hereforthegirls | Pink Link Stories
107
archive,category,category-pink-link-stories,category-107,ajax_leftright,page_not_loaded,,vertical_menu_enabled, vertical_menu_hidden, vertical_menu_width_260,qode-theme-ver-9.2,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.11.2.1,vc_responsive

, August 03, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share a story about genetic predisposition and breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos). (* Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

Inheritance played a lot in my diagnosis and I didn’t even know it. My mom died of a rare type of lung cancer called mesothelioma at 49. Her dad died of esophageal cancer. But there was no breast cancer at all on either side of my family until my second cousin’s daughter on my mom’s side was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36. It turns out, her dad (my second cousin) had the bRCA2 gene. He never had cancer and he is in his 70s.

Unfortunately, this information was not shared with me since I am not close to this side of the family. I was diagnosed six years later with stage 1 HER2 at 42 with the BRCA2 gene. Looking back, it was a missed opportunity for me to be an advocate for my own health. If I would have understood hereditary breast cancer risks, I would have pushed to be tested years ago.

-Christina

, June 28, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share a story about helping another woman with breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here. (* Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

The morning my colleague, Mary, came to my desk and asked if she could speak to me, I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw fear in her eyes — the same emotion I had experienced upon receiving my breast cancer diagnosis several years earlier. Mary confirmed then what I had suspected — she had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to speak with someone who had been through what she now faced.

I recalled the early days of my diagnosis and the positive support, offers of prayers and encouraging words from friends and family that carried me through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I knew Mary had to hear encouraging words and though my heart was aching for her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I imparted words of encouragement and comfort to her as best I could. We spoke about treatment and what she might experience while undergoing chemotherapy. I shared with her how I handled hair loss, appetite loss and other debilitating effects of chemotherapy. We spoke about undergoing a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgery. We joked that reconstructive surgery was the ‘up’ side of having breast cancer.

While Mary was going through chemotherapy, she often shared with me the symptoms she was experiencing and I told her I had experienced similar symptoms but that she wasn’t to worry, the side effects were temporary. I told Mary that in a year’s time, it would be she who would be supporting a breast cancer survivor. So, Mary bravely forged ahead in her battle against cancer and while she continued treatment, we shared happy moments even through the rough times.

Then, Mary was dealt a devastating blow. Her cancer, a particularly aggressive type, was not responding to treatment and had metastasized. In just over a year of receiving her diagnosis, Mary lost her battle and passed away. I was heartbroken.

At her visitation, I stared at Mary’s face in the collage of photographs her family had compiled, trying to formulate an apology to her. I thought I had let her down, given her hope where none existed. Then, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. It was Mary’s sister, Kelly. “Francine,” she said. “Mary often spoke of how she drew strength from speaking with you.” I started crying then, not only for Mary but because, as Kelly explained, Mary never gave up hope, right to the end and I felt comforted that, in some small way, I had contributed to her courageous battle.

-Francine

, May 23, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share a story about helping another woman with breast cancer. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here. (* Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

In June of 2015,  I was diagnosed with stage 2a, triple negative breast cancer. While fighting this battle, I met a young lady who was battling not only breast cancer, but also Stage 4 lung cancer. Before I got to know her, I observed her daily activities through her posts on Facebook and thought to myself, how in the world does she do it? She instantly became my SHE-RO. After treatment she would hit the gym or the track to work out. Meanwhile, I was too sick to do anything.

As the days went by, I began to see less of her but thought of her always. Then one day we ran into each other. We hugged and exchanged information. Late at night we would have our chats about the journey and committed to supporting one another no matter what. I eventually finished my chemo treatments and moved on to surgery and later radiation, while she was still undergoing chemo treatments. During this time, we didn’t talk as often because radiation took a toll on me. When I was finally done with all of my treatments in March of 2016, it was time to heal.  Many did not understand this process, but I knew one person understood. We started back calling and texting each other as the days went by and then suddenly, I didn’t hear from her. No returned calls or inbox messages. I grew a bit concerned but I didn’t have anyone to connect with to check on her. Then one day, I saw a post on her page from her son. He was scared and needed help. I sent him a message and told him to call me. Earlier that evening while having dinner with her son, she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. After hearing this, I threw my clothes on and drove to meet him.

