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Self checks make a difference!

I turned 40 in July and have been self breast checking for years. Until August when I found a lump in my left breast. I called my obgyn and immediately scheduled a mammogram. It confirmed a strong possibility of cancer. Shortly after, I had a biopsy which definitively proved cancer. A lumpectomy and node removal followed. 7 nodes were removed and we were given the great news that it luckily didn't spread to the nodes but it did come back Invasive ductal carcinoma - triple negative. Four rounds of Adriamycin & Cytoxan and four rounds of Taxol later I'm at my last chemo! After this 30 rounds of radiation await me but being over the chemo hurdle is a huge step. I have been blessed with amazing family and friends that have helped our family tremendously. My 5 & 8 year old never missed a beat thanks to their help! My advice to women... start breast checks as soon as you start to develop. The doctor said I was lucky to have found it before it spread. I hope the same for all women!

Megan Hughes
Clarks Summit, PA

Mother of 4

On June 10, 2015, I found a lump in my left breast while dressing for work. I got an appointment with my doctor that day thanks to a coworker that use to work for my OB/GYN. He felt it, thought it felt like a cyst but scheduled a mammogram to be safe. On June 19th I had a mammogram followed by an ultrasound and biopsy. It was Cancer. Here I was, a 34 year old wife and mother of 4, and now a cancer patient. I was scared, angry, sad, & depressed. My husband was there for me every step of the way, every appointment & treatment. I could not have done it without him. We held tight to our faith, we knew that we would get over this obstacle. I started Chemo on July 10th and had my last one on October 23rd, my husband's birthday, he said it was the greatest birthday gift ever. Two days later I was pushed in a wheelchair by my husband across the finish line for Making Strides against Breast Cancer, I was to weak to walk, but I showed up and completed it with friends & family by my side. I had a bilateral mastectomy on December 9th, my lymph nodes were clean and my pathology showed that no cancer remained in my breast. I had a complete response to Chemo. Our prayers were answered. We have an amazing Family, Church Family & work Family. During my treatment and surgery we had meals prepared for us, along with many cards and well wishes. I believe that it was a combination of Chemo and Prayers that healed me. My hair is starting to grow back and I am starting to feel my energy coming back, I no longer look sick through my eyes. I still have a long road with Herceptin, anti-estrogen pills for 10 years and reconstruction. But it is a small price to pay to have many more years watching my children become adults and growing old with my husband. I feel very blessed. Bring on the next 50 years.

LaGrange, KY

My warrior wife

July 2015 our lives changed forever when my wife Annalesha was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, a grade 3 tumour- Invasive ductal carcinoma. Since the day she was diagnosed I’ve admired her strength, will, determination and courage. Being diagnosed at only 30, with a 5 year old and an 11 month old child she's stayed positive and kept her spirits up despite entering the unknown. After much toing and froing it was decided that she would start chemotherapy before having surgery. My wife finished up her 6th chemo session on New Years eve and is now building her strength for surgery (bilateral mastectomy with node clearance) and pending radiotherapy. Although much of her journey is still unknown, she's keeping her faith and has always kept a smile on her face through it all. I'm inspired by her tenacity, courage and hope in the face of adversity and I’m so proud of her for fighting like the warrior she is.

London, United Kingdom

Best christmas present!

On July 7, 2015 while at visiting my sister out of town, I got the call from my family doctor that I had triple positive breast cancer. I decided I was going to fight this with a positive attitude. I had a lumpectomy/node removal in Aug./15 and started my 6 rounds of chemo on Sept.9/15. My last day of chemo was Christmas Eve and I was blessed to be surrounded by my family and friends. I will be starting my 21 rounds of radiation this January and will continue with my Herceptin well into the fall. I am thankful for the amazing support I received from my family and friends and of course God, who is giving me the strength along this journey. Bring on 2016!

Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada

Breast Cancer is Something that Happens to Other People! A Twice Journey for One Single Mom

I was a struggling single parent the first time I heard the words, “You Have Breast Cancer.” It was July 12, 2011, my son’s second birthday. I would follow my doctor’s recommendations and have a mastectomy to remove the invasive cancer, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy.

As a result of my experience with breast cancer, I became a public speaker, educator, and advocate for breast health and early detection of breast cancer. I focus on groups that are often diagnosed a later stages, young adults; men; Hispanic and African American women.

Four years later, September 22, 2015, I again heard those words; I had Stage III breast cancer. Another surgery, more chemotherapy, and radiation would be my course. This time, I would take charge of the circumstances and use this breast cancer to help others.

Themo-Therapy! Each chemotherapy treatment has a theme to coincide with the day. I would ask others in my social network to participate with me. We would dress for the theme and find meaning, for ourselves and others, in the day. Theme 1: I Am My Kids’ Hero: Who is Yours? Theme 2: Hollywood Characters that Motivate and Inspire. I encouraged participants to dress and post pictures and give the reason why each was meaningful.

The third theme was not a dress up. It was an invitation to make a difference in the community around us. Each One, Reach One! I encouraged acts of kindness and service. There was a lot of activity in Huntington Beach. I also received posts of service from New York, Hawaii, Vienna, and Cambodia! I wanted to demonstrate the difference we can make when we are intentional, together.

2015 has been a year of challenges and blessings. I expect the same in 2016. After my first breast cancer diagnoses, I often shared that breast cancer was one of the best things to happen in my life. I did not imagine feeling the same way about the new diagnoses. Strangely, I would not change a thing. I see good coming from this and am honored to be a part of it.

