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19-Year Survivor

Nineteen years ago, when I had metastatic breast cancer, it was not spoken about the way it is now. My options were few. I was lucky enough to find a research study at The Vince Lombardi Cancer Care Center at Georgetown University. After being given three years to live, I am alive and well after treatment, which included eleven months of chemo (one week on, three weeks off), twenty-eight days of radiation, and an autologous bone marrow transplant. Breast cancer is not the death sentence it once was. With the proper treatment and a good, positive attitude, it is possible to overcome just about anything. In the time that I underwent treatment, I never missed work except when I had to go to Washington D.C. for treatments. Work is one of the things that kept me going. I was a teacher (I'm now retired). One of my negative experiences was with the American Cancer Society. I asked only if they knew of any reasonable places to stay in the area. They said they couldn't help because their money was spent, even though I wasn't asking for money. I even asked if there were corporate plane flights from our area. They could only find flights from a distance. I had asked because I know the corporate flights would not have cost the Society anything and taking the train to D.C. was expensive, as was lodging. I am doing well and hope to be around for a long, long time.

Deerfield Beach, FL

Keep The Faith

In July 2000, we found out that Mom, who was 60 at the time, had inflammatory breast cancer as well as a tumor. Her doctor and surgeon moved very quickly and she had a mastectomy immediately. The next few months were a very long hard struggle for Mom and the rest of the family. She had all the necessary tests done before you can start your treatment. Then she began her chemo regimen. Mom's chemo was very intense (it has been referred to as the red devil). Unfortunately, Mom became very ill from her treatments, and after three sessions ended up in the hospital on December 4th. The doctors did not think she would make it through the night. We said our prayers, and God must have been listening. The next two to three months were touch and go; we lived hour by hour for the next six weeks but she came through it. As Mom got a little stronger, the doctors decided that chemo was maybe not the answer for her, so in April 2001 she started her six weeks of radiation. This was very painful but I would say pretty effective, because as of July 2009, my mom will be cancer-free for 9 years. The best advice I can give is: never say never and keep a positive attitude, even when things look bleak and hopeless. And never give up on your loved ones. They will draw positive energy from your positive thoughts.

Marilyn Whitfield
Wingham, ON, Canada

I Just Knew

I am a 35 year old single working mom of an amazing 6 year old little angel boy. I am also a cancer survivor. In September 2008, while I was getting ready for work, I noticed a lump in my left breast. I panicked and called my doctor, who sent me for my first mammogram on Friday, September 12th. The following Tuesday I got a call from my doctor's nurse, who then sent me for a biopsy on September 19th. I knew from the moment I found the lump that I had breast cancer, so I was prepared for the diagnosis. On September 24th, my worst fear was confirmed, and I have to admit, although I was prepared, it still took the air right out of me. My doctor told me all my options and I elected to have a double mastectomy. He asked me if I was sure, and I said "Yes, I can buy new boobs!" On October 1st, I had both breasts removed. My God blessed me with wonderful doctors and nurses and results. The cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes and I didn't need chemo. My Oncologist did recommend that I have a hysterectomy since my cancer was ER and PR positive. God has blessed me with a beautiful son so I had the hysterectomy on December 15th. I go on April 1st for my last surgery in reconstruction and to get my implants. It has been a long road, but not as long as some ladies have to travel. My faith, family and friends have supported me through all of this, and without them I couldn't have stayed so positive. God is Great!

Sandersville, MS

Can I Be Pretty In Pink

In October of 2006, my mammogram came back fine. In October of 2007, a lump was detected. My luck, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. It was in my bones, spine, adrenal glands, had metastasized to my brain, AND I was HER2Nu+. After a mastectomy, chemotherapy, chest radiation, Gamma Knife Surgery and Whole Brain Radiation, my body (not my brain yet) has been declared cancer free. I have great doctors, and more and more is being developed to help us live longer lives. What miracles we can hope for!!

