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2008, Aug, at 35 years old I was diagnosed with stage 2-3 breast cancer. In Jan 2006, I told my doctor that I had a lump with nipple discharge, she thought it was nothing. Jan 2007, I told her again and she thought it was nothing. In Aug 2008, the nipple discharge increased and the lump was much larger. I demanded a mamm and after three requests, she finally agreed. That same day, I had a mamm and it was the beginning of a long, scary process. I was in nursing school when I was diagnosed, I finished school, took the RN NCLEX, and then had my surgery. I lost both of my breast, both ovaries, and lymph nodes in the right axilla and arm removed. The chemo was horrible and being bald for a six months was not the greatest (I wore no wig), but I was a live. Ultimately, I looked at my diagnosis as a new start to life. I was able to accept the situation and turn it into something good. I was alive! It was my chance to do all of the things that I had been afraid to in the past. I no longer allowed people to treat me badly; I demanded respect and it felt great. I laughed a lot, I had fun, and forced those around me to stay positive. Finally, my biggest inspirations were God, my husband, three kids, and my cousin. The first eight weeks after the surgery were the hardest and my husband and kids got me through them.Without them, I could not have made it. I am grateful to me alive, I love life everyday. So many people die from cancer and I decided I would live my life fully as a way to honor them.

Keela Gurley
Cleveland, OH

Breast Cancer is not just a woman's thing!

Around Memorial Day weekend in 2005 we were laying around not doing much of anything when my husband asked me to feel "something" he felt in his breast. We both concluded it was probably just an ingrown hair but it never went away. In July, he had a needle biopsy and some lymph nodes removed. Needless to say on August 1st (our wedding day) we got the call that it was indeed breast cancer. By the middle of August he had a mastectomy and began a very agressive treatment of chemotherapy. Radiation treatment followed. Although all of this was difficult, two things happened that were uncomfortable - the day a nurse walked into his room (with chart in hand) and asked how "Mrs. Cramer" was doing, and that all of the wonderful items that were given to him (pillow, tote bag, t-shirt - really wonderful donations) were all pink. The only point I am making is that breast cancer is not just a woman's thing. I lost my older sister to breast cancer, my little sister to soft tissue sarcoma and my best friend to lung cancer. I will not lose my husband! It has been three years now and in four more he will be declared a survivor! I can not wait for that day.

Sherry Cramer
Denver, NC

Family Support is so important....

In July of 2008 I found a lump in my left breast and on my husband's birthday, August 1, I was told that it was cancer....After 2 surgeries, chemotherapy, another surgery and then radiation, I was pronounced "benign"! I was blessed that mine actually hurt...pain is a great motivator! Without it, I don't think I would have sought help so quickly.

I credit my recovery and my survivorship to the Lord Jesus Christ and my family. My husband was at every single procedure and every chemo treatment...He even had his hair closely cut and the breast cancer ribbon dyed into it for the time that I had no hair...My family was great and they supported and encouraged me through the entire process.

My message is what they told me the first day I went to the Hope Cancer Treatment Center for Women in Asheville...."attitude, attitude, attitude"...until I went through it, I had no idea how important your thoughts are. If you are diagnosed, keep your chin up, trust in the Lord,keep a smile on your face and look for the good things that WILL come out of it....I had no idea how great my friends and family were until I had until this happened.

At the end of my treatments, my family gave me a surprise birthday party to celebrate...everything was pink! My sister-in-law even made a cake with pink ribbons all over it!

(The photo included is of me with my wonderful husband, Robin at Christmas during my chemo treatments.)

Wendi Gregg
Asheville, NC

Ultrasounds are wonderful!

I am 42 years old and have been having mammograms since I was 35. This year was different. Thanks to the wonderful people at the Charleston Breast Center, they detected a tumor in my left breast that you cannot feel or even see on a mammogram. An ultrasound found the cancer. I am having surgery this week and feel very positive about the outcome. Hopefully every woman will benefit from early detection like I have. My words of advice are simple....don't wait to get screened. It can change your life. Without the Charleston Breast Center and their belief of taking that "extra step", this tumor may not have been found for another year or even longer. They are proactive as we all should be. Mammograms do not hurt and all women should begin getting an early screening even before they are 40. I also feel very blessed to have a supporting family and wonderful friends who are there with me. I remain positive and am looking forward to many years with my son, husband, family and friends.

