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Challenging Times

I would say that I am a happy person, love to smile and laugh and especially make anyone else feel the same. I am a single parent to 3 beautiful boys including 1 autistic son. We love to get involved in Special Olympics and different adventures when they are with me. I always have a smile on my face when I talk about them and warmth in my heart.

I recently returned to work in July 2015 after undergoing Major Extensive Brain Surgery back in April 2015 for Chiari Type 1 Malformation and Compression of my 7th Cranial Nerve. Recovery was extremely challenging but thankful for the help of my family and being able to see my boys. Now a Chiari Survivor!

Just 2 months returning and adjusting to work, I felt a rather large lump in my breast and was feeling like 'No this can't be'! I just healed from brain surgery and I am a very healthy person this is nothing. I went home and did a more thorough self exam and realized Oh My this is huge! Went through biopsy and was given the dreaded news "You have Breast Cancer"! I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma High Grade, Triple Negative and is aggressive growing. I started Chemotherapy on 10/20/15 for the next 5 months and then face multiple surgeries. I have never been so terrified in my life and am reminded from family and friends that I can do this!!! I tell myself that every day and just try to get through each day as it comes. I was honest with my boys about me having cancer which was hard and continue to encourage them and myself I will get through this.

Shara Jackson
Kent, WA

One more step, a road still ahead...

I am a mother and have a beautiful blended family with six children ranging in age from 15 years old to 2 years old, all of whom reside with us. I have been married going on 7 years to a very devoted husband and father, Matthew, who works as an active duty sailor in the US Navy.

In May 2015 I felt a lump in my right breast, but I thought because I was still breast-feeding my toddler that it was a clogged milk duct or possibly my third bout of mastitis this year. After it did not resolve itself on its own, I saw my primary care doctor and was referred to the Breast Heath clinic for further screening. On August 12 I had a mammogram which was immediately followed with an ultrasound of my right breast. They scheduled my biopsy for the next day. August 20 I received the results of my biopsy: positive for cancer, specifically Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. My cancer was diagnosed as grade 3, triple negative, and Stage 2. On September 29 I went in for my surgery. They removed the breast cancer which was about golf ball sized, three lymph nodes from my armpit to see if the cancer was spreading, and one lymph node from my neck. The results came back a week or so later: they got all the cancer and the margins were clear, the lymph nodes under my arm did not show signs of the cancer spreading. It has been a long journey already, and I still have 20 weeks of chemotherapy followed by 5 weeks of radiation left to go.

Today I started chemo off with a bang by taking the dose dense AC. My chemotherapy regimen is called AC/T. Currently I'm taking dose dense AC every two weeks for four rounds. In eight weeks I start the T every week for 12 weeks.Treatment took about two hours from start to finish. I'm told the T will take about 4 hours, but it will be much gentler on my system than the AC I'm having these next 8 weeks.

Snow Flowers
San Diego, CA

Having fun with chemo

On June 1, 2015 I was diagnosed with Invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2A.

At 48 years old I was in shock, I couldn't have breast cancer I'm to young, but it was true I did have breast cancer.

I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy which was performed on June 6, 2015.

I was then introduced to chemo on July 15, 2015, through continued chemo treatments I lost all of my hair and I thought let's have some fun with this. The picture above shows me as a baby and then what I look like now. Then and Now.

I still have a long road ahead of me on this journey and will fight my hardest as I move through it.

Amanda Rothchild
Santa Rosa, CA

Why Cancer May Be Ugly But Bald Is Beautiful

When I heard the words "You have breast cancer", I expected a noise, a sound effect, some sort of boom. Too many movies perhaps, but it wasn't like that at all. It was very quiet, inward, still. In the city that never sleeps, you could hear a pin drop.

Along with the diagnosis comes treatment and subsequent hair loss. And I have always loved my hair. This seemed devastating. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to get better. When my doctor explained the benefits of me getting chemotherapy, I was like, “Sign me up!” I want to live. I want to enjoy all of life, which was so possible just a couple of weeks earlier. But, I’m a woman, and I wanted to feel pretty. It sounds shallow. But it’s true.

The day my hair fell out I did cry. Just for a moment. It came out in handfuls and it was disturbing. In that moment, the reality of breast cancer hit me harder than going through the double mastectomy itself. It was in that moment that I said, “Wow, you really do have cancer.”

I wanted to feel sorry for myself but something inside me rose up. My inner voice said, “Ok, it’s really happening whether you’re on board or not, so you can cry, or you can deal with it.” The haircuts started that day. I had four of them, and was shaved bald by the end of that weekend.

I realized something in this.

I am not who I look like. My outside doesn’t define me. I am what I do, what I say, how I live my life. My value does not stem from how pretty I look. It stems from what kind of friend I am. What kind of artist I am. What kind of human being I am. My strength of character, my compassion, my creativity––these are where my real value can and should reside––and they shine far brighter than any head of hair. Cancer may be ugly, but bald is beautiful. And for me, this experience has taught me what “beauty” really means.

