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My cancer story: 23 and pregnant

I want to start off by saying that only you know your body. If you think something's wrong, it probably is! Ignoring it is not the answer!!

In 2011, I found out I was pregnant for the second time. When I went to the gynecologist for my first checkup, I voiced my fears over a lump in my right breast that had seemed to grow bigger at an alarming rate, and after looking it over, she decided it probably wasn't a big deal, probably just pregnancy hormones. To ease my fears she made me an appointment to have it biopsied. Little did I know, my life was REALLY about to change.

Long story short, it was malignant. Here I was, 23 and 27 weeks pregnant with stage 3 HER 2+ breast cancer. Chemo began immediately. Every two weeks until I was 36 weeks pregnant. My daughter took chemo treatments while in my womb. Yet I never got sick, not once. Just lost my hair and tired all the time. On June 9, 2011, my angel Faith Mackenzie was born. A little on the small side, and bald as I was, but otherwise perfectly healthy.

Four chemos later, on October 6, 2011 I had a double mastectomy with removal of some lymph nodes under my right arm. After that surgery I was given the diagnosis of cancer free!!! 3 months of radiation followed, which compared to chemo was pure hell!!

After all this, 3 years later, I realize that I am very blessed. That a lot of this could have been avoided had I not ignored the signs. At first, I was depressed and had body image issues but with the help of awesome friends and family I am now able to share my story. God won't lead you to anything you can't handle, every problem in life is a lesson, and behind every dark cloud is a rainbow because I may have gotten sick, lost my hair and my breasts (and for a while my sanity too), I gained one of the two greatest gifts I've ever received, my daughter.

selma, AL

Diagnosis: Cancer

In October of last year a lump was found during an annual mammogram-just two weeks before my daughter's wedding which I was hosting at our small wedding venue in the country. Needless to say my husband and I were devastated and were faced with the decision of sharing that information before the wedding. I made the decision to wait-the tumor was ductal carcinoma in situ-slow growing and well within stage1 criteria (ER+PR+HER2-) My wonderful Doctors supported my decision and were poised to take it out immediately after the wedding. By the time the happy couple had returned from their honeymoon I had had the tumor removed via lumpectomy and we knew everything there was to know about my cancer.

Looking back over the past couple of years I realize I ignored warning signs and carried on a lifestyle that was literally killing me. I had a dimple in my right breast, tenderness under my right arm, I wasn't sleeping well, I was eating too much red meat and drinking too much wine. I wasn't choosing organic foods and I heated plastic in the microwave. I had an active lifestyle but had stopped all rigorous exercise due to a bad hip so my weight was adding to the problem. What I didn't have was any significant hereditary factors...so the news was soon out of left field-but that's why I ignored the signs! (I will add here that my dog had started acting funny! She wanted to be by me more...Now since I don't believe in that hUlla-Ballu, I say this with great trepidation-but it is true...)

What I know:

Mammogram saves lives

Cancer isn't picky-don't ignore signs because you don't have family history

Be particular about your cancer resources but definitely learn/know your body!

I hope I have influenced others to get their heads out of the sand and get their mammograms-ignoring doesn't mean it isn't there!!!

9 months out and I am getting back to a new normal. I am looking forward to my first annual mammogram so I can confirm what I already know-I am cancer free!

Julie Landrum
Lampasas, TX

Cancer, Me And My Family

Cancer started affecting my family when my brother was diagnosed with brain cancer December 31st 1998 and he passed away April 30th 1999. My father was diagnosed in 2010 with lung cancer which with chemo it went away but came back so we found out Friday the 13th April of 2012 that it had spread to his brain and he passed away May 16 2012 what happened to be my fourth wedding anniversary. Two months later my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and with chemo it went away. 10 months later it was back and eventually spread to her liver.I was a traveling nurse at the time in Sitka Alaska. I was fortunate to have my mother come to Alaska which was one of her lifetime dreams. March 16th I came home for 2 week visit, and on March 24th I had my normal mammogram. on March 26 I got the diagnosis of breast cancer in my right breast. on March 29 my mother passed away from her cancer. I'm a 16 I had a double mastectomy and my 2 tumors had tripled in size but it had not gone to my lymph nodes. June 3rd I started chemo and just had cycle 4 of 6 yesterday. I will have to continue with an infusion every 3 weeks for a year to get my Herceptin. I hope to continue my traveling nurse after my chemo is done.

