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Laura's Journey of Hope

It was a normal morning in November of 2008. I was in the shower getting ready for the day. I reached for my loofah (bath sponge) and shower gel. No loofah! It was across the bathroom in the bathtub and I was in a hurry so I just put some shower gel in my hand. As I moved my hand under my right arm, I felt a lump. I thought to myself...that's odd. Then I compared it to the left side and something was definitely different with my right side. My primary care doctor ordered a CAT scan and mammogram just to be on the safe side. The mammogram detected a tumor in my right breast and two tumors in my right axilla. A biopsy confirmed that all tumors were cancer. At age 47, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). I had no history of breast cancer in my family. By the time I was diagnosed, it had progressed to Stage 3, Grade III, a very aggressive form of cancer. The silver lining in all of this is that it was triple positive cancer. The treatment plan was aggressive as well, with 8 cycles of chemo, partial bilateral mastectomy, 35 rounds of radiation and Herceptin for one year. I currently take Femara. I am blessed to have a supportive husband and family. I know that it is no coincidence that my loofah was across the bathroom on that November morning. I live by Jeremiah 29:11... God has a plan or my life. I was given a 56% chance to make it five years and in December 2014, I will be a 6 year breast cancer survivor. In the years since my diagnosis, I have been blessed to plan and attend the weddings of both my daughters, attend the graduation of my youngest daughter from the University of Florida and blessed with 3 grandchildren. I'm sharing my story on my blog because I want to be an inspiration to others. I post to my blog every Tuesday and Friday: laurasjourneyofhope.wordpress.com

Be Blessed,

Laura

Laura Starner
Lakeland, FL

Facing My Death Taught Me That I Needed to Learn How To Live

In November of 2012, in the midst of a brutal divorce. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. This has been the most challenging two years of my life, I have felt the most heart-wrenching lows, but I have ironically also had moments that were pure unadulterated joy. Through the fire and pain I have come out with a new awareness of who I am, and I can honestly say I love myself. Pretty amazing, I am a forty eight year old breast cancer survivor, newly divorced, facing financial hardship, starting over in almost every conceivable way and I think I am incredible. Even more surprising is despite all the stress, I am happy.

This has been a roller coaster ride, but I have held on tight to my faith, laughed, loved , cried a little and grown into the women I was always meant to be.

My journey has taught me that life is how you interpret it. I can see the trials of the last two years and let them overcome me. I can look at the devastating losses I've experienced or I can look at the cancer and divorce as my chance to start over, to recreate myself; my second chance to live.

I see myself as the mythical Phoenix, rising from the ashes. I am scarred from the fire, but I am radiant and more beautiful than ever before. I am also more powerful.

It isn't easy to get to this moment of metamorphosis. It is scary and painful to let your old self burn in the flames. I have been consumed by fear. I have felt anger for my losses. Countless things that breast cancer robs you of, security, your feminine identity and your identity as being a healthy person. Through this all I have found that this journey has been about learning. The cancer in a strange way was also about healing my life and my spirit. It is ironic, that it took facing my death, to teach me that I needed to learn how to live.

Tammy Garza
Kenosha, WI

Red Breast

After years of negative biopsies, cyst aspirations, and what my doc called "a busy breast" it finally didn't end up negative. My breast suddenly got red and my roommate noticed it. I would have ignored it because when I did BSE all I felt was lumps, so that never alarmed me. I am glad I acted quickly. At 7 mm my lump was small, no lymph node involvement. But HER2 positive. So double mastectomy, reconstruction, and six horrible months of chemo and it is finally behind me. I am glad I had cancer. Surviving treatment has completely reset my priorities and my baseline for happiness. Hang in there ladies.

Laurey S
Atlanta, GA

"Believe, Fight, Win"

I wasn't the type to check myself. In August of 2009, I happened to do just that. It forever changed my life. I had a mammogram & ultrasound. My daughter & I decided we we going to take a vacation in September. We were getting mani/pedi's done prior to our trip when the dreaded call came in. "You have cancer!" We went on our vacation despite the news. October 2009 I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. November, December, & January were my chemo months. Now 5 years later, I have remarried. I have 3 great kids & the very best friends that were my support system. I can say I wouldn't change a thing. I believed, I fought, & I won!!!

Sherri DeHart
Keedysville, MD

2 time BREAST CANCER.

I am 58 years old. I am going through Breast Cancer for the 2 nd time. Mastectomy 7 years ago. 8 lymph nodes removed. Chemo. Radiation. I thought I was done. 7 1/2 years clean. It's back. In my Breast and chest wall.did radiation again. It now moved to my spine and ribs. I have gotten awesome pain management finally.I am not afraid. I am STRONG. I have to be.I am now a stage 4. I don't feel like I'm dying. I got so much life in me I know. If you have the FIGHT in you you WILL live. I have already beat the odds. PEACE to all of you survivors. I pray to the ANGELS for many more years. I am not ready to give up this PINK FIGHT.

