For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, April 27, 2017 | More Post by

Julia is a Boober! who was invited to attend our “Renew, Restore, Retreat” this year and couldn’t make it. Since she’s many years out from her diagnosis, she had these thoughts to share about women who, like her, are at least a few years beyond treatment. We thought we’d pass along her insights and thoughtful words!

…I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 44 (stage 1, estrogen receptor positive).

I had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. I think no matter how good or bad your diagnosis is, it is a very traumatic experience and very frightening. Somehow reason and common sense don’t quite work anymore. It’s a challenge to find a balance and normalcy. But during this journey and through many doctor’s visits I had some words that stuck with me for years. You were probably told that the survival rate is 12 years. In your state of shock you don’t really understand the meaning. For me, it sounded like a death sentence in 12 years. I could not find any reason or sense in these words. I went on a search for survivors of more than that. I became obsessed with it. I joined Dr. Reed’s support group, I went to a retreat offered by Beyond Boobs! several years ago, and took part at the event “Dancing with the Survivors.” But I never met anybody who was a survivor for more of 4 or 5 years. I know it would have helped me to know at least one long-term survivor.

Today I am cancer-free for 9 years. My check-ups have been all good so far, and I feel good. Besides minor long-term side effects from radiation (times of fatigue, sudden pain attacks in the area of radiation), I have a normal life. I also learned that my grandmother had breast cancer in her 60s (which I never knew), and that she died of old age. Without knowing, I had a long-term survivor in front of me. She passed away over 30 years ago, so she could never tell me her story. There is a life after breast cancer, and there is a very good chance to live a long life and grow old. I don’t worry about numbers any more. I try things that I always wanted to do. After “Dancing with the Survivors” I continued with ballroom dancing and now I am competing with my new husband in Standard and Latin ballroom dance. My second dream is to have my own business and I just started to work as a freelance Graphic Designer.

I met a lot of other survivors who also struggled with the “12 year thing”. Don’t focus on this, it only means that today’s survival rates are very good. Every person and every diagnosis is different, but with today’s treatment options we all have (in general) the best chances.

It is okay to worried and to be scared. Don’t let anyone tell you how you have to feel. You can grieve as long as you need to, and then you are ready to move on. This is your life, and you set the rules. You need to let out your grief and sadness to get your strength to fight. Beyond Boobs! is an amazing group of extraordinary women and I can’t thank you all enough for the support you give to each other.

Hugs and Love,


, April 20, 2017 | More Post by

I am not a doctor, only a Lymphatic Fanatic. I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor with Lymphedema in my right arm. I am one of the 30% of women who will get Lymphedema as a result of a compromised lymphatic system due to surgery, removal of lymph nodes, and radiation. In fact, all breast cancer patients and survivors are at risk if their lymphatic system has been compromised from any of the aforementioned treatments for breast cancer. I know this because I have done my research. Like some of you, I have thoroughly researched everything to death!

Research can be good. Being an informed patient is tantamount to recovery. Being your best advocate and striving for risk reduction and prevention of further disease and illness is our global goal and responsibility.

Like everyone else, I have a busy life and many goals. One of my goals is to exercise more because we all know that exercise plays a huge part in lowering our risk of recurrence. But does exercise conflict with people who have Lymphedema?  Is it recommended that we not do “too much?”

While it is true that not all individuals who have had lymph node disruption (surgical or radiological) will develop Lymphedema, until physicians can better predict who is at greater risk for Lymphedema, a slow and progressive approach to exercise is advisable. In fact, working up to a level of exercise that promotes fitness while avoiding exacerbating the Lymphedema is a good goal.

Exercise for Lymphedema may be beneficial, however the question is how much is too much? That is very individual. It is important that any exercise program be gradually progressed to avoid sprain/strain. More importantly, a slow progression allows the individual to monitor their affected limb or limb at risk for any sensation of aching or fullness that could indicate an overwhelming of the lymphatic system. I love yoga. That is my favorite exercise. Sometimes, however, I notice my arm swells more or begins to feel heavier than usual. It is at those moments that I reel myself in and weigh the benefits of either changing my pose to accommodate my arm or possibly suffer consequences of too much strain and eventual additional swelling. Over the past years, I have learned my body and specifically the cues it sends me. We all must learn and listen to our own bodies.