From that point on, I stayed with her. Her son didn’t know what to do and although she had a few friends by her side, no one really understood what was happening. They kept her in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then eventually released her… the cancer had spread to her brain rapidly and there was nothing else they could do. The last two weeks of her life, while trying to heal myself from the pain and stiffness that chemo left me with, I made sure to keep my word to her by helping her fight. Each day when she would wake up, her mother and I would pray over her and I would make her a breakfast juice or smoothie. Afterwards, we would get dressed and I would wheel her outside to get some sunlight for a few minutes and then bring her back in so that she could rest. Her mother eventually made her way down and was so grateful for my help. We agreed that I would stay and continue to help because it was needed as her health was declining quickly. It was challenging, but I remembered my promise to her.  I didn’t give up on her, even up until she took her last breath.

Since then, I have committed my life to helping others that have been impacted by can’t-cer; to be a light of HOPE, when at times it seems like there is none. I started a Facebook group just for women in my local area to help support one another.  From time to time we meet up to rally around each other because we have a special bond.

-Tiah

, April 13, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

I was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) at the age of 38 on May 1, 2015. Before then, I was a fitness and nutrition geek. I worked out at the gym 5 days a week and did yoga at least 3 or 4 times a week. I was eating clean, organic non-processed foods. I have had this routine for almost 10 years. So when I got my diagnosis, nothing made sense, especially because there’s no history of cancer in my family.
IBC is an aggressive disease and it had already progressed to my liver and lymph nodes, so I was immediately put on the schedule to start chemotherapy. I had one week to prepare for my first infusion. One week to have my port put in; one week to do all the tests and scans; one week to see surgeons and fertility doctors; it was overwhelming. Because the cancer had already spread to my liver, my doctor said surgery was really not necessary. But I did six rounds of Taxotere along with Herceptin and Perjeta. And for 10 months I received Herceptin and Perjeta until I had a progression to my brain on August, 2016.
I complained with symptoms of blurry vision, headaches and numbness for about a month until my oncologist requested a brain MRI. The scan showed three lesions in my brain small enough to go with gamma knife (stereotactic surgery) instead of radiation. After the surgery I started chemotherapy treatment again receiving Navelbine. I took Navelbine for about three months until my next CT scan showed activity increasing in my breast. I am now on my third line of treatment receiving TDM1 plus Perjeta.
Looking back, I believe my symptoms started almost a year before diagnosis. I ignored the redness and itchiness I had for months. I just thought it was my hormones changing since I was approaching 40. Needless to say, I felt guilty for a long time thinking I could have gone to the doctor sooner. But I’ll never know if that would have changed anything. And that is something I work on to accept every day. Each morning I wake up and look at myself in the mirror and it’s still unbelievable to me that I am walk every day with cancer in my body. But each day I make the choice to continue to live and accept that my life now includes cancer.
Cancer has changed my life tremendously. It has reminded me of how resilient I am. It has helped me re-focus my life back to what is important to me and not sweat the little things. It has taught me how to live a meaningful life.

-Ada O.

, March 31, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

I was diagnosed on December 11, 2009, with triple negative breast cancer. My mom always taught us to be strong, positive, to fight and to never give up hope. I stayed strong and positive from the beginning. I went to Boston where I stayed at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge while having treatment and many surgeries. I was my own caregiver, which I do not recommend to anyone.

I am actually writing a book about my cancer journey, with me being my own caregiver. I had bilateral mastectomies and many months of chemo. I was so ill from the chemo that I was hospitalized all the time. One time my doctors thought I had a heart attack from the chemo. I also had bilateral DIEP Flap reconstruction. I was very lucky that I did not have to have radiation.
I have the best team and because of them I am here.

