By Guest Blogger Suzy Fielders
October is breast cancer awareness month. While most of us are aware of that, the sad fact is most still aren’t fully aware of all that breast cancer entails. I interviewed four local women for this blog. All are amazing moms and women of strength. All have been diagnosed with breast cancer. They shared their stories with me, and now you, to help raise awareness on this horrible disease and provide inspiration to those fighting this battle.
I first felt the lump when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Edyn. The doctor thought it was a clogged milk duct, so I didn’t have any testing or scans until five months later. I was officially diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on December 22, 2015 at the age of 31. I endured a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, hysterectomy (because the cancer was hormone positive), and hormone therapy. I was told I was in remission in August 2016. With the fear of a re-occurrence always in the back of my mind, I tried to put “cancer” behind me and move on. After all, I had 3 girls to raise, so the cancer was history.
On September 20, 2018, I had a yearly PET scan which revealed that the cancer had returned. My nightmare was back, but this time I’m fighting for my life. At 33 years old, I was told I had terminal stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer has spread to my bones and possibly my stomach. At first I cried. The fear of my three girls not having me was very real. My baby is 3 years old, and my oldest is only 9. They still need me for many, many years. After about 20 minutes of tears and falling to my knees praying, I felt a great sense of peace. In the back of my mind I heard something a friend once told me, “Fear not.” Brad Jones, a dear friend, told me that God commands us one thing more than anything else and that is to “fear not,” as God has got this. Now I am still human and sometimes the fear comes creeping up and I pray. It’s not a fear of cancer or dying, but a fear of my babies not having me. God alone is my refuge and God is what’s allows me to have this inner peace I can’t explain. I don’t cry! I worry, but not enough to cry. I surround myself with friends and family. My three daughters, ages 3, 8, and 9 help by keeping me very busy. I also have learned to not sweat the small stuff. Being diagnosed with a terminal illness really puts things into perspective. I rarely stress. God has provided every step of the way. Treatments are very expensive. I’m doing holistic as well as conventional medicine and it’s extremely expensive, but God has always provided. It’s amazing to sit back and let HIM handle it all. Who am I to doubt the almighty physician? So God uses my friends, family, and complete strangers to help me and provide for me.
My advice I have for others is that you’re never too young for breast cancer. There’s a young lady I know who is only 18 with breast cancer. Please ladies, check yourselves AND get scans. Don’t wait until your 50, or even 40. It’s not rare for young women anymore.
Writer’s note: For those who would like to learn more about Bethany’s story or contribute any funds at all to help this family with their many medical expenses please click here.
I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer on January 4, 2018 at 41 years old. I felt shocked when I learned I had breast cancer. It was found during my first mammogram. No one in my family had cancer. I had no symptoms at all.
There were many obstacles throughout this ordeal. I found the hardest things to cope with were all of the surgeries, finance, and both the physical and mental stress. Therapy and support groups were my best coping methods. I found inspiration from God and other women who have battled breast cancer.
My advice to those with breast cancer… Take it one day at a time, and even one hour or one minute at a time. Be sure to get as much rest as possible. Enjoy the small things in life. And, take as much help as offered to you.
Writer’s note: Jayme is a fellow single mom. I watched her fight this battle with strength, courage, and grace. She truly is a true inspiration to not just breast cancer patients, but single moms as well.
On September 30, 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had just turned 30 years old. There really aren’t words to describe how I felt when I received my diagnosis. But, the first moments were scared, sadness, and saw my life flash before my eyes.
The fear of it returning has truly been the hardest part to cope with for me. Some coping methods I’ve found that help and I recommend are prayer, always saying how you feel, and getting constant checkups. Most of inspiration to overcome my battle against cancer came from my husband, daughter and mom.
My advice to those with breast cancer is fight, don’t give up, and always do what is best for you, not what people you know may have done.
Writer’s note: If any of you have heard of Organix Juice Bar, Jen runs that with her husband George Memory. He originally opened the store when they found they needed organic and healthier alternatives during and after Jen’s breast cancer treatment.
I reside in King with my spouse, Darrell Goins, and children, Carson (18), Morgan (15), and Jackson (10). During treatment I was a self-employed writer. Now, I’m a senior writer in the marketing and communications department of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
A little over a year ago, I went to my primary-care physician for a routine flu shot, and my doctor noticed I had not had a mammogram in two years. She asked if she could do a breast exam, and surprisingly, she found a lump. She sent me for a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. She called me a week later and said, “It’s not good, Myra. You have cancer.”