One fact is certain…. exercise for Lymphedema is best done with compression on the affected limb. Compression garments actually provide a new “tight” skin for the muscles to contract against, assisting in pumping the lymph out of the extremity into the central circulation. When Lymphedema exists, the remaining lymph vessels that are functioning are working double time to try to carry the load. Wearing compression bandages/garments provides support to the skin and to the lymphatic vessels directly under the skin, called the superficial lymphatic network. It is these vessels that help to carry the load when the larger vessels have been cut away from the lymph nodes or have been damaged.

Cancer gave me a whole “New Me.” I may not be able to play tennis anymore, but I can certainly achieve my exercise goals nevertheless. Become informed about Lymphedema if you are at risk.  Recognize that certain types of exercise are considered higher risk than others for individuals with Lymphedema. For example, high speed activities like tennis, bowling and racquetball, place more stress on our arms. In my case, tennis was “too much” for my affected arm.

Unfortunately, even the guidelines put forth in the “Risk Reduction Guidelines” of most Lymphedema Centers and Research Facilities are “anecdotal” at the present time, because of the lack of controlled double-blind studies to prove their efficacy.  In addition, some medical professionals have taken the position that the individual with a limb at risk (or with Lymphedema) should go ahead and pursue whatever exercise/activity they wish and “see what happens.” What they fail to tell us is that, Lymphedema is a chronic condition, which, presently, has no cure.

So as you strive for a better “you,” strive to be informed about Lymphedema and ways to lower your risk as it pertains to exercise.  Always be aware of your arm and any possible changes after exercising and for goodness sake, wear your compression garment!

Peace and Veggies,

Carolyn I. Newman

(Carolyn is the President of Warrior Wear, Inc. (, and graciously shared this post with us.)*


*Here for the Girls is grateful for our guest bloggers and by sharing their experiences is not promoting or endorsing any particular products or services.

, 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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!

, March 17, 2017 | More Post by

Ola Onawole is our Not-Your-Typical Support Systems Program Manager. She shares why she’s “Here for the Girls”:

I grew up in a house full of girls. My mother, Wanda, was my favorite girl. She was everyone’s favorite. She would smile so widely and brightly. She would dance in a way that welcomed joy into the room. She would cook in a way that pushed both hunger and sadness out the door. She would pick up folks from off of tough city corners and down-on-their luck avenues. The girl was friendly; the girl was kind; the girl was popular for being the fresh comfort our whole community needed.

She taught us about something I like to call exaltation or celebration.It wasn’t something she said out loud. She taught us in the ways that she danced and in the ways that she laughed. She taught us in the ways that she cooked and befriended people.

We learned that this girl made it her daily goal to provide us (insert her children, her friends, her community) with:

    • 1. a feeling or state of extreme happiness.


    • 2. the action of elevating someone in rank, power, or character

Not to mention:

      • the action of praising someone or something highly

So even when she was awaiting breast surgery in the hospital bed, she encouraged her 5 year old daughter to have a balloon party.

She was the ultimate party host in the way she invited guests to live life to their fullest potential and feel elevated every moment they spent in her presence.

So even when we lost her physical life to the cancer, there was this huge party of a funeral. The church was filled and People lined up outside. Everyone whispered about their friend Wanda who lifted them up higher than they could ever imagine. She was the girl of our dreams.

Wanda taught me the art of celebrating people. When I started working for  Here for the Girls, I knew I’d found a new group of party girls. Girls who wanted to dance in the wake of their pain. Girls who needed a band leader. Girls who needed lifting up, encouragement, and downright positive praise.

This is certainly the place for it. In the faces of the staff and volunteers, I see reflections of Wanda. Staff and volunteer girls who are supporting the valuable mission of this organization with power and passion. In the faces of the young women diagnosed with breast cancer, I see reflections of Wanda. The girls who are celebrating life and smiling in the midst of illness.

Wanda is right here when I’m with the girls, and I’m here for her. I’m here for the girls.