For me it is all about giving back and paying it forward. I volunteer five days a week in a cancer hospital as a hospital volunteer and I am also an American Cancer Society volunteer. I also host Look Good Feel Better, a wonderful program from the American Cancer Society. I really like Pink Link and all that it offers.

-Barbra T.

, March 24, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.) 

2005 was a great year. I was finishing up paramedic school, my fiancé was finishing up nursing school, we were about to get married and buy our first house. 2006 brought more fun and adventure for two outdoorsy newlyweds. We had it all planned out. We’d enjoy each other’s company for a while before we started our family and we’d save up as much as we could to prepare for our future, a future that was looking very bright. 2007 brought some struggles but we made it through the year with perseverance standing by each other’s side. 2008 is when I found myself without a job, which altered my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But it wasn’t the end of the world, yet. We decided this would be the opportunity we wanted to start our family since we agreed one of us would stay home with the kids anyway. So in 2009 along came son #1. Unfortunately, that was also the year we lost our first house. With only one of us working, it became a challenge to live the lifestyle we had become accustomed to. 2010 brought pregnancy #2 which led to son #2’s arrival in 2011. His appearance in the world would be the only bright part of 2011 though.

October 6, 2011, just 5 months after giving birth to our second son, I was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. My first thought was of the family I had just started with my husband, then my second was how they would go on without me. To me The C Word was a death sentence. But with the support of our family and friends we were getting things taken care of, especially the boys. Thanksgiving was uneventful, until a few days later. That’s when I became a widow/single-mom/breast cancer patient. I found my husband face down in the bathroom not responsive, not breathing, with no pulse. As a paramedic I knew it was too late to try resuscitation. He was gone.

The depression I had suffered with for so many years had finally come to the darkest point. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. This was my rock bottom. I had to give up the life I had built, uproot my kids and myself and move two hours away so that I had the support I needed to get through the next few months of my life, because it was going to be a battle to make it through. I was determined to not allow my life to end. I made a decision to not only survive, but to thrive. I had no clue where to start, but I knew I had to start over.

For the next couple of years I focused on my health and physical healing. I had four months of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and seven weeks of radiation. Due to tissue damage from radiation I had to remove the expanders that were placed during my mastectomy and allow my body to heal. Six months later I opted for the Latissimus Flap reconstruction.

Once my physical body was back in order I began to look into my mental health. I don’t remember being offered counseling or therapy services when I was diagnosed, then again, I just may not have heard it through the fear of dying. I began seeing a therapist for the depression and anxiety. We worked through so much I finally started to feel like I was going to be ok. It got to a point though where ok just wasn’t enough. I wanted to live, fully and wholeheartedly. I began reading more and more and was eventually led to looking into life coaching. So many people had told me “you should be a life coach”. I had no clue what they were talking about, and I started listening to the little whispers I was hearing. Those whispers led me to Debbie Ford’s book Dark Side of the Light Chasers. That book reached in and pulled my heart from my chest. I researched Debbie and her ideas about the Shadow. Eventually I signed up to take her Breakthrough Shadow Coaching program. That opened me up to the possibility of creating the life I wanted, even after breast cancer.

While in my coaches’ training I met an amazing woman who worked at The Chopra Center. She taught classes on emotions, mindfulness, meditation and awareness. Going deeper with her has allowed me to deal with and release the emotions that I believe caused my cancer in the first place. Even though I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer I can confidently say that it won’t come back. Learning how emotional dis-ease causes physical dis-ease has been the key to me standing at the top of the hill screaming that cancer can be beat. I am now in training to learn the emotional release techniques she has taught me so that I may help others release their baggage so they are free to create the lives they want to be living.

My life today is very different than it was 5 ½ years ago. I thought breast cancer was a death sentence. It actually turned out to be the greatest gift I have ever been blessed with.

Michele writes her own blog — check it out at michelemadrigal.com!

, February 13, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish the entries here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to submit your story right now, just send it (along with a photo, if you’d like) to desiree.parker@hereforthegirls.org. If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.