I want to thank all my family and friends you have given me so much support that it has gotten me as far as I am at this point!

I am determined to not let cancer take a fourth member of my immediate family! I want to let everybody know that I will be posting a picture of my last day of chemo and eventually a picture of me saying i am cancer free.

Teri Bennett-Fortmann
Marion, IA

1 year 6 months clean

In Jan. 2013 I was told I had carcinoma in situ. I went for a check up on a mole I had removed and I was floored when the Dr. told me this. I cried all the way home. Once I had time to think about it I knew there only one option for me "double mastectomy" I wanted this out of my body real quick! Shortly after I had the surgery. It was like no pain I ever felt before because I can not take any pain meds I seem to have a reaction to all. 4 weeks of ultimate torture. It got easier. I elected for reconstruction, but it failed. So 2 operations to take off all the extra skin was needed. Nothing to that. I just went back for my check up and the Dr. told me he feels 99% sure it did not spread any where and I will not get it back in the breast walls. I refused any other treatments. I feel I am cancer free now and for the grace of God I hope he keeps me that way. I had my tattoo put on my leg saying "cancer survivor" over the pink ribbon. I feel I am truly blessed.

Sandra Kaufman-Lentes
Ashland, PA

My Cancer Story

My story isn't a long one, but it's one I wish I had never had to tell. That dreaded word was said to me back in August 2013 by the Dr. that read my mammogram. Both sides showed fibrous cells but right side look ed more to be forming cancer. So next steps was biopsy which proved it was and more mammogram to find exact location. Then the next step I wouldn't wish on my favorite animal, I had to be injected 4 different places around the right breast to light it up so surgeon could see exactly where it was. It was hiding on the chest wall. Surgery then was done on September 18th. Started healing and went back for follow up with surgeon thinking I would be released but found he had to go back in and remove more tissue on October 18th. Took 30 rounds of radiation therapy, finished in January 2014. Also started pill to possibly take for the rest of my life. Now waiting for insurance to okay re constructive surgery. I lost 2 1/2 sizes on my right breast. All this taken place right after finding my fiance had colon cancer and was in the hospital for 10 days; having over a foot of his colon removed. Right now we are both cancer free and pray to God we can stay that way. Both if us had lost our spouses to cancer. He lost 2 wife's to breast cancer and my husband had color entail cancer

Susan Lindsey
Elizabethtown, KY

Fight like a girl face ur fears against breast cancer

I was told in march 2014 I had breast cancer.no one ever wants to hear them words.April I had a double mastectomy Then was told I needed chemo that I was a high risk and had 63 % chance it will come back.now I'm a 39 year old woman who worked everyday never been sick always on the go type.i live at home with my mother who is on disability so of course it got hard money wise.i started my chemo treatments I go every week and every three weeks for my big treatment.im also her.2 positive.my heart broke when I went in the chemo room seeing so many people fighting for their life.i have done four big treatments and got two more to go.what I have learned so far is it's up to me how this can go I can sit and say why and poor little me or I can stand and fight this demon and know God is in control and will never put nothing on me that I can't bear.i use to take everything for granted now I'm thankful for everything time is valuable .ur life isn't over cause u have cancer.no it hasn't been easy at all and this is the hardest thing I ever had to go through.but I refuse to give up in gonna fight all the way to the end. u have to tell ur I want to live.i will face my fears and know God is right here with me.sometimes people get mad at God why did u allow this to happen to me.i know I did.but now I see this is just a chapter to my book a story to be told.if I lose this battle against cancer im still turn out a winner.😊 Fight like a girl.

