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Not Always a Lump

Hi! I was 35 when I had my first mammogram. My gynecologist said I had dense breasts. Calcifications were found but not in an alarming way. At 37, I had DCIS and Intraductal. There was no lump. No tumor. Not enough people know that part - that is why the mammogram and ultrasound are so important! No family history. BRACA1 was negative. Estrogen negative. Herceptin+++. 5 out of 16 nodes were positive. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction. Chemo with CEF combination. Radiation. Lymphedema followed. So did 4 years of wonderful physical therapy! That was the payoff! Thank you Melissa Donaghy! Had my ovaries removed and no more PMS - another payoff! Herceptin treatment was given 2 1/2 years after original treatment.

I worry for my niece and my daughter. Both are 14. Now there is family history. I have hope because of all the research and develpoment. Maybe I won't need to worry at all in the next few years!!

Birthdays were a negative for me. Now, I relish everyone!

Had it not been for the best gynecologist, I would not be here. If 40 was my first mammogram, 41 would have been a gamble. My doctors thought my gynecologist had wonderful forethought. Me too - thank you Dr. Carolan!! I wish I had a more profound way of giving thanks.

It has been 6 years and I will always have my fingers crossed! Life is great!

Julie Reichner Oliva
N. White Plains, NY

Laughter defeated death

My name is Lynette Taylor and I was diagnosed in September 2005 with breast cancer right after my 45th birthday. After the second operation to remove the cancer my physician recommended that I have a masectomy. She stated that there was alot of cancer and explained that she had only one other cancer patient who had that much and that was 15 years ago. I had to ask the obvious question and she told me they died. I had looked up alot of information on breast cancer and a masectomy was recommended to hold off on such an operation. I agreed and added a tram flap. A tram flap and masectomy usually last about 8 hours. After the operation the physician told me that when that had pulled back the skin on my body they saw a fast moving very aggressive cancer they nicknamed helter skelter. She stated that it was heading for my liver and I would have been dead in 2 weeks. She further explained when they pulled back the skin all of the surgeons gasped. This cancer had avoided all radar. I was told in the next upcoming months the cancer had spread to my lungs, cervix and bones. I had several operations after the masectomy and I had not healed when I started the maximum amount of chemo. I cannot explain this but I laughed and cried through the whole experience. Ten operations later and I believe cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. I am stronger than I ever though possible. Most people didn't believe I was sick. When I would ask them why they would respond, "your always laughing and smiling. I explained I learned laughter can defeat death.

Lynette M. Taylor
Harrisburg, SC

The huge lesson

I was 39 years old, married with 3 kids ages 8, 5 and 2, when I got my diagnosis; stage 2b, estrogen negative breast cancer with lymph nodes involved. I was surprised when a deacon at my church asked that I make every effort to make it to church every week, regardless of how I am feeling. He pointed out that it is very important for people to see sick people serving, and he is the best example of that! All through my treatments I would continue my task of calling the children forward to the alter every other week to do a children's message. I surprised even myself that I was able to attend every single week! There were times when I had to leave a little early, and I knew I would be wiped out for the rest of the day, but I looked forward to it. Some weeks it was the only time I went out besides my Dr's appointments. After a while I grew tired of the wigs and scarves, and actually went in front of the congregation with nothing on my head but glitter.

After 4 months of chemo, a double mastectemy with reconstruction, and 6 weeks of radiation, I am so glad that the kids can look at me and know that cancer is something that you can, indeed, go through and come out the other side. I really pray that the next time that someone they know gets the diagnosis of cancer, they will have the hope that they will come through a long, hard journey and still be here to love them and not jump to the conclusion that it is a death sentence.

Now I know that it is important for sick people to serve. We need to be seen.