While breast cancer survivors’ stories may sound the same, they are as different as hair, hands, and foreheads! They are all unique and special. Each story is told from the standpoint of a medical course, yet the bravest course of treatment is the psychological one taken by survivors. They did not anticipate the anxiety or depressive symptoms that would unfold as chemotherapy, radiation, and mastectomy or lumpectomy lurked.

I am a survivor of breast cancer, her2+, some inflammatory, stage 3C. I am not alone and I am not unintelligent. I am not sedentary nor am I brave! Without the medical community, I would probably no longer have the life I live today.

Without movement, exercise, and a nutrition focus, I would be far less energetic five years in NED (No Evidence of Disease), in my late fifties! The integrative efforts through the Cancer Institute here in Virginia and the tenderness of their care in those early developmental stages of life in cancer treatment were sound. I researched and knew this journey was going to take some time. I chose, and shared my choices, and they were always well received.

I fought with family and a dear friend, Amber J., with whom I shared weekly conversations regarding anything. She was my confidante and I was her joy! Married with a stepson, we shared our faith and our joys in a heavenly savior who was available to us during these seasons of tremendous loss. I had lost a friend with whom I had been in a loving relationship, his death a suicide. Her losses were family, her mother, a fifth grade teacher in Los Angeles. Together we shared our foibles in the transition from West coast to East.

My cancer has not returned! I don’t know why.

Do you know why your cancer has not returned? Immune support through relationships is as important to personal diet as exercise, nutrition, spiritual connections, and laughter, yes just plain fun! Joie de Vivre!

A support group called Beyond Boobs! (a support service of Here for the Girls) is a place inspiring to me. I worked as a volunteer with them for a year and a half in an alter ego personality, still my own, dressing up and dressing down to spread the message of hope in an educational forum. They like me! And I love them!

On I went from my developmental years as a thriving cancer adolescent to my young adult years (remember I am late fifties), and now into yoga! I love yoga! I wore this body into submission through yoga teacher training and the aches and pains of now stretching to a point where I felt I ought to stretch even more.

Gratitude, giving, and remembering those who have helped, supported, nourished, and prayed for me and my household.

As I move into survivorship as a clinician, I have more to learn and more to give in this fight for health, beauty, and yes, wealth. We all need to support ourselves through many avenues of thought and action. Survivorship is a process. Be kind to yourself! It takes time to relearn those moments we call Life. We may indeed use that anxiety or even depression for a greater good or purpose. It seems to require our thoughtful time.

-Joanne H.

, February 07, 2017 | More Post by

Welcome to our first “Pink Link Stories” blog post! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish the entries here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to submit your story right now, just send it (along with a photo, if you’d like) to desiree.parker@hereforthegirls.org. If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.

LaShaun says…

My story started in April 2015. I went in to have my annual mammogram. While we were waiting for the results, they called me back into the office and said that they needed to take some more pictures. So. I didn’t think anything of it, until they called me back into a private room with my husband. The pathologist said, “I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m going to be honest with you. It looks like cancer.” At that time, my heart fell and all I could think was, “I don’t want to die!” The pathologist then says that we need to do a biopsy right then and there. So, while I was waiting for the biopsy to begin, all I could think was that I didn’t want to die. I remember the pathologist saying that they were going to put 8 markers in my breast. I could feel every needle prick and at each prick, I cried. On top of that, I was counting each one and there were 10 pricks, not 8.

As I was driving home, all I could think of was, how am I going to tell the rest of my family? When I got home, my 19-year-old daughter was home and she could see that something was wrong. I told her I was scared and I was not sure how to tell my parents that I might have breast cancer. Well, I didn’t have much time to think about it, because my daughter called my dad. As soon as he asked me what was wrong, I started crying and told him that it looks like I have breast cancer. He was very calm and just said, “let’s wait and see what the results of the biopsy are.”

We had to wait over the weekend and that weekend seemed to last forever. On Monday, I was at work and I got a phone call from my family doctor. She said wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell me the news face-to-face or leave a message or tell me over the phone. She decided to tell me that she was sorry, but I did have breast cancer. At this time, I was freaking out and crying.  I finally asked her if my husband and I could come in and ask her some questions. She agreed to meet with us that day after work.

