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The Finish Line of a Half Marathon

Just six months after my last surgery for breast cancer I completed a half marathon. I have been there...sick in bed, exhausted, in pain. But on the other end of this I can say, you can have a life again. If me sharing my story inspires someone to maybe try and sit up today, or know there is a light at the end of the tunnel; then it's worth it.

Running doesn't come easy to me, never has. But I knew if I could accomplish something I couldn't do before my diagnosis, then I could learn to trust my body again. I tried the normal training ways and it was hard. I felt my feet were made of lead and I was breathing through a straw. Devastating. A friend, who has run many marathons herself, told me to stop trying to train for distance. Train for time. Run for 20-30 min and walk when I needed to walk. This made life much easier for me. But still the long runs were difficult. I could NOT breathe. My husband told me athletes wear breathe right strips. I tried it. They are magical.

But the bone pain was debilitating from Arimidex. It was crippling. I tried Claritin and it helped! I still had some painful runs, but was able to push through them. The last obstacle was my fear. What if I fall? What if I can't finish? But I remembered feeling that way before chemo and the day of I was ready to face it. Day of the race, I was fully joy. It wasn't easy and the last three miles were a doozie! I won't lie. My husband met me at the finish line and we crossed holding hands, me crying my eyes out. All of that pain from the past year, I let go on that run.

This is YOUR life. And you only get one shot at it. Go out and live it. Run, walk, crawl… whatever. Do it! Laugh. Love. Take chances. DREAM BIG. You deserve your very best life and it’s right here waiting on you.

Ree Merrill
Los Angeles, CA

I will praise God even in the mist of whats going on

I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer, stage 3. I found out on my birthday when I turned 54. I thank God still, because his word says that all things work together for good, I am getting ready for surgery after 4 cycles of chemo. I have an amazing oncologist and breast surgeon. I want to say to all women and me, don't give up, keep the faith. God is a Healer.

greenacres, FL

Always remain positive

Hi my name is Darlene, I have been battling stage 3 Triple negative breast cancer since October 2014. I went thru numerous tests, cat scans, bone scans, MRI, Ultra sounds, 6 needle biopsies and numerous blood work. I went thru over 20 rounds of chemo, a mastectomy, lymph nodes removed which came back with tumors and an explander and port placed in my chest. My immune system was affected which resulted in me getting injections 3 days a week during chemo. I went thru 30 rounds of radiation. 8 months after I had a recurrence and was on the operating table to get another tumor removed. Because of the recurrence I needed to get treatment again. I recently went thru 28 rounds of Proton radiation. I am currently on a chemo drug called Capecitabine. My expander and port are still in my chest. My expander won't come out until next year. I will be getting a latissimus Dorsi flap procedure. I am suffering from a lot of nerve and bone pain.

My advise to anyone going thru cancer is to always stay positive and never give up. We are all on the same team. Warriors💞

Parlin, NJ

No Mo' Chemo!!

Today was my last chemo treatment and I have been on cloud 9!! No Mo' Chemo for me!!

I was 38 years old when I diagnosed on 2/26/16 with stage 2 breast cancer and had my first chemo treatment on 3/10/16 taking the last one today 7-7-16!! I will now move onto surgery and then radiation, I am waiting for those magical words "cancer free".

I have had mammograms since I was 23 because my mother passed away at the early age 31 of breast cancer in 1991. I had my routine mammogram on 7/2/15 that was clear and I found the mass in my breast on 2/13/16 myself. I was always dependent on the mammogram finding something because I did not know what I was looking for. However when I felt this I knew it was not right. Since I have been on this journey that had been my main thing to tell people and I feel that it is not my "platform" so-to-speak. Do not be dependent on a mammogram, feel of them if you feel something in one, feel the other to see if it is the same. When I felt my mass it was like nothing I had ever felt before. If I had not found it when I did it could have possibly been another 4-5 months before my next mammogram and who to say it would not have moved further through my lymph nodes by that time. Do your self great exams!! That is what saved me, I didn't do them often at all just randomly and praise God I did it that day and felt it. He brought me to this and He is bringing me through it!!! My family has been amazing and my husband and love of my life has been my rock through all of this!! Thanks for listening to my story, now onto recouping from this last shot of chemo and then onward to surgery!!

Sincerely, JT from Texas!!