Maura Bivens
Las Vegas, NV

Life goes on

Hello, my name is Daniel, and I would like to tell my wife's story. Her name is Cindy. When Cindy was 7, her mother got breast cancer. Eight years later she lost the battle. For years we had a dream about moving to Florida. We fianlly made the move in November of 1998. One year later we purchased our home. While we were having work done on our house Cindy found a lump in her breast. Concerned with family history, we wasted no time. After the mamogram, an appointment for a lumpectomy was made. It was the same day we were moving into our new house. On that first day in our new house we found out Cindy had breast cancer. We had a network of prayers, and Cindy was determined to beat this. Her attitude was so admirable. She loves to cook,and my Father, his wife, and son were in town. After we had invited them to dinner, we got a call and her first Chemo was scheduled for the same day. Cindy did not cancel dinner, but my Father was told it may be cancelled depending on how she felt after the Chemo. Dinner was exellent. Her courage was so admired. I went with her to most of her appointments, and could hear laughter between her and the staff during radiation. We both know the Good Lord heard all the prayers, and help Cindy keep the fabulous attitude she had through it all. Cindy has since help others thru the shock of getting the news. Her advise has been, get treatment and life will go on. She understand how hard the shock is when one is first diagnosed, but assures them life will go on. And it does. Cindy is unaware I am sending this. Daniel

Cindy Belliveau
Indialantic, FL

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

It was the summer of 2006; the doctor came into the examining room where I had been laughng and joking with my best friend. When he came into the room I could tell by the look on his face that the news was not what I wanted to hear. "You have a cancer, but we can do a partial masectomy", remove the infected lymph nodes." and with proper therapy, etc. etc. etc.

Long story short now: September, 2006 I had the prescribed surgery, followed by chemo and then radiation. It was not a fun winter, but I knew I would be OK. My hair fell out, so I bought a hat to keep my pate warm. Never once did I question "Why Me?" "Why Not Me?", was the response. All women and girls in the world are susceptible and 6 degrees of separation from breast cancer (or some other form of cancer). That was three years ago; I am clean and cancer-free, and determined to stay healthy.

Cancer can be beaten.... I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada where sophisticated research is ongoing in two major, world class, hospitals. Princess Margaret and Mount Sinai. Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital have been successful in their stem cell research. They are world-recognized. I am optimistic when I say it is just a matter of time before they are successful in their quest for a cancer cure. I can say, I was there when it happened, so I guess I aughta know...I am optimistic it will be in my lifetime.

Take heart, cancer survivors; we will survive... We are Women, Hear Us Roar!

Toronto, ON, Canada

Survivor 15 years

Fifteen years ago my children were 4 and 6. I was 34 and never even had a mamogram. After the diagnosis from a doctor in my home town, he gave me the grim news. He was not hopeful for me and was very cold. My husband took me home and we told the family. My brother had connections with wonderful doctors, to which he promptly made an appointment for me. Dr. Gaynor, was a miracle worker. He told my husband and I, "I am not looking to prolong your life, I am looking to save your life." He told us that 5 years prior there was no cure for that type of cancer. He said there was a 'recipe' that I must to follow, which included chemo, a bone marrow transplant, and radiation. I was hospitilized for 3 weeks when I had the transplant and I experienced 'shake and bake', which was one of the darkest nights in my life. My husband was my strength, he did everythig for me including administering shots in my leg after each chemo treatment. My parents were running ragged for me too. Mom took care of the kids tirelessly. After my radical mascetomy, in the beginning of it all, my pathology reports came back that I was cancer free, but I kept my eye on the ball as Dr. Gaynor told me I had to follow through with the 'recipe'. Some people see that they are well and they stop treatment, but it comes back. So I stayed the course and 15 years later I am well, my daughter is 20 and my son 18. I have been so blessed to watch them grow and become extraordinary people. MY gratitude to my husband, parents, my brother and of course Dr. Gaynor will never disapate.

Long Beach, NY

Trip Through Cancerland

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. I chose a modified mastectomy with reconstruction to be done at the same time. Chemo therapy was the next step followed by five years of Tamoxifen. The chemo therapy was the worst part because of the side effects. Loss of hair, appetite, and energy.

During my "Trip Through Cancerland" I had a kidney stone surgically removed, though I had never had the problem before; found out the hard way that I was allergic to the dye they use for a c-scan; was allergic to an acrylic stint used in the kidneystone episode; came down with antibiotic associated colitis; and must now caution doctors for the rest of my life that my body has had this problem.

