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Strength, Courage, and Hope

October 8,1999 I went in for my regular mammogram, a few days later I received a call from my doctor wanting me to have more mammogram pictures and an ultrasound. I few days later I received the call that I potentially had breast cancer. My husband also was fighting terminal cancer and this was the worst news I could have ever received. October 15, 1999 I was scheduled for a biopsy, at first I was told the frozen section was normal then when I went into the surgeon's office I received the news that I had Stage 2 Infiltrating poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma in my right breast. I was then scheduled for a lumpectomy with lymph node removal. This was followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These were dark days for me but I kept most of my feelings to myself, felt very alone at times. I felt I had to remain strong to support my kids so they would not be so scared, especially with my husband also sick at home. I took a long lunch break and would go for chemo then return to work. This was the hardest fight of my life, I'm not sure anyone knew how I really felt or how tired I would become. My husband lost his fight with carcinoid syndrome shortly after I completed radiation therapy. More dark days to follow.

I had one more scare after a mammogram in 2007 but the MRI was clear so I could breath again.

Here it is October 2014 and I'm am so lucky and blessed to be a 15 year survivor! I have never told anyone my story but would like to share it now on this anniversary.

Please remember that mammograms do save lives and encourage your friends to always get theirs. Find someone who can support you when your down and always give thanks for your blessings.

Vicki Bailey
Oklahoma City, OK

My story thus far

I was diagnosed the Tuesday after Memorial Day 2014 with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. I had my very first mammogram May 9,2014 and then was asked back for needle biopsies on both breasts. After the biopsies I waited a week before calling for my results as I hadn't heard anything. I was told they would call when the results came in so I waited another week. After which I called and was told the results were negative. The following day I received a call that the doctor wanted to see me. I had to wait until after the holiday in which I went in to see the doctor and was told my left breast was clear but the right was positive for cancer. I was scheduled for a lumpectomy on July 3,2014 where I found out my tumor had grown into Stage 2A. I also tested positive for having no hormone receptors so it makes me Triple Negative and requires I have both chemotherapy and radiation. I am currently through 4 of 6 chemotherapy treatments. I am due to have my last one on November 17,2014. I urge ALL women to have their mammograms and to ask for the results. Don't just assume no news is good news as if I had done that my cancer would have been missed. I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in my journey and I look forward to a new year of being cancer free.

Amy Dundon
Glens Falls, NY

I Take One Day At A Time

On July 20,2014, I went in for my normal mammogram, and a week later I got a call to come back in to do another mammogram, so I did and again I got a call to come back in to do a biopsy.3 days later i got the call that I had breast cancer. I will never forget that day! On 9/4/2014 I went in the hospital to have a mastectomy including lymph nodes on the left side. thank God it was just stage 1 means the tumor is smaller than 3/4 of an inch in diameter. It does not appear to have spread beyond the breast. Thank God for that. I do not have to take chemo or Radiation. All I have to take is the pill for 5 years and therapy for Lymphedema for the swelling.I choose not to worry about tomorrow, I an just enjoying today. I took one day at a time.

Anonymous
Forest Hill, LA

Inverted Nipple

For a couple of years my right breast nipple changed from its original form to what you see on the photo. I was concerned and asked my doctor if this was normal. My last 2 mammograms had come back negative. My doctor said post-menopause a woman's body changes and this inverted nipple could be the result of atrophy. I really hoped she was correct. I didn't do self exams, I wasn't really sure of what to feel for when checking. Sometimes when getting dressed I tried to encourage my nipple to come back to it's original shape but I was always unsuccessful. I remember asking the tech when receiving my mammogram if she had seen a nipple like mine, she said yes frequently. I couldn't get my nipple out of my mind. After doing many searches on the internet, all of which said if you notice any changes in your breast it could mean, but most likely not, that you could have breast cancer. Even though it wasn't time for my annual mammogram I made an appointment with my physician. I explained I didn't want to go the rest of my life wondering why my nipple was inverted. She agreed to my having an MRI, especially since she said I had very dense breast. My MRI came back showing I had a tumor. I saw a breast surgeon, had a core needle biopsy, the diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma. It was estrogen receptive, stage 2, and thankfully slow growing. Thank goodness for that because it had been growing for two years. I have been on adjuvant hormone therapy since April 2014 and will be making a decision soon when to have surgery. I will hopefully be able to have a lumpectomy since the therapy has shrunk the tumor somewhat, and considerably the enhancement surrounding the tumor I am very grateful for being an advocate for myself. We know ourselves when something just seems wrong. My hope is that if you notice breast changes you won't ignore them...even if told all is ok. Don't be afraid to speak up!

