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I Did It My Way

In May of 2005, I had bariatric surgery. I weighed 387 pounds. In August I had gout as a result of the new high protein diet and also got a "bad" mammogram. I had lost 87 pounds, so they could finally "see" through the dense breast tissue. (I was a 48-DD) Small, less than stage 1 cancer in left breast which had broken out into the milk ducts.

My choice at age 59 was a bilateral mastectomy. I wasn't giving cancer a second chance and I wanted symmetry on my chest. Drastic choice; could have gone with radioactive seed beads or lumpectomy followed by radiation. My choice was to get it done and move on...didn't want to worry about a reoccurence in the same or the other breast in 5-10 years.

I am now 235 pounds...No breast reconstruction, no desire for it...and NO REGRETS...I am a survivor, but I also consider myself "cancer-free".

Meriel Collins
Wahiawa, HI

2008 was a very bad year

Went for my 1st mammogram 6-20-08 at age 46, with no clue anything was wrong. Mom went to the hospital 6-22. I was called for another bilateral mammogram 6-25, had ultrasounds too. Had bilateral biopsies 6-30. On 7-2 found out right side was benign fibroadenoma, left invasive ductal carcinoma with DCIS. Had right lumpectomy 7-16 (to be sure it was benign). Genetic testing was negative. All this while Mom was still in hospital. Mom came home 7-23.

On 8-1 had left mastectomy with reconstruction (latissimus dorsi flap and expander inserted). Came home 8-7. Mom was doing better but passed away suddenly 8-12 from a pulmonary embolism. I went to wake & funeral with drains still in! Found out on 8-18 I needed chemo. Mediport inserted 9-2, first chemo 9-5.

Cancer was stage 2A, ER/PR+, nodes negative, intermediate grade. Was to have 4 treatments of Adriamycin & Cytoxan, then 4 of Taxol. 1st treatment went well. Second had me sick for 2 full weeks, 3rd was delayed a week and dosage reduced. Was sick for over a month from that one. Oncologist discontinued chemo, said it was "beating me up too much". Last chemo 10-10.

Had expander removed and implant inserted; mediport removed; & ovaries & tubes removed on 12-17. Am in a clinical study that requires ovarian suppression so I chose removal vs. radiation or monthly lupron injections for 5 years. Will be on exemestane (Aromasin) for 5 years.

Had more reconstruction (on right breast) on 3-2.

No history of breast cancer in family. Dad had prostate cancer, his mom had colon cancer.

I am an RN and all I have experienced this past 9 months will help me be a better nurse. I have had tests I send patients for but never had observed.

Wish you all the best!

Cathy Walsh
Rocky River, OH

Breast Cancer survivor

I am 34 yrs. old with stage 3 breast cancer. I was diagnosed in June 2008. I had a mastectomy, and am done with chemo. and almost done with radiation. It is a very hard thing to deal with, especially with a 4 yr. old daughter. I never thought I was a strong person, but my illness made me strong. My daughter is my strength; she makes me forget that I have cancer by keeping me busy playing with her. That is what has helped me the most. I have a wonderful husband and mom that help me also. Breast cancer does not run in my family, I am the first one to be diagnosed. I ask everyone to please get your

mammogram and any other necessary tests.

Angie Malloy
Erie, MI

Why Not Me?

At the age of 49, I was performing in a local production of "Nunsense" as Mother Superior - lots of singing and dancing. One day following a performance I felt very sore at my right upper chest wall - closer to the shoulder than breast, I thought. There was a small knot. I thought I had just pulled something, but after a couple of days of soreness I called my doctor who arranged for a mammogram and sonogram. Two days later I was in for a core biopsy of two tumors in the same breast - the one at the upper chest wall and another one deep under the nipple that I would have never found with self-examination.

Two completely separate cancers were diagnosed and I was told I needed to have immediate surgery. My only option was a mastectomy because of the size of the tumors. The sentinel node procedure was relatively new, and my surgeon had done many, but the cancer was so aggressive they felt it had already progressed past the lymph nodes and I would require further surgery.

I remember crying on my way home, not sure how I would tell my husband. But then I said to myself, "Why not me?" It was the last time I would cry about anything for the next five years. I was determined I would get through it with strength and grace, and although it was the most difficult time in my life, I never once entertained the thought that the cancer had progressed. Following surgery, my doctors were amazed and thrilled to tell me that the cancer had not spread. I had both chemo and radiation and it's been almost 10 years now. I am still cancer free.

Marilyn Kittelson
Dallas, TX

Have hope!