Jennifer Thornton
Groveton, TX

My Breast Cancer Journey

My mother died from breast cancer at the age of thirty four, so I knew my sister or I would inherit the “Big C”, but I never thought it would be me. In October 2000, I found a lump while doing a monthly breast self-exam. I was thirty-two years old and just finished graduate school. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me. In a matter of days, everything changed. I remember thinking “I’ve been given a death sentence.”

Emotionally, I went up and down from panic to the elated feeling that I would beat the disease and then back to fear and despair. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. Ronnie, my boyfriend at the time was also my caregiver and one of many in my support system. Mrs. Ethel, my manager at the time, was a breast cancer conqueror and a Christian, which was a double blessing. She accompanied me to my appointments, prayed with me and was a comfort. My family lived in New York, so God gave me an extended family in Florida. God had it all planned out. He was the light in my darkness. My family came down to visit. They kept me in prayer and were supportive.

All the thoughts running through my mind resulted in sleepless nights and when I did finally sleep, I was plagued with nightmares. My doctor put me on medication for depression which helped me sleep. Thinking back on some of those nights, I remember while lying on my bed, I prayed for God to take me home to be with my mom because I didn’t have the strength to go on. But, God got me through those dark times. I began seeing a therapist and in 2006 I started a support program specifically for younger women.

October 19th I will be 16 years cancer free. I don’t have to look at my scars and feel uncomfortable about my body anymore. I have learned that it doesn't matter who you are or what you’ve been through, you are beautiful in spite of your circumstances.

Charron Walker
Jacksonville, FL

Surviving in Style

In September of 2014 (shortly after my 40th birthday), I felt a small lump in my breast. Convincing myself it was "just a cyst," I was devastated when doctors confirmed my worst fears, and I was diagnosed with Stage IIB triple-negative breast cancer. Still in shock, I met with my new oncologist to figure out my game plan and looked ahead to a long year of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation.

During my second round of chemo, I ran my hand through my hair and clumps came out. I started crying. Soon, my boyfriend finally shaved my head. I closed my eyes and cried as my remaining hair fell around me.

The next day, I felt FREE. It was finally over. With a background in fashion, I was determined to keep my style sense throughout treatment. Wanting to look more natural, I never wore my wig. Instead, I had fun experimenting with scarves during chemo and received lots of compliments. Cancer took many things from me, but I wouldn't let it take my style!

I wanted to create a resource to assist other breast cancer survivors in keeping their sense of style during treatment, and Survivor Moda was born. Survivor Moda both empowers breast cancer survivors to survive in style & provides breast cancer information and resources.

While still in radiation treatment, I created a seatbelt pillow to comfort my chest for the car rides to and from the hospital (and have used it daily ever since!). A fellow breast cancer survivor pal was due to have surgery, and I made one for her as a gift before she was admitted. She excitedly said, "I didn't even know I needed this!" I assured her although she may not have known it, she would be glad to have it when she left the hospital. After seeing her response and incorporating feedback from other breast cancer survivors, I created The ParkPuff, a portable, stylish, chest-comforting seatbelt pillow for breast cancer patients.

After more than a year of 15 chemotherapy rounds, three surgeries and 32 radiation treatments, I'm thankful to officially be declared cancer-free!

Rachel Park
Los Angeles, CA

Reoccurrence After 26 Yeas

I had a modified radical mastectomy and lymphedectomy (sp) when I was 51 in 1990. In those days there was no automatic follow-up if the lymph nodes were clear. Fast forward to 3/23/16. I went in for my annual wellness check. While checking my scar, the doctor had me raise my right arm. She then exclaimed "Do you know you have a hole in your side?" Needless to say this was news to me. She gave me an antibiotic prescription and told me to come back in a week. I did and the opening was not fully closed. She had a surgeon come in who took a biopsy right then. Two days later the surgeon told me I had a tumor and that it checked out as breast cancer! I had surgery on 4/20/6 and have just finished five weeks of radiation. I am sure hoping for another 26 years at least without cancer.

Joan H Zimmer
Pacifica, CA

Cancer and "Mommy Guilt"

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn't know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” Linda Wooten

I look at my daughter and love the fact that she has my eyes and my love for the arts . I also look at her in fear that she has a 50/50 chance of carrying the gene that could potentially change her life forever.