Ree Merrill (
Los Angeles, CA

Breast Cancer Did Not Get Me

On 11/30/05 I found a lump on my left breast. Through the month of December I went through mammograms, needle biopsy & then meeting w/ the surgeon & was diagnosed on 01/06/06 w/ stage 2A Insitu left breast cancer at 35. 2 weeks later I had a bilateral (left) mastectomy & 7 negative lymph nodes removed. I had 6 rounds of IV chemo, w/ 3 aggressive meds, because I had 2 separate lumps w/ 1 of them being very aggressive. I hated Chemo, but I survived! On 08/20/06 my cancer was in remission. My husband, mom and close family surrounded me regularly. About 6 weeks later I started having shortness of breath & gaining weight. In 10/06 I was diagnosed w/ cardiomyopathy and CHF. Over the next 4 years I was in & out of the hospital, up-and-down with fluid retention, living on oxygen, wheelchair bound and continued heart weakness amongst other issues. Eventually on 07/09/12 I became extremely exhausted & my 2 young adult kids noticed something was wrong and called 911 & their dad. I was taken off work until I received a new heart. Only to confirm what I thought, one of the chemo meds caused all of this "MESS" by the end of 2013 I was placed at the top of The heart transplant list at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills Ca. and immediately admitted for monitoring until A matching heart was found. Through all of this I survived thru the Grace of God, my family & close friends who supported me I made it through breast cancer, heart problems and a successful heart transplant on 01/19/14. I just celebrated 8 years cancer free & 1 year with my new heart. I Found my lump myself at 35 & cancer does not run in my family. I was BLESSED to have my HUSBAND, FAMILY & FRIENDS Support because they never left my side. I continue to have lifelong challenges due to the side effects of my meds from the breast cancer and having to take life-sustaining meds for my new heart. But! through it all I SURVIVED!

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Cancer Taught Me that I Needed to Learn How to Live

I had posted this last year but one of my friends who I met on this site asked me to repost, I hope that's ok.

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 three years of my life, I have felt heart-wrenching lows, but also moments that were pure, unadulterated joy. Through the fire and pain I have a new awareness of who I am, and I can honestly say I love myself. Pretty amazing, I am a forty nine 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 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 life is how you interpret it. 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 your identity as a healthy person. 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

A dent is not a lump, is it?

One day I happened to put my arms above my head, while in front of the mirror. There was a dent in the lower part of one breast. Darn I thought. Is this another one of those signs of old age no one told me about. I ignored it but a little voice kept bringing it up. Finally I checked the web. It shared that a growth in the breast could cause a pulling in of the skin. I should have it checked out.

Long story short, I was found to have breast cancer and started the process of surgery, chemo and radiation. But most important, I am now very aware that I should question any change in my body. It could save my life!

Reston, VA

"He's watching me!"

I love gospel music with The Gaithers' "He's Watching Me" being a favorite. We are told all our lives that God is watching us and taking care of us

My back was really hurting! PCP gave me an order for back x-ray along with address where he wanted me to go. I called to say I would be there next morning for x-ray. asked if I could get mammogram at same time. I was told would have to go to another location for mammogram. I told her would just get back x-ray. Next day I drove up and down street where I was supposed to go but could not find the x-ray facility, even had the receptionist on the phone trying to guide me! As I turned around for fourth time spotted STRIC and decided to go there for x-ray.

As I was filling out paperwork heard lady say she was there for her mammogram. I asked if they could also do my mammogram and was told yes. Lady doing mammogram said I was not on her schedule and I explained what happened. She did the one side and as she was doing the other side she said I was in the right place as she saw something she did not like, Called my doctor for order to do ultrasound, while I was looking at all the crosses up the center of her torture tower! I knew in my heart then that I had breast cancer. Ultrasound confirmed "highly suspicious" area and was advised to have biopsy ASAP!

Called surgeon's, office, was able to get in two days later, biopsy done, malignant. Mastectomy done on 11/24/10.

Others were upset cause I wasn't worried but because I found out the way I did, I knew I would be just fine and I have been.

I later found out that the place I was supposed to go was where I park every time I go to my hand doctor. I may have been driving but God was the navigator that day.

GO is good, all the time!

Dian Kelly
san antonio, TX

My Mommy

On September 22, 2015 My hero, my best friend, My Mommy was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. I promised her when the time came I would take care of her. I do think the time is to soon and wish the circumstances were different, but I have a promise to keep. I will be by her every step of the way and when she's ready to give up, I'll fight for the both of us!

Wendy Owens
Salt Lake City, UT

The Fight of my Life

My journey started in the beginning of 2009. My dear mom had just passed after a long unrelated illness. During that time I was undergoing routine yearly mammogram. I was asked to have an ultrasound of both breast which showed a small lump on rt breast. I was adviced by my GYN to see a specialist surgeon. I already know of a fantastic one. After he examined me he not only felt the lump on the rt breast but also a small one on the left side. Biopsies were performed shortly after and rt side showed negative but left was inconclusive. Dr recommended a lumpectomy which came back as DCIS. My husband and I were in shock and unbelief since I've always been very proactive with my health as well as very fit. However I knew I was going to beat this and not let it rob my joy and faith.

Shortly after I had sentinel lymph nodes (3) removed and were negative :)

After tumor board reviewed my case it was advised that I underwent another surgery to ck for margins since tumor was of an aggressive kind. That surgery which took more of my already small breast proved to be positive. After visiting with various specialist and to go over my options I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction right after. The rt would be prophylactic since Drs couldn't guarantee that cancer couldn't come back and be undetected again and more aggressive.

Surgery was painful both physically and emotionally but I was surrounded by my loved ones and covered in prayers. I knew I would be alright. It was a total of 12 surgeries from beginning to end. I'm stronger than I thought and my faith in my Creator just grew stronger. I've been able to encourage others. My husband, two sisters and two daughters have been a pillar of strength for me. The only thing I wished was to have my mom with me during this journey as she had been throughout my whole life. I look forward to enjoying the rest of my life.

Mayra C. Torres
Pembroke Pines, FL
Super Cozy Fleece Tie-Dye Spirit Bathrobe
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