Anonymous
Sahuarita, AZ

To Cancer and Back

It was Monday, August 4th, and I woke up to a sharp, stabbing pain running from my right collar bone through my right breast. Every 5-7 minutes I would feel the pain.

I thought I was too busy to call the doctor. I had been too busy to call the doctor for two years. I shamefully admit that I missed my “yearly” last year. I’m sure I had an important reason like, you know, a Netflix marathon.

In any case, it is unlike me to call a doctor. But, it was like someone was ringing a fire alarm in my head. I didn’t just have the urge to call, I couldn’t get my hand to the phone fast enough.

The doctor could feel an “area.” In fact, she furrowed her brows and said, “that’s like 6 centimeters.” She went on to reassure me that pain doesn’t usually mean cancer, but we should do a mammogram. I also had an ultrasound and biopsy.

And so, on August 20, I was sitting in an outpatient imaging center with a stone-faced radiologist and a pensive nurse. The radiologist began, “We can’t find any sign of lumps, masses or tumor in the area that brought you to us. There is no evidence of fat necrosis.”

I let all of my breath out.

“But,…”

I sucked all of my breath back in.

“We found some micro-calcifications that are undetectable by touch and have to be found via mammogram. We did your biopsy because there were so many of these calcifications. In fact, they fill up a large part of your whole breast. The biopsy results have determined that these are malignant. They are cancer.”

The surgeon recommended a total mastectomy.

On October 8, 2014, I fell asleep at the hospital and woke up with two very large scars.

And so, in a matter of 73 days, I had cancer, I fought cancer, and I am today, cancer free.

Insert smiley emoticon!

Kimberly Miller
Bluffton, OH

My daughter and I beat breast cancer together!

Early in 2013 after having a normal, scheduled mammogram I was diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Site). 1 week after my surgery to remove the tumor, my youngest daughter Cheri (33 years old) was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma stage 3. Cheri's boys were 3 and 5 years old at the time and we have no history of cancer in our family.

Cheri had a total mastectomy including lymph nodes on her left side. Then chemo, she lost her hair and each time it made her extremely sick. I was working, going thru radiation treatments 5 days a week and doing what I could to help Cheri and her family. Watching her boys while mommy was in the hospital or too sick to get out of bed, bringing meals for all, trying to calm their worries and fears was especially hard. 3 and 5 year olds aren't suppose to have worries like this. When chemo ended, Cheri's Oncologist told her she had a couple of dark spots on her right breast they were going to watch. "Take it off" Cheri said, and they scheduled surgery to remove her right breast. She has completed her radiation and will start reconstructive surgery in 2015.

We are both cancer free and would not be here without great medical care and the love and support of family and friends. My daughters Cyndi and Carynna and granddaughter Sage helped many times with child care, cleaning, meals and being there as a friend, nurse, great sisters and Aunties. Food and support from many family members and friends was so needed and appreciated. We both appreciate life more and are so relieved that the nightmare is over. We have participated in the "I Believe" walk held in Redlands, CA for the last 2 years and plan to be survivors for many years. This is a recent picture of Cheri and her boys who are 4 and 6 and so happy to have their mom happy and well.

Diane Garrett
Redlands, CA

left very depressed

This terrible ordeal started 6 years ago. Went in to have a masectomy. They did a so called tram flap.It didn't work after cutting me from one side clear over to the other side of my waist. Had second masectomy couple of months later. Sent to a Dr. who supposedly did reconstruction. After approximately 15 surgeries for reconstruction they left me all scarred up and deformed on my chest not to speak of my waist all butchered up. The last time I saw the Dr. he told me he was/done with me because he didn't know what else to do with me considering all those surgeries did not work. That was that. For over 2 years I have lived with absolutely no breasts and a butchered up waist. I look absolutely terrible. I am so embarrassed the way I look its awful. This has just about ruined my life. My husband and daughter say its OK your alive. Nobody will ever know how very blessed I am to be here. I thank God every day. In my mind I do not look anything like a woman should look. That has all been taken away from me. I am normally a very happy go lucky girl. I love making people laugh. But this has changed my life completely. Every night when I take my fake breasts off I have to look at this. I shed a lot of tears quite frequently. Maybe I shouldn't feel like this but I can't help it. All I want is to look like a real woman again. I'm not a quitter,I keep hoping one day I might find me a Dr. that might be able to help me. I say a lot of prayers. All I can do is just hope for a miracle. When you hear about all these women that gets reconstruction, It makes me so sad that I'm not one of them. Maybe Someday!

