By Rachel Hoeing and Katie Moosbrugger
As most of you know by now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere you look you will see splashes of pink. To me, the pink not only symbolizes awareness, but I think it shows how far we have come. More and more women are beating this vicious disease each and every day. Although we have many survivors, we will never stop spreading awareness until we have ALL breast cancer battles being won.
Every so often we feature “Main Street Moms on the Move” on TMoM. These are local women who are making a change in their own lives or the lives of others. We enjoy profiling women who are making a difference and living life to the fullest. Today’s Main Street Moms on the Move are all breast cancer survivors. Unless you have fought this battle yourself, the fear, the courage and the strength possessed by someone with cancer can be unimaginable. We are so thankful that they have each shared their story with us today. Meet Beverly, Leigh, Linda and Melissa.
Everyone has dates on the calendar that mean a lot to them: birthdays anniversaries, etc. Beverly King of Randleman has two dates that stand out. Both of which were dates when she was told she had breast cancer. These dates were 17 years apart.
The first date was August 28, 1991. Beverly was only 41 and there was no history of breast cancer in her family. She felt way too young to have been diagnosed with this disease and thought it was “an old lady disease!” Within a week, she was in surgery for a lumpectomy and axillary dissection. A week later, she was in her oncologist’s office discussing 38 radiation treatments and more scans. The year of 1992 dawned with all radiation treatments over, and a clean bill of health. Beverly was able to go on with her life, but faithfully kept her doctor’s appointments and yearly exams.
Then on October 28, 2008 at the age of 59, Beverly was diagnosed once again. The diagnosis was on the same breast, but this time she was facing a mastectomy. Beverly was needless to say, devastated. She took a long walk with her husband and then decided to have both breasts removed. Never again did she want to take the risk of facing this “enemy.” This time, after her surgery, she did not need radiation.
Beverly is nearing the three year mark of being cancer free. She is moving along with her family and her life. She claims that they are with her every step of the way. As Beverly states, “I am strong! I am a survivor! 20 years out, three years out of the last diagnosis, and going strong!”
Greensboro native Leigh Satalino was just 48 years young when she was diagnosed with estrogen-receptive, stage II, invasive and non-invasive breast cancer. The average age for breast cancer is 62, but as Leigh says, “There is no convenient time for breast cancer when you are a mother…or for any woman for that matter!” At the time of her diagnosis, Leigh’s son, Christopher, was just 15, and Leigh was also busy caring for her 88-year-old mother. “My first thoughts when I heard the diagnosis were about my son and my mom….how could I keep life ‘normal’ for them?
Prior to her diagnosis, Leigh had a few scares that turned out to be cysts. Beginning at age 40, she kept to an annual mammogram routine, and initially brushed off the severity of the cancerous lump she found because of a clear mammogram reading she received two months earlier. But thanks to the persistence of a nurse, Leigh wasted no time in making an appointment– which turned into an ultrasound – and then a biopsy – and ultimately her cancer diagnosis.
Leigh bravely battled 16 chemotherapy treatments for five months, two rounds of surgery, and then 35 radiation treatments. She calls it the “full spa treatment” but since July 2007, Leigh has been cancer free. Her “end of cancer” celebration was cut short, however, after learning three loved ones were subsequently diagnosed with cancer as well. While only two survived, Leigh honors their memories every day where she works as Director of Mission Outreach for the NC Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
“My doctor told me that cancer would change my life forever. He was right. It did…and I am a better person for it. I am thrilled to be a five-year survivor, and I cherish every day of good health, time with family and friends and the ability to help others.”
Linda, an event scheduler for Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the ripe age of 38. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, and Linda, who had a history of fibrous, lumpy breasts, was diligent about her yearly mammograms. But when a pain her left armpit continued to get worse she immediately called The Breast Center. She learned she had cancer three days later. On her first appointment with oncology, she was ordered to have CT/PET/Bone scans and her liver lit up. A 1.5 cm tumor was found. A biopsy of Stage IV cancer was diagnosed.
Linda said the hardest person to break the news to was her then six-year-old daughter, Libby. “I didn’t want her to think that someday her breasts would get ‘sick’ and have to be removed. I think for her, the hardest thing was losing my hair. She said I looked like a daddy. After my mastectomies, when I first showed her the scars on my chest, she kissed her hand, touched my left breast, then kissed her hand again and touched my right breast.”
Linda endured five months of chemotherapy (without missing a day of work), six ½ weeks of radiation, surgery and is currently undergoing maintenance therapy and reconstruction.
“I have never asked, “Why me? I believe I got cancer for a reason. If it’s to help one person, then so be it. My relationship with my husband is stronger than ever and …my relationship with God is stronger. I could not have done this journey without my mom. She has been my rock, and took great care of me. She fed me, took care of my daughter, bathed me, and hugged me when I cried. She knows where I’ve been. I am so blessed on so many fronts.”
Melissa Clark of Advance was diagnosed with Costochondritis in February. She was asked to return in two weeks for a follow up. During those two weeks she had done a self-exam and felt a lump that she had actually felt last Fall. She was encouraged by her Aunt to get it looked at. That was when everything changed. Melissa was diagnosed with estrogen-receptive ductal carcinoma that metastasized to her bones.
Melissa says it was very overwhelming in the beginning. She is married with two young children, Austin (8) and Logan (3). It was very surprising to her as she had no family history & believed that she had done everything right to be proactive in preventing cancer.
“We all have a story and when I thought we were already at a low as my husband has been unemployed for 3 years, I realized that there was a reason why I was chosen to go through this. I saw this as my wakeup call and began re-evaluating every aspect of my life. I tend to be competitive by nature, having been an athlete from a very young age and I was determined and knew that along with my foundation in faith, having a positive attitude was going to be important. Several things I have learned and remind myself and others….. If He brought me to this, He will see me through it. I may have cancer but cancer does not have me. This was not going to define who I was but this was going to be something I go through.”
Melissa began her treatment plan with four chemo treatments in addition to agreeing to be a part of an 18 month research study for her bones. She had a lumpectomy in July and is in the process of going through 35 radiation treatments. Her next step will be to start on Tamoxifen.
Melissa is grateful to her amazing family and friends who make up an incredible support system. She has made many changes to her life, but focuses on what is most important – spending time with family and friends and relying on her faith in God.
Thanks to each of you for sharing your story with us today. We hope your journey continues to be a positive one! If you know someone who you think we should feature as a Main Street Mom on the Move, email Rachel at Rachel@triadmomsonmain.com!
*Photo credit for last image – Melinda Jean Photography