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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

Breast cancer

I feel tht I'm not a women now cos I can't look at myself in the mirror. Anyway who named tht scarey word CANCER.I hate telling people I hav it so my story to people dnt tell no one. So l say to myself wen I dnt want to get out off bed. GET UP STAND UP MAKE UP. AND DRESS UP the hardest thing about CANCER was telling my kids I didn't tell them about it until I had to go in for my opp.XXX I dnt No if anyone will read my story but everyone shud hav a voice . I havnt had no support of anyone and sumtimes I need sumone t chat too anyway thts my life. I wish I cud cure everyone tht is suffering of cancer but I will pray every day for them god bless u all love

Scotland, United Kingdom

Mom's long journey

My mom was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2008.. She did a self test and found a small lump in her milk duct. She had a mastectomy the day after I graduated high school and did 4 rounds of chemo. In 2009 she was declared cancer free. Almost 5 years clear, in January 2013 she found another lump on the same side and found out she had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. It spread to her lungs, liver, and bones. I was devastated because I thought we were done with this but here it was trying to take us down again. She went through 6 rounds of chemo and was put in herceptin and tamoxifen. Just when we thought we were in the clear she started to get headaches and couldn't even stand up or walk without help. My worst fear was about to come true when we took her to the ER and they said she had a brain tumor. The week before thanksgiving she had 5 rounds of radiation and the worst part was hearing her throw up at night. In August 2015, she caught pneumonia and went into the hospital for complications of that and the cancer spreading to her heart in September. On October 1, 2015 my mom lost her battle with breast cancer. She fought so hard for 7 years and I saw her go through everything. Please find a cure! I don't want to see someone go through what I went through.

Lauren Butler
Hesperia, CA

In 1999 my sister died of Breast Cancer at the age of 43

I am a Breast Cancer Survival. On 2009 I had my first Biopsy and in 2011 I had an excisional biopsy both were benign, but after the excisional biopsy I started feeling something in my left breast so I got a sonomamagraphy, mamography, spot compression,it said probably benign, evaluation in 6 months, I told the doctor no, that I had something there so he checked me and sent me to get an MRI. The MRI came back highly suspicious for malignancy. On august 2012 my results were infiltrating Duct Cell carcinoma Grade II and Ductal Carcinoma in-situ Grade III, ER and PR negative and HER-2 positive. I had a bilateral Mastectomy which was going to be with reconstruction, I even got the expanders in, but after the surgery I got a blood clot in my leg which they put me on blood thinners and had a stent put in, then I got necrosis in my nipple and aereola so they had to operate a second time to take out my nipples and aereolas. Once I was recuperating they sent me home, but I didn't last a day because my chest started getting black so I had to go back to the hospital, which they found out I had a hemorragh in my chest. Since they had to operate on me a third time to clean me I told my doctor to take out the expanders, because I wasn't going to do reconstruction and thank God I did because the expanders had blood clots in them. I was in the hospital for almost 2 months because of all the complications. I went to the oncologist and I got 12 Taxols, 4 red quimos and 18 herceptins, I finished my quimos on May 2014. I did the Brac analysis test and came out positive for the Brac 2 mutation, my cancer is hereditary and is an invasive cancer. In february of 2014 my father died of breast and kidney cancer which metastisized. I thank God and my family and friends for praying for me and that I am alive and in remission.

Irma Rivera
Lares, PR
Midnight Garden Socks
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