,

Tammy Love-Everett
FAIRMOUNT, IN

My story

It all began on one early Friday morning at 6:45 am. I was scheduled for a routine mammogram because I was feeling a throbbing pain on my left breast when I would lay down on my side and when showering. I had a gut feeling something was wrong. The nurse had to call my doctor and request a prescription for an ultrasound . It was 130 in the afternoon and they called me to a consult room with manequin heads with wigs. I froze. I waited patiently for the doctor to come in to give me the bad news. I had ductal carcinoma on my right breast . My world fell apart . I became numb until the day came January 24 where I chose to be proactive and had a bilateral mastectomy. They tried to spare the nipple and the aureola but was called three days later to let me know it was not going to work because the pathology report showed it was on my nipple as well. When in to take care of that and then a few days later was called again because the new pathology report showed I had it also on my chest wall. Well to make a long story short I visited the cancer treatment centers of America thanks to my sister who was determined to put all our minds at ease. It's now October and now I have implants and nipples. I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel ,

Ary Barreto
Hollywood, FL

Fighting with faith, hope and grace

October 22nd, 2013 my world changed forever. Breast cancer never entered my mind as something I would ever have to face as there really was no one in my immediate family that had ever been through it. And here it was...staring me in the face. When I had my biopsy on the 18th the Doctor said it appeared to be DCIS which I was prepared for. What I wasn't prepared for was the call on the 22nd that informed me it was both DCIS and IDC. Now the fight was on. All my tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN were very positive, it appeared there wasn't any lymph node involvement, but when it came time for the actual surgery, we found there were 12/30 involved. Now the fight was REALLY on!

I'm a single parent of two amazing kids. I was surround by the most incredible support system of family and friends. They held me up when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and cry. They nourished my body and soul. They made me laugh. They made me smile...but more than anything in the world, they made me realize how beautiful and precious life is and that I would do anything in my power to be there for them.

Chemo and radiation were tough, but I managed to still work through it all. Having an employer who supported me in so many ways was just one of the other blessings that I had.

I lost a lot of things this past year....my health, my hair, my breast, my belief that this would never happen to me....but what I gained was so much more. I appreciate the simple things now, the beauty of just waking up each day, the sound of laughter, love, good friends, family and faith. I am cancer free today, and that is a blessing. My group of beautiful breast cancer surviving ladies has a saying we all go by and that is "I choose to not worry about tomorrow because it robs me of being present and enjoying today".

Michelle Schmidt
Minot, ND

Early Detection!!!

In October 2008 (on Halloween day no less), I had my first base line mammogram. I was 37yrs old and had been begging for a mammogram since I was 35yrs old. My mother had breast cancer so I was uneasy. Ten days later, I was called to come back in for a second mammogram. During the second mammogram, the nurse told me that I needed a biopsy. Two weeks later I had a biopsy, which I remember as being scary & painful. The doctor went out to the waiting room and told my sister that I had breast cancer. My sister didn't say a word, she waited for the test results to come back and for the doctor to tell me. I immediately met with a surgeon, who was kind enough to see me on Christmas Eve day. My surgery was scheduled for January 11, 2009. I had stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). My cancer was confined to duct and had not spread to healthy breast tissue. I had a partial mastectomy (this is how my doctor referred to it because of the area they had to remove 4cm x 5cm x 6cm) and four lymph glands removed. I started radiation treatments six weeks after my surgery. I had radiation everyday for six weeks. This was a precautionary measure because everyone from my surgeon to my radiation oncologist kept saying that thanks to early detection, after surgery I was considered "cured". I learned that early detection saves lives. I turned down Tamoxifin because I wanted to have children. Three years after my surgery, I gave birth to a beautiful boy. Fight for your right to have a mammogram. Fight for your right to be a warrior and survivor!

Nicole Jaunal Jackson
Houston, TX
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