I was diagnosed 9/29/2017 with triple negative breast cancer. I was 45 at the time. Triple negative is a fast-growing, aggressive cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-) and HER2 (HER2-). Triple negative means there are no targeted therapies such as Tamoxifen or Herceptin. There aren’t as many tools to fight the disease, so chemotherapy was recommended. Staging of my diagnosis was Stage IA. My primary tumor was 2 cm or less and had not spread to my lymph nodes, but I was multifocal, which means there was more than one tumor.
It’s very difficult to articulate how terrified I was initially upon receiving my diagnosis. When you Google triple negative breast cancer, you read words such as “worse prognosis,” “spreads quickly,” and “recurs more frequently.” Yet, despite those grim reminders, I was comforted by the fact that the majority of patients do well. The five-year survival for my type of cancer is 77 percent compared to 93 percent of other breast cancer types. One thing I learned is that triple negative isn’t one type of cancer. There are subtypes. Some of these subtypes respond to chemo. Some don’t.
When I started treatment, I had no idea whether my type would respond or grow. My oncologist didn’t know either. This was a surprise to me… the science is lacking. But I’m one of the lucky ones, and I achieved a complete response to the chemo. My treatment included 5 months of chemotherapy followed by a bilateral mastectomy then reconstruction in August 2018. I had chemo before surgery, so I knew it was shrinking my tumors. I could feel them melting away. In fact, I had a complete response. There were no residual cancer cells at the time of surgery. My tumors disappeared.
There have been a lot of difficulties throughout this entire process from diagnosis through treatment. Without question, it was the hardest year of my life. Telling my kids that I had cancer was the lowest point. Treatment was physically transforming and far more difficult than I thought it would be. I joked that chemotherapy was turning me into Gollum. It was difficult to look in the mirror and not recognize myself. I looked old, weak and tired. Chemo aged me about 20 years. I looked 65 instead of 45.
Other difficulties … There was being bald, the drainage tubes after surgery, not having eyelashes or eyebrows, tissue expansions to stretch my skin for implants, 19-inch surgical scars where my breasts used to be, daily pain and brain fog. Coping with the fear of recurrence is a continued struggle. I believe current stats show that 30 percent of all breast cancers, including early stage, will metastasize. Once you have cancer, a headache is never just a headache. A cough is never just a cough. The fear that the cancer will return is always there, but you learn to cope. I’m sure it will get easier as time passes. My odds of recurrence will drop significantly once I hit the three-year mark.
My biggest coping method during all of this was leaning heavily on family and friends, especially my husband, who was amazing throughout treatment. I was overwhelmed by an outpouring of support. People cooked meals, helped transport my kids, cleaned my house, etc. It was a very humbling experience to rely on the kindness of others. I am forever in their debt.
I walked. I prayed. I listened to music and practiced meditation. I kept a gratitude journal and tried Reiki. I drastically changed my diet—cut out diet sodas, and I reduced the amount of sugar I consumed. I’m 20 pounds lighter now, and I take a lot of vitamins and supplements now that I’m done with treatment. I control what I can. That means drinking green tea instead of sweet tea. It’s not always easy, but I feel better knowing that I’m doing everything I can to prevent recurrence.
My kids are my motivation, both now and then. They still need me.
Some advice I want to pass along to those newly diagnosed with breast cancer…
- Find a doctor you trust.
- Avoid Google and online breast cancer forums. They can be frightening.
- Don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends for support.
- Talk to other women who have walked the road, too.
- It’s OK to cry.
- Know that it will get easier, especially once treatment begins.
- Talk to a nutritionist on what foods you should eat and avoid during and after treatment.
Writer’s note: Myra is a local writer who I not only look up to, but has been so incredibly supportive of my own writing career. I admire her so much for not only the fought she put up against breast cancer, but her willingness to share her story the entire time.
Thank you so much to each of these ladies for sharing your breast cancer stories with us. Sharing personal stories is always so hard, but each of these amazing women did so in the hopes of helping others! If you are battling breast cancer, then please share your stories with us in the comments below.
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