I called my husband and let him know the outcome of the biopsy results. After talking to him, I told my boss what was going on and that I needed to go home for the rest of the day. While I was at home, I called my brother, who doesn’t live that far from me. I had my husband meet me at the doctor’s office so we could talk to her about my options and what our next steps were going to be. We had plenty of questions for her. She was unable to answer them all, but we understood we had options. We were told to call the Longmont hospital and set up an appointment to see an oncologist. Just as I was about to call and set up a meeting, my brother called me and asked me to not do anything until after he came over and talked to me. I agreed… he told me that a friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer and that I should call her oncologist in Fort Collins at the Harmony Cancer Center. She gave him all the information that I needed to reach out to her. I called the hospital in Fort Collins and said that I needed to set an appointment with this specific oncologist. the receptionist told me that before I could see her, I needed to have my biopsy results and any other information sent to her office. So, it took me 2 days to get the discs and information sent to Fort Collins. Once the office had my results, I was asked to come to Fort Collins that next week.

When my husband and I met with the oncologist, we had an array of questions we wanted answered. The first question we had was, “should we get a second opinion.” The doctor told us this: she is on the board of directors and my case was seen by her and 6 other doctors, so my case is getting 6 opinions. Once they agreed on what was seen, they came up with a game plan, all before I came into the office that day. As I was trying to write the answers to my questions, my oncologist took my notebook and wrote them down for me, so I would be able to focus on her answers. the main reason we stayed with her and that office was because she knew everything about my case and she didn’t have to keep looking at her notes. We felt as if she really cared about us and the best way to help me with the breast cancer.

During that meeting, she explained to me that I had Stage 3 breast cancer. Her game plan for me was to go through 20 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery, and then 6 weeks of radiation. Before we could start chemotherapy, I would need to take a pre-chemo class and have a power port inserted into my chest. Well, I had never had a surgery in my entire life. I had the surgery for my port at the end of April 2015. I started chemotherapy, the day after Mother’s Day in May 2015. My husband took me to my first couple of treatments. We had a schedule and a plan to have some of closest friends and family take me to my treatments, since I was not able to drive there and back. For the first 8 weeks, I was going to Fort Collins, twice a week, every other week. I was told that I would be tired for about 2 days and then recover over the weekend. I was able to work at least 3 days a week during the first 6 weeks. At exactly 2 weeks of my treatment, I noticed that I was losing my hair. I was so devastated, I called my sister, who was going to take some pictures of me before I lost my hair. I called her and asked her to cover that night and take those pictures, because I needed to take out my extensions. She came over, took some pictures and we make arrangements to have my hair cut really short.  I remember taking out my extensions and washing my hair that night. I kid you not, when I was done washing my hair, I looked like Fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color…..haha!

When my first 8 weeks were done, I was able to change my appointment day to Thursday, so I could take Thursdays and Fridays off to recover. At this time, I was able to work, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. My job was open to it and they have been very supportive of my treatment schedules. I finished my chemotherapy in Sept 2015… and on October 27th, 2015, I had a double mastectomy, because I did not want to deal with the cancer spreading if I only had one removed. I also had 13 lymph nodes removed on the left side. The only time off of work was the 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.

After I was healed and able to lift my arms above my head, I was able to meet with the radiation oncologist. I had a game plan there too. I was to start radiation in January and it was to be, everyday for 6 weeks. the side effect was tiredness.  I made the best of my time and I was working out as much I could. In February, I ended my radiation therapy. the day after I completed my radiation, I did the Fight for Air Climb, in Denver, to help fight lung cancer. I was able to climb all 56 flight of stairs in a little more than an hour. I was so proud of myself. Since I have completed chemo and radiation therapy, I think I have had about 4 more surgeries and I still have another one scheduled in the near future to have my implants put in. I have been working out 6 days a week, and I start a workout clinical trial soon, twice a week for 6 weeks.

Thank you for listening to my story.

LaShaun D