especially my parents and my sister! I have the best support system anyone could ever ask for and I am now a part of a group of women that deserve my most sincere admiration and applause! We are WARRIORS and we are NEVER alone!

Mariana
Houston, TX

The big "C", but your too young.

I am 32 and was diagnosed with Stage 1 Her2 Breast Cancer, in July. Everything stopped in my world when this was told to me, I just couldn't believe what I was being told, my first thought was my daughter whose 3 yrs old. What and how am I going to go through this with her being so little and try to shield her from all of this because I want her to stay 3 yrs old and not grow up any faster than what she already has. All I heard at every appointment was your too young, I'm so sorry. On the upside my Oncologist advised the growth had just turned to cancer and this was the 2nd time he's seen this in his career. It took me several weeks to choose what I was going to do, either a mastectomy or the lumpectomy with 6 weeks of radiation. All I could think about was the chance of it coming back. I have a dear friend whose mother has the same exact breast cancer and it came back...something I was so scared of...finally on my 3rd week since my diagnosis I made my decision. I made it exactly the moment my doctor asked me if I had decided. At that moment I advised I wanted a mastectomy. On Aug 19th I had my mastectomy and it's been a rough recovery, more of acceptance that has made it rough. Of course there are good days and there are bad days. The best day was when I went to see my Oncologist who advised that I would not need any sort of treatment what so ever! The prayers from my friends and family truly worked this miracle. My pathology report for my lymph nodes came back negative, this was a confusion for my General Surgeon since they tested positive with the neuro injection. He even sent them off three times to be tested to make sure and each time they were negative. Truly a miracle and now I can move forward with my journey.

Catrina
Round Rock, TX
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