I had breast cancer 10 years ago. The surgeon who found out told me I should have a mastectomy. (immediately)

I went for a second opinion, to a surgeon who is tops in the field. He said there was NO need for a mastectomy, that all I needed was 6 weeks of radiation.

I followed his advice, happily.

The moral: ALWAYS GET A SECOND OPINION.

Best of luck!

Anonymous
Gurnee, IL

The fight will continue in memory of Cindy Eubanks

My story begins back in 2004 when I lost one of my best friends to breast cancer. I had also fought the disease and won my fight. Cindy did not; in our final conversations prior to her death, Cindy asked that I do something to keep the awareness front and center of the importance of mammograms and early detection. It was a time that I needed to do something for her and in her fashion, she went to work preparing all of us for what was to come. As a member of Soroptimist International of Rockwall, our focus is assistance to women and children for health needs. That year we joined the international fundraising campaign called WomenAid, and decided to focus our efforts on offering mammograms to any woman that could not afford the procedure. Each year since 2005 we have supported the local Helping Hands Clinic and have gone from the first year of $5,000 to the current campaign goal of $75,000.

I am proud to say the promise I made to Cindy has grown into an annual event saving lives. This I am sure of.

I love this website and share it often. Cindy used to tell me when taking on volunteer work, "Just say yes and then find your way". I will continue living by this motto and "Saying yes" when I can make a difference. For photos, visit our website RockwallSoroptimist.com or our latest campaign, RockwallIdol.org. Karen Coughlin, Rockwall Texas

Karen Coughlin
Rockwall, TX

Going FullThrottle

My name is Charlotte, I am 50 years young. I have been married to my loving husband and best friend Joe for 33 years. We have a daughter, Melissa. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April 2008. I was devastated. Life was so good and I loved everything about my life. My daughter, was getting married in May and we absolutely adored our future son in law. This is something I had dreamt about and hoped for all my life. After I got over the initial shock I decided fight this thing with all my might. I was not going to let this control my life but I was going to remain in control. My tumor was quite large and I had some lymph nodes test positive also but with my wonderful team of doctors and my family by my side we chose what we felt would be the best treatment plan for me. I made the decision along with the standard treatment that I would take part in a Clinical Trial so that I may possibly help someone in the future facing this journey. My treatment plan called for chemo first to try and shrink the tumor followed by surgery and then radiation. After around 3 treatments I noticed that my tumor had began to shrink. I had my surgery on November 4th. When my surgeon went in she was amazed to no longer find any traces of the cancer in my lymph nodes and my tumor was no longer a tumor but a few scattered cells and almost too small to measure!! She had the biggest smile when she asked me if I knew what this meant. She said "this is big, really big" and that I had literally made medical history. Wow, image that me?

Charlotte Gomes
Salinas, CA

3 year survivor

In January 2006, I went for my annual mammo as I had done so for several years. Three days later, I received a phone call to come back for additional testing. This was the first time that this had happened so needless to say I was quite concerned. These tests included a spot compression mammo, ultrasound, biopsy and then the diagnosis of breast cancer in at least two places.. An MRI was scheduled which lead to more biopsies and further cancer was revealed. My diagnosis turned out to be Stage 3, Grade 1 ILC with node involvement. Treatment included a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, chemo, radiation, oophorectomy and follow up treatment with an Aromatase Inhibitor. This cancer was not found on self-exam, but on the mammogram. Without this annual mammorgram, my breast cancer would not have been detected at this point in time. It is scary to think if I was not getting annual mammograms, how much more the cancer would have progressed. I feel that it is of the utmost importance for women to have annual mammograms. It is what most probably saved my life. I am very happy to say that I am "dancing with NED" (no evidence of disease) since I finished treatment.

Anonymous
Denver, CO

no drugs for me!

I had a cancerous tumor removed from my right breast in December 2004. Three sentinel lymph nodes were removed & biopsied. One showed cancer cells. I was advised to undergo radiation and chemotherapy and have my axillary lymph nodes removed & biopsied. I chose instead to go completely drug free & toxin free, exercise and drink plenty of pure water. In the fall of 2008 I had my 4th clear mammogram & I feel fine.

Ruth
independence, MO

WIFES FAMILY BATTLES CANCER

My wife's family is a family that has lots of cancer and her mother lost a breast to cancer. We have several friends that also have cancer problems in their families and we are all in need of support when it comes to cancer concerns.

Thank you for your support our families do apprecitate it

Anonymous
Mesa, AZ
Flurry of Savings
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