Shelley Massalon
Charleston, SC

My long year

In Nov.2006 I thought I felt a lump, but of course I had the "It can't happen to me syndrome " plus with the holidays coming I put off going to the Dr.(Don't do that). So In Jan 2007 I went to my OB & He checked it out , sent me for a mammogram the next day. They did a biopsy the following day, within a week I was in with a surgeon & Oncologist.

We went with chemo first to shrink the tumor which was about the size of a grapefruit only flatter. By June it had shrunk about 3/4 its size. I had a lumpectomy & the next week I had reduction & reconstruction, then in Aug-Oct I had radiation.

I worked most days, through it all, & took 3 weeks for the surgery.

I had amazing support from my God,my church,my husband & my family & friends..Thank you all.

The hardest part was having My husband shave my head before it all fell out,although I did wear a wig .

If you feel something...Don't delay.


Vickie Keffer
Concord, NC

A saving Story

In 1991 I discovered a lump in my left breast, it was Stage I breast cancer. After a lumpectomy, Chemotherapy and Radiation I stayed cancer free for 15 years. This is not a sad story! I faithfully went for my yearly checkups and was totally thrown for a loop when they found a spot on my lung through my chest x-ray. I had surgery on December 1, 2006 and the lump was cancer so half of my left lung was removed. My story is if not for the breast cancer my lung cancer would have gone undetected until it was much to late for just surgery to remove it. I am still cancer free now and go for my checkups every 4 months. Detection does save lives

Aurora, IN

A tough old bird!

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 in the early 50's. She had a radical mastectomy and was left with a very ugly scar and a concave right chest. She went on to volunteer for the A.C.S.visiting in-home other women who had gone through the same thing, plus working full time and raising my sister and myself. At the age of 60 she was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery, again she came through beautifully and went back to work for awhile. She had many, many hospital stays, but not for cancer. She died on July 10, 2002. But not from cancer! In 2002 she started having problems with her heart and finally got the sleep she wanted. After 1 of her surgeries a nurse commented on all her many surgeries and hospitalizations and told her that my Mom was a," Tough old bird!". She was 1 mon. short of her 87th. birthday! My Mom is my hero and because of her I never forget to have my mammo. Lonnie Crisp

Lonnie Crisp
Jenison, MI

Breast cancer survivor

Dear Anonymous from Elma, WA,

I strongly recommend that you get tested for the breast cancer gene. My mother and aunt had breast cancer and eleven years ago I was diagnosed with it. I was tested for the BRACA gene and I tested positive. My two daughters were then tested and were also positive for the BRACA gene. We have had double mastectomies with reconstruction. We are so very grateful that the test is available and now we are very happy, healthy and worry free!!!!


Potomac, MD

Potomac, MD

There is life after breast Cancer

At age thirty eight I found I had breast cancer.My mother had just died from cancer and I thought I had received a death notice.I had surgery to remove my breast and no reconstruction.At that time insurance didn't pay for it.I relied on my strong faith and belief in God.I am now sixty four years of years and am still relying on faith and God.I have lived a full and exciting life and have learned there is life after breast cancer,a wonderful,exciting life.

Diane Montena
Beloit, WI

All in the family...

I have always known that one day I would hear those dreaded words, "You have cancer". My grandmother, maternal aunt and mother all were diagnosed during my youth. Unfortunately, my mother was the only non-survivor of this group. Twenty-two years after her death (at age 38), I was diagnosed. Within five weeks I had bilateral mastectomies with implant reconstruction. Because the tumour was small, there was no indication of cancerous cells in the rest of the breast tissue and none of the lymph nodes were affected, I did not require chemotherapy or radiation. (The tumour was also grade 1, the slowest growing). I have just completed three out of five years of Tamoxifen.

My grandmother welcomed me "to the club". Her attitude has always been, "why not me?", rather than, "why me?". It definitely helps to keep a positive outlook during recovery. I do not feel that I had any battle at all, since the surgery was all that I required. I admire all those other women who did need further treatment and fought for their lives.

Now, three years later, my younger sister (age 33) has been diagnosed. I now live in the UK, and because of my strong family history, genetic testing was carried out. It shows a mutation for the BRCA-2 gene. I have two young daughters and one young son, and I hope that they will be able to use that information to prepare themselves for whatever may lie in their futures.

My husband's sister was also diagnosed last year--she unfortunately had a more aggressive form and required chemo--she is an inspiration.

Breast cancer has always been a factor in our lives. I hope one day they do find a cure and stop the destructive lineage that is in my (and many others) family.

Ann Daly
Jonesborough, Newry, United Kingdom
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