Deena Warner
Chillicothe, IL

Hooray for Mammograms

After my dear mom passed from breast cancer in 1988, I have diligently had mammograms each year. This past year I kept being called back to the Imaging Center every 3-4 months for another mammogram on my right breast. In December I was notified that I needed to have my left breast examined also before the year ended. While there, the technician decided to take a picture of the right side again. I'm so thankful that she did. The following week I received a call stating I needed to come in for a biopsy. Since we were going away for three weeks over Christmas, when I returned I went in for the biopsy. Several days later, my primary doctor called to tell me it was cancer, and that she would make an appointment for me with a surgeon. The end result was that, on February 17th of this year, I had a lumpectomy. A small estrogen-fed tumor was found in my right breast, plus cancer in two of my lymph nodes. I have healed very nicely and will see the radiologist tomorrow. He will then determine the amount of radiation I will need for treatments. When those treatments are finished, I will be taking a cancer pill probably for rest of my life! As I am now 80 years of age, there will be no chemotherapy, for which I am grateful! A N D, I have become a very enthusiastic spokesperson for yearly mammograms! Just ask my family - daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters as well. Because of the mammograms, my cancer was found before it became more invasive, and for that I am truly thankful!

Muriel Haedike
Dunnellon, FL

My Family

Last year, my sister told my mom and me at the same time that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was history repeating mom had already been diagnosed and gone through a lumpectomy and radiation.

We thought the same would be true with Sabrina, until the middle of the surgery. Her cancer had spread to two of her lymph nodes. Throughout the summer my sister underwent chemotherapy. We watched my skinny, hairdresser sister get thinner and lose her hair. Yet, she had a lot of family and friends rallying around her. She, like my mom, stood strong through it all. Then she found out that she tested positive for the (breast cancer) gene. She started her double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Her husband drove her three hours to Nashville about once a week throughout all of this, and my dad went to take care of my nephew. She has one surgery left for her reconstruction to be done. It will happen almost a year to the day of when she found out. I know that I have to be tested too. I'm preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I have two amazing examples before me.

Owensboro, KY

Alive and Kicking

My story begins with a diagnoses of breast cancer in 2006. I was 42 years old with a 7 year-old little boy who is the light of my life. It's been three years and I'm still cancer-free. A week before my diagnosis, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed three months later, on my birthday. Then, two months later, I lost my other brother. I must say it was the most difficult time in my life. My mother also passed of cancer 20 years ago. Life has truly been a challenge for my family. I have two sisters whom I know are afraid, and an 87 year-old father who has fought two wars and buried two children, and despite all this, we are still here and stronger than ever. Life can be very short and harsh. My advice to all going through cancer of some kind: a strong mind and a strong heart with lots of love and faith can help get you through what this kind world can throw your way. Take it from someone who's been there -- live life to the fullest it will allow you to, and enjoy every minute. My name is Heather and this is my story.

Heather Bourgeois
Brantford, ON, Canada

Proud of My Brave Mother & My Aunts

My mother and all four of her sisters are breast cancer survivors. Her second oldest sister has had a double mastectomy. This is why I am vigilant against the disease. I have been getting mammograms every year since I turned thirty. I am proud of my mother and my aunts for bravely fighting this disease.

Teresa Hart
Fort Myers, FL

I Feel Safe Now

After 30 years of having mammograms regularly, and with no family history of the disease, I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago. I had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation. Twice more, "suspicious cells" were seen on my mammograms. I had two more biopsies, and the cells removed were deemed pre-cancerous. When more of these suspicious cells appeared in the breast that had had the radiation, I decided I couldn't do this for the next 20 years. With my husband's total support, and my surgeon's agreement, I had a double mastectomy and began reconstruction while on the operating table. It's been a 6-month project and has required 3 surgeries to complete, but I feel safe now. I've beaten breast cancer, and although it was by no means easy, it is a viable alternative to continued biopsies and the uncertainty of repeated findings and biopsies. This may not be for everyone, but it has given me a new lease on life. Everyone needs to be aware of the possibilities in treatment for this disease, and those possibilities begin with regularly-scheduled mammograms.

Betty Houle
Bristol, CT

Honoring Cindy

I want to honor Cindy, the mother of my thirteen year old twin grandsons. Her cancer was discovered at the age of forty-one thanks to a mammogram and early detection. Last October, Cindy, her sister, and I participated together in the Philadelphia 3-Day to raise money for breast cancer awareness, detection, treatment, and research. Just thirteen months after a bilateral mastectomy, Cindy walked sixty miles and raised $20,000. She raised the fourth largest amount of money out of 3,500 participants. She is an amazing mother and daughter! Our family is blessed to have her.

Brenda VanAmburgh
Fort Worth, TX
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