Fifteen years later I am happy to say that I am a survivor and know that cancer does not own me. A positive attitude, faith, the love of family and friends brought me through.

I had my surgery on the 3rd of March and every year I celebrate that date as my re-birth day. Life is good!

When I know of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer I send them greeting cards to brighten their day. I do this because I enjoyed receiving cards from friends during my trip through Cancerland. A card is not as intrusive as a phone call or a drop in visit. It can be opened when you feel up to it.

Grace Sloan
Escondido, CA

Sue's story

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on 9/11/07 and my dad was diagnosed on 9/13/07 with cancer. I live 4 hours away and couldn't burden my mom with my news, so I kept my secret for the next few months. We decided that our kids needed to see their grandfather before he died, so we went to Maryland. That weekend I had to tell my mom because I was going to have to do chemo. It was really hard to hurt her heart that much. My dad passed away November 2, less than 15 hours after I left to come back home. So I turned around and went back. The week of Thanksgiving, mu oldest had knee surgery, my port was placed and December 3rd, I started chemo. Within 2 hours sick as hell. My mom was with me and it was very difficult. January 25th, my brother in law was killed in an automobile accident. I went back to my old job and asked for my job back and after 3 visits of asking for my job, I was told he wouldn't give it back. So I think God had tested me as far as I think he thought he could. And then my youngest son was in an accident that he flipped my truck on Christmas Eve. Today, I am still feeling the affects of the cancer with having to do physical therapy. Cancer changes a person's outlook on many things. Though it kicked my butt, I think I am stronger than I thought I ever could be. My family supports me completely and my boys are my greastest joys. They wear cancer sweatshirts and sport stickers they had made on their trucks. God has made me a much stronger person. And life is too short.

Susan Gatliff
Chesapeake, VA

A Double Whammy at our house

In 1994 I had breast cancer and had a lumpectomy on Aug. 3, 1994.

On August 5th, 1994 my husband had a massive stroke which left him paralazed on his left side. There was a black cloud over our house that would not go away.

Unfortunately, he only lived for two years. I took care of him for 2 years and operated a daycare business at my home while doing 6 weeks of radiation. Had 2 more occurances and am still here 15 years later. Dr. MaryJane Houlihan from The Breast Center at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Mass. was my breast cancer surgeon and I consider myself very lucky to have had her. She studied under Dr. Susan Love.

I remember what it meant to have support from family and friends back in 1994. I am only too glad to click on the Breast Cancer Site every day. That it the very least I can do.

Maureen F. Watts
Pembroke, Mass., MA

My Best Friend's Journey

My name is Nancy Sharpe and this story is about my best friend. The following paragraph is from a blog written by Ashley Neal about her mother.

"My amazing mother, Barbara Neal, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer on October 2, 2008. After changing doctors, many mammograms, ultrasounds, tests, biopsies, MRI's, and countless trips to the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory, we finally know what type of cancer she has and are now ready to start the battle! She has been diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer called Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma. She tested negative for the 3 main breast cancer receptors (the fuel that "feeds" the cancer)- the Estrogen Receptor, the Progresterone Receptor, and the HER2 protein receptor, thus the name Triple Negative. Metaplastic Carcinoma is a rare sub-type of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This type of cancer has an aggressive nature so mom and her team of gifted doctors are going to attack it head on! It is going to be a long battle but I have no doubt that with God, family, friends, doctors, along with my mothers fighting spirit, this is a battle she will WIN!"

Barbara has only two more chemo treatments to go. She will then have a lumpectomy and radiation. Hopefully, by July 1, 2009, Barbara will be cleared of cancer. It has been a long hard battle for her. I have had the blessing of taking her to Emory hospital for many of her chemo treatments. We have been friends for over 37 years. I wanted to go through this journey with her. The picture is of Barbara and I at Emory for one of her treatments.

Nancy Sharpe
Sharpsburg, GA
Enchanted Forest Sleeveless Tunic
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