Kathryn Wentz
Bismarck, ND

February 13, 2014, the day my life was forever changed 💕

Sitting in class, my phone rings, it's the doctor's office. I jump up anxious to finally rid my mind of worry. From the other end of the phone I hear, "You have breast cancer." Everything goes dark. Shock followed by a full on panic attack...wait, what? Me? No way, I'm 27...I have 2 kids... Oh no the kids...my husband, I have to tell him...What about my mom?.. Must be a mistake, dear God please let it be a mistake! This is a small window into my mind when I answered the call no one ever wants to receive. As I write this 9 months later, I have grown and learned in ways I could never explain to anyone other than other survivors. I underwent chemotherapy weekly from March to July and I continue every three weeks until March 2015 (HER2+). Due to unexpected complications I will be having surgery number 4 this week, followed by a few more. I never knew how strong I was until I had to fight for my life, not only my life but the life of my children's mother, my husband's wife, my parent's daughter. There have been times during my battle I have shown courage and times I've shown weakness. Times I wanted to give up and times nothing could stop me. The love around me has kept me going. Going into this, I told myself that failure was not an option. I deserve this life and nothing, especially not cancer, is going to keep me from raising my children and living my life. I have been so incredibly touched by those who have helped me throughout this nightmare. In my times of darkness, you are my light.

Ashley Oliver
Foley, MO

Being a blessing!

October 2013 I came home from work, got my boxers ready for their walk. I had my big male with me when he lunged for a squirrel and I felt and heard a pop come from my chest area. Pain was instant and I assumed I had sprained my pectoral or ripped the muscle. December came and I was still in pain and made the decision to go back to my doctor as it wasn't healing and the pain wasn't going away. So after Christmas I went in for an ultrasound on Jan 16. My appointment was at 7:30 and at 7:45 they were calling my husband and parents. At 10:00 I was having a mammogram done and at 2:30 was having a biopsy and was told they were putting a rush on the results and that I would know by 1 the next day, but I already knew. I knew it wasn't going to be good just from the expression on the radiologists face. 11:30 the next day my doctor called with the news. I met with my cousin, who is a surgeon, and I opted for a lumpectomy to start and we would go from there. Once out of surgery I was ecstatic that they got it all and felt the margins were good, but the popping I heard way back in October was my tumor being ripped off of my muscle wall and it was 4cm long and tubular which wasn't normal, but it did allow me to keep my breast. Once I met with my oncology team, I started 20 weeks of chemo and got to enjoy all that comes with that. I also had 37 radiation treatments and I've just started my 10 year hormone plan with two different drugs. Since I had estrogen positive and endometriosis it was imperative to stop all estrogen in my body. I'm very grateful for my amazing teams of doctors and for an amazing husband and family. I promised myself that I would be a blessing through this and I hope that's how I was perceived.

stefanie medawar
lynden, WA

A thousand mile walk to the dressing room

Immidately following the byopsy, I got brave and asked the doctor,

"I know you see this every day doc, what do you think?"

"There is a very good chance this IS cancer, we will confirm it on a few days."

The silence was awkward and intimidating, too shocked by his response to cry, I hung my head like a pouting 2 year in trouble. it was like walking 1000 miles back to the dressing room.

The days following confirmed the initial thought... Yes my dear, YOU have breast cancer.

CANCER??? I am only 30, how does this happen? 30 year olds don't get cancer, I am a mom, I have to work, I don't have time for cancer. I don't have the strength to fight and win, and I certainly do not know what I did to get it.

Surgery in late February confirmed everyone's worse fears, this had spread to the lymph nodes, fortunately out of 34 removed only 1 was confirmed cancerous. The oncologist his team and i decieded we would take any and ever measure to prevent a recurrence and kill this with the first shot.

In April 2014, I began chemotherapy, 6 rounds. I took a week off of work after each chemo treatment to recover. It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Im currently on radiation treatment 22 of 29. I go to treatment once a day Monday through Friday on my lunch break.

I am 7 week days and one final surgery from my finish line. Personal victory.

Life is still coming full force at me, the things I have to do haven't changed, I am still a mom, I am still an employee, I am still a daughter, sister, and friend. My cancer doesn't define who I am, it doesn't limit my ability, it hasn't completely broken me It is just a part of what's made me who I am.

katie
denvet, CO

one bad year

In 2009 i had just had shouler surgery was mending when my mother passed away im March. In May i lost my job, because of the factory moving to Mexico. July 2009 i went to the dr because of pains through my breast. At first the dr thought it was to much caffeine from soda i was drinking. I quit soda and all caffeine. Six weeks later the pain was still there so my dr sent me for a mammogram. It showed i had a abnormal reading so they had me do an ultrasound. It showed i had breast cancer. I was scheduled for a biopsy which proved i had cancer. Went in for surgery on September 18, 2009. They got it all and I'm 5 years plus cancer free. I'm still on the chemo pill till the end of this year. Its according what kind of cancer you have they may ask you if you want the six week chemo or the five year pill. They don't tell you when you choose the pill that you will gain alot of weight but you do. But I'm so blessed that i have beat cancer. I think God gave me a sign that something was wrong and that saved my life.

Anonymous
Eldon, MO

My mom

Her name was Sylvia. She was funny, loud, energetic, always had some joke to crack. She had more friends that became her family after so many years together. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 17, stage 4 aggressive cancer, she was then on chemotherapy and radiation within a blink of an eye. She lost weight then gained weight with all the medication she was on, they had to take her breast and she lost all her hair, her cancer then spread to her brain, and she started having seizures that ended up paralyzingly part of her body, she could no longer walk, or work or do any of the normal things we do in our daily routines, something so simple as brushing her teeth became the most difficult thing to do. My mother was a lot of things to everyone, to me, she was my rock. My person, my mom and my best friend, she endured it all and even when she left us, she left fighting. Everyday it's a little easier, I am more aware of the many women who go through so much, and the families that feel the pain. They are so strong, like my mom. my mother died within 2 years of being diagnosed, and even at her weakest, she never lost hope.

elizabeth villa
San Antonio, TX
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