, March 09, 2017 | More Post by

Vicki Vawter is our Events and Community Relations Manager. She shares why she’s “Here for the Girls”:

Why am I here? I am here for the girls because I love finding ways for ordinary connections can turn into extraordinary ones.

I love when a business owner says ‘Yes! I want to help your efforts’, I love finding new ways they can help us and also recognize them for their generosity.

I love recruiting volunteers to help us in the office and at various events. It’s awesome to see how much the community wants to join us in our efforts and help us to pull off big events as well as small ones. Whether its handing out water to runners at our annual 5K/10K or addressing thank you notes, our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization.

I love when a single encounter or introduction turns into that person becoming a life-long friend to us. Maybe that friend ends up organizing their own fundraiser one day, or tells their best friend about us when they are diagnosed and don’t know where to turn. Or maybe they become a board member, or decide to sponsor a signature event.

I love coordinating new ways for our women to connect with each other. Perhaps at a fundraiser, wellness expo, speaking engagement, or event they meet someone new who has been down the same road as they have. Often times women find that they meet by ‘accident’ and then become best friends.

I love when a survivor goes to social media and says to her sisters on a private page, “I just can’t post this to everyone, but I knew you all would understand….” She tells of her fears, of her scars, or her loneliness. And within minutes, women she may have never met are offering their encouragement, their virtual hugs, and their cheers of

“You’ve got this!”
“We’re here for you!”
“You’re beautiful.”

I love that because of us, miracles can happen. Smiles can happen. Hope happens.
I am here for the girls.

, February 20, 2017 | More Post by

My name is Robin and I am a Board Member and also a volunteer for Here For the Girls. I am not a Boober!; never had breast cancer; have no immediate or even distant relatives who have had breast cancer. I have, however, watched several co-workers and the wife of a good friend die from this horrific disease. My husband Steve is also a very active volunteer and supporter of Here For the Girls. He sports a pink ribbon tattoo and is thrilled to answer when someone asks why. The assumption is always he has lost a mother/wife/sister/daughter to breast cancer. Nope to all. In addition, we have pulled in our daughter Kari and son-in-law John as volunteers for H4TG!

Our relationship with Beyond Boobs! began five years ago. As the charity of choice for Steve’s motorcycle club, we sometimes spent 12 hours a day on the weekends raising money at every fair and festival during the spring and summer. Nothing better than a bunch of bikers sporting pink tutu’s and boas, asking folks to support an organization called Beyond Boobs! Some of the ensuing conversations were priceless!! The money raised by the motorcycle club funded a Beyond Boobs! Retreat for the Boobers. I was honored to be asked to be a “kitchen fairy” at one of these retreats (and continue to do so) and I can honestly say it changed my life.

During that first retreat, I watched the ladies attend seminars on topics such as healthy eating, painting, aroma therapy, exercise, team building on the beach, etc. Some of these warriors were going through chemo, which had left them bald and ill; some were 2 years out; some 10 years out. They laughed, cried, sang, hugged, yelled, – and jumped in the cold Atlantic Ocean, after dark, holding onto each other – 30 strong! I will never, ever forget the joy and laughter on their faces as they ran back into the house; wet, cold; but fully and totally alive. It was during this retreat that it dawned on me that these were young women in the prime of their lives, hit with devastating news, yet living and loving like all of us should be doing. Feeling sorry for themselves – uh, no way! Too much living left to do to be bogged down in pity!!

The goodness, kindness, and fierce support Here For the Girls has for the Boobers! is unparalleled in any other organization with which I have worked. The Boobers! themselves build each other up by offering love, friendship, unwavering support, laughter and sometime tears. For those of us who are fortunate enough to volunteer for this great organization, we get to meet and get to know the actual ladies – not some line item on a set of financials.  For all of these reasons, and many more, I love this organization and all it does for the ladies.

The assumption for many is that you volunteer or invest in an organization because you have been personally impacted by the “cause.” I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. You invest because of the mission, the impact, the good, the hope, the difference it makes in the lives of those in need. That is why I totally support Here For the Girls… because they truly are “Here For the Girls…”

So remember, every day is a celebration… sometimes you enjoy it by yourself; or enrich your soul when you share it with others.

, 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 ( 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 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 ( 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 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