Being BRCA positive and having a daughter brings a whole other level of fear to the word Cancer. At age 18 it is suggested that Kenzie be tested for BRCA and if positive, she will have to make a decision that could impact her ability to have a family. Any mother understands all too well the concept of “mommy-guilt”, but knowing that you may have passed along a gene that could keep your daughter from having children of her own, is almost too much to wrap your head around.

When I was first diagnosed, Kenzie was a year old and while I realized the day would come that she would need to be tested, time was on my side. Two weeks ago, Mackenzie turned 12. Mackenzie started showing signs that she is hitting puberty and all I could think was “Boobs! She is going to grow boobs! Even if Mackenzie is BRCA negative, she will still have to be closely monitored for Cancer for the rest of her life. Because I developed cancer at such a young age, Mackenzie’s odds of also developing cancer are far better than average.

I am scared of not living to see her 18th birthday, and of not being around to help support and guide her with my experience in life and with Cancer. Mountain of mommy-guilt party of 1!

Having a little girl is often associated with fairy tales, ponies, princesses and the corresponding Prince Charming. Cancer is a dragon in our fairytale, and although we may not yet be able to slay that dragon, we fight daily wearing our armor of love, laughter and open honesty.

Shanna Pinet
Atkinson, NH

A Mammogram Saved My Life

My mother died from Breast Cancer at the age of 54, her sister at age 31. The possibility of Breast Cancer has always been one of my biggest fears, and for this reason, have gotten mammograms every year since the age of 35 (now 64), always with good results. But in October of 2015 that was not the case. I received a phone call telling me they wanted me to come in for an ultrasound. My heart sank. After the ultrasound, they set me up for a biopsy and after that I had to go through the weekend imagining the worst. On Monday, I got the call at work. The result was "The Lump is Stage One Cancer". I just sat at my desk and cried. Luckily one of my sons works with me and came to my office to comfort me. Went in for a lumpectomy in December, then had to wait for those results to determine whether I would need Chemo or just radiation. I was lucky ~ just needed six weeks of Radiation. My family was terrific ~ they wouldn't let me go alone at any time ~ someone was there every day to take me and on the last day my children and grandchildren were there to watch me ring that Bell. I am now cancer free and a huge advocate for mammograms. All of my doctors told me that because of the size and position of the lump, they could not feel it and by the time I would have noticed it, I may not have been so lucky. In my eyes, the mammogram saved my life and it is good to be able to say that I am a Breast Cancer Survivor instead of I have Breast Cancer.

Caroline Lorraine
Glenolden, PA

I'm a work in progress

In 2004, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Complete hysterectomy & radiation treatments. June, 2015, went for annual visit with the OBGYN oncologist & had graduated to seeing the PA instead of the doctor. Nothing found. Late September, went for mammogram & had the regular type. The techs asked if I minded being a guinea pig as they were learning their new 3-D mammogram machine. I agreed. Regular mammogram showed nothing. 3-D showed a tumor. Sent to breast surgeon for biopsy. Ductile carcinoma...also in sentinel lymph node.Triple negative, grade 3. Breast surgeon sent me to oncologist specializing in breast cancer. 6 rounds of ACT chemotherapy. Tumors (MRI found 2) shrunk to virtually nothing. Recurrence rates about the same with lumpectomy or mastectomy, surgeon recommended lumpectomy & lymph node removal. Surgery on April 15th. Cancer in tumors dead. Cancer in sentinel lymph node dead but lymph node number cancer cells. Took out 5 more lymph nodes...cancer free. Having 33 radiation treatments. When finished, 8 months of oral chemo (xeloda) just to make sure none of those nasty little buggers migrated anywhere. I currently feel wonderful except for fatigue...have to take a lot of breaks. I am a walking machine...walk a few miles everyday (at several intervals, not all at once). Lost weight, am eating a healthy, vegetable laden diet (while I was on chemo, I craved red meat and greens, so that's mostly what I ate!) And of the utmost importance to me, I had people praying for me all over the world! Knowing that they cared enough to do this for me, kept my spirits up & I have only had 3 meltdowns during all this (& the chemo was BRUTAL). I believe that the positive attitude, prayers, diet and exercise have kept me feeling good! (I was, and still am, overweight....just in case you think I was a health nut who had good habits...NO).Say nothing but hopeful, positive things to yourself no matter how bad the makes everything better! My wish for all of you is faith, family, friends, peace, hope, love and big hugs!

Vanessa Dixon
Snow Hill, NC
Garden Flair Metal Solar Light
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