bobbie campbell
trion, GA

My mother's battle

This story is about my mother who passed away from breast cancer 32 years ago at the age of 47. She was first diaganosed with breast cancer at the age of 35 and underwent a radical masectomy. At the time I was 3 years old and very unaware of what was happening to her. I just remember going to visit her at the hospital. Since I was three I could not go and see her in the hospital. My only option was to wave to her through her hospital window, which was very scary to me at the time. Eventually she came home and things became normal or as normal as they could be. After her surgery she received cobalt treatments for several weeks. My father would take her to the treatments and because I was not in school I would go with. It all seemed pretty normal to me going to different doctors with my mother and father at the time. I guess what I remember the most about that time was the horrible scaring my mother had, but that too became normal. After her surgery my mother was really remarkable because it seemed like even when she went through the cobalt treatments she always had the energy to raise and take care of three children. I'm sure she was tired and did not feel well many times but you would never have known it. When I was about 12 or 13 her cancer came back again and it was then I noticed her stamina was not the same. During my freshman year in high school she was in the hospital and never got out. She passed away in June 1972. I will never forget going to the hospital every night to see her. That was my normal, go eat at a restuarant, see my mom and do my homework in the hospital hallway. After she passed it was really weird because I had to figure out a new normal. I will always remember what a gracious. caring woman she was and hopefully I have some of those traits.

Lindsborg, KS


I was 43 when diagnosed with breast cancer 3yr ago ive been through 5operations chemo radio radical mastectomy.i have 4wonderful children who get me through everday.my youngest son was 5when i was diagnosed.too young to understand cancer.i am in remision but everyday is new day new life i never take anything for granted now.life life to the full.god is watching us.everyday we wake up and breathe is a blessing.live and love life.

middx, United Kingdom

Marie's journey

I had just moved to Pennsylvania to start a new life with my fiancé. I went for my yearly check and there was a lump in my right breast. I went for an ultrasound and got a surprise. They found a lump in my left breast as well. I went through Cat scans, mri, and pet scan. They told me I had cancer. Then, the fun began, not. I went through the initial surgery and found out that I had two types of breast cancer and lymph node involvement.

So, I had a second surgery to remove 9 lymph nodes from my right armpit. My fiancé had to take care of the drain and did it like a pro. Then, it was time for a third surgery to put in the port for my chemo. My sister came down to be with me for the first treatment. It took 6 hours and I was exhausted. When I started to lose my hair, my fiance was there to shave my head. I had a total of 6 chemo treatments and a year of herceptin therapy. There was also the six weeks of radiation therapy that wiped me out.

As soon as I finished all my treatments, I had a fourth surgery to remove the chemo port. That was 4 years ago. I'm in the homestretch now. I have a couple more years of tamoxifen and then my journey will be complete. I got married last year and couldn't be happier. I hope that hearing my story will inspire those whose journey has just begun.

A big thank you goes out to my husband for being there for me always, I love you. I also want to thank all the health care providers who helped me not be so scared.

Marie DePriest
Bethlehem, PA

My story

Hi, my name is Monica Abilay. October 5th, '12 I found a lump above my right breast. Prior to that I had woman issues for the last 5 years which none of the Dr.'s I went to see could figure out. I have been on every meds & creams that U could possible think of. On top of that I had no insurance.....a friend of the family who was a Dr agreed to help me out. After the exam Dr told that I needed to get a mammogram and they would cover it for me. Jus so happen it was open enrollment for me husband's job and I was able to get covered under him. So after the mammo, biopsy, & more test it came back positive for cancer. In November we did two lumpectomy and removed my lyphnodes on the right side. December we put in the port for chemothrapy & started treatment. Chemo went till April '13.......we removed the right side breast in June and started radiation & tamoxifen in August. We did a CT Scan which came back all clear. In May of this year we started the reconstructive process Delayed trams flap and in July we did the 2nd part (removing from my tummy and reconstructing the breast). I am a mother of four beautiful children, a wife to my husband Ronnie, a sister, & a daughter. Through out the last two years I kept a positive attitude knowing that breast cancer is curable!! October will make 2 years since being diagnosed......I'm living life to the most so I can be a mother to my children & wife to husband. This is my story........Monica Manulani Abilay

Wailuku, HI
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