Jacque Balbas-Ruddy
Huntington Beach, CA

My journey, my fight

It was just over a year ago (Dec. 18, 2014) when I heard the words I never imaged hearing..."you have breast cancer." With no known family history that was the first of many "rugs pulled from under me." You see, I had gone in for my annual mammogram two weeks earlier when a small mass was found in my left breast. I was sent for a biopsy and waited to hear the results.

So my journey begins. I'm diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER+, PR+. I get the gene testing done only because I'm Jewish. Doctor said I have only a 5% chance of actually having the BRCA gene. While waiting on the results we plan a lumpectomy for mid-January. Two days before my surgery the second rug was pulled...I'm BRCA2. New plan, at the end of January I went in for a bilateral, nipple sparing mastectomy with expanders.

In March I began my 16 rounds of chemotherapy, third rug. Throughout all of this I continued to work, I teach third grade and planned a Bat-Mitzvah for my youngest daughter. I have two beautiful girls for without them and my amazing husband I'm not sure I would have made it through the hard chemo times.

In September I had my expanders replaced with implants and in October I underwent, what I hope to be the last surgery, a total hysterectomy.

I lost my hair, my eyebrows, one big toe toenail(which are all growing back), my boobs, and my other female parts, but I never ever lost my spirit, positive attitude and my will to see my future. I am looking forward to a better 2016.

Coconut Creek, FL

The Key is Early Detection

I had my yearly mammogram on 10-6-14 and received a letter to return for a magnified view. They found a .7 cyst and then did a sonogram, the doctor then ordered a biopsy. The results came back Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. A lumpectomy was scheduled on 12-10-14 and all went well. The surrounding area of the cyst came back clear. They did the Oncotype DX test to see if I would need to have chemo. The first two test were inconclusive, so they tested it a third time. Finally the results came back clear and I did not require chemo.

They did schedule 16 days of radiation, which in the end left me with a horrible burn on my chest. I tried all the recommended creams, but in the end nothing worked as well as just giving it time to heal. My cancer was hormone based, so my post op care includes taking a estrogen blocker. I go for check ups every three months with my oncology doctor and I go for a mammogram every six months.

I am proud to say that on 12-10-15, I reached one full year of being cancer free. I have to express to women how important it is to have your yearly mammograms. Early detection caught my cancer so early that it was not a danger to my life.

Brenda M. Crowder

Brenda M. Crowder
Unicoi County, TN

The best Christmas Gift EVER being told yesterday that I am Cancer Free!!

In April this year I was diagnosed with Stage III Ductal and Lobular Breast Cancer in my left breast. In May and June I had surgery to remove both breasts with 26 lymph nodes removed as 9 of those were infected. In 2005 I had LCIS Rt breast and 2008 LCIS Lt breast. I had the BRCA test and was negative. In my family other female relatives have also been diagnosed including my late mother, cousins, sister and nieces. The gene has not yet been identified.

The meaning of Christmas is about 'New Life'. As I look back over this year, I see how far I have come. Yesterday I was given the best Christmas gift anyone could ever ask for.. I was told that it seems that I am now Cancer 'FREE'!!! I still continue my radiotherapy for the next two and a half weeks... and I am to commence early January the tablet 'Anastrozole' (Arimidex) for 10yrs as my cancer had been aggressive and loved oestrogen. I have developed peripheral neuropathy due to the Taxol chemo med in my feet and finger tips, but hopefully that may go in time. The important fact though is that I have another chance on life, and I thank God for his help in my journey through the ups and downs emotionally and physically whilst going through surgery and treatments. So all I wish to now say is Merry Christmas everyone and peace and goodwill to all. Here's hoping for a positive new life in 2016!

Cheshire, United Kingdom

Fight Like a Girl

Hi there, I completed my last chemotherapy on December 1st, 2015. I was diagnosed in June 2014. Since that date I have underwent 4 surgeries due to complications after the double mastectomies. I then went on to finish 20 rounds of chemotherapy every 3 weeks and 5 weeks of radiation, along with an oophorectomy, as well as two extended hospitalizations for infections and two small TIAs suspectedly brought on by chemotherapy. Prior to this diagnosis I was working full time, exercising and taking care of my family and dealing with daily struggles, then Wham. This disease does not discriminate. Anyone, anywhere at any time. Life does not stop when you are fighting cancer, you continue to lose loved ones, your family still needs helps and your friends still depend on you. All the previous struggles do not go away because you are sick they continue and are waiting for you when you are back. So never say we all have struggles as we do, but with cancer on top of them you must fight that much harder. You fight well you are dealing with your life as well. I fought this hard for my son and family, in particular my 68 year old father who was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic/gallbladder cancer one month after my diagnosis. the chemo. did not work for my Dad, however, he is fighting hard to see my to the end of my treatment and provide the best support he could given his circumstance. MY dad is my HERO!!! Today I can say I am Cancer Free! You can do it, just keep fighting!!!! Hugs and Love for all those out there fighting this domineering disease. Love Tracy

Tracy Procknow
Outlook, SK, Canada

All About the Boobs, No cancer!

Tuesday, December 1st, I underwent reconstructive surgery after a year of battling stage 3 breast cancer! I endured 6 rounds of chemo, 52 weeks of targeted therapy, 28 rounds of radiation, a double mastectomy with lymph node removal, as well as 10 rounds of expansion sessions and construction!! What a year!!!

I was 7 years away from my first mammogram when I found a lump & my son was just 9 months old when I heard those horrific words from my doctor,

"Kristen, it is cancer"... With the help of my friends and family I created a music video to help raise awareness and Stress the importance of early detection! I hope you enjoy and share with your loved ones!

Kristen Demeduk Amaral
Livermore, CA
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