Cancer changes your life forever and in ways you would never imagine, but you try to move forward with life, thankful you are still here. I, like many other survivors, live each day with fear that it can come back, and that worry is always in the back of my mind. I am a two time breast cancer survivor and was first diagnosed in December 2000, with triple negative, invasive ductal carcinoma, stage IA. Following my diagnosis, I underwent a lumpectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy and then six weeks of radiation.
Once I finished treatment and was declared cancer “free”, I continued with yearly mammograms and personal breast checks. Unfortunately, in April 2005, I found another lump in the same breast where I had had the lumpectomy just four years prior. I stood in the shower frozen in one spot; hand over my breast for what seemed like an eternity. I immediately went for a mammogram, which lead to an ultrasound and a biopsy. Again, the result was cancer. This time around, I underwent a mastectomy and had my lymph nodes removed as well. The diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma, stage IIA, clean nodes but vascular invasion. However, this time my cancer was hormone positive. I underwent six months of chemotherapy, which was followed by five years on Tamoxifen/Aromasin.
Going through cancer the first time is sort of like wearing a blindfold; you really don’t know what to expect, you take a deep breath as you go through each phase. I made a negative into a positive, and was grateful to be alive to see my daughters grow up. Having been healthy all my life, I continued to exercise and take care of myself. When the cancer returned it was like being hit with a ton of bricks. But through strength, determination and the support of my husband, who was there for me always, I made it through. After some changes were noted in my left breast two years ago, I elected to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. It was for my piece of mind to sleep better at night. I knew fully well that this procedure could not guarantee that cancer would never return in my life, but it was a decision that was right for me. After many reconstructive surgeries, I am here stronger than ever.
This year, I was honored to be chosen as one of eleven survivors nationwide to represent Ford Warriors in Pink as a Model of Courage. It is important to me, as a two time survivor, to let others know they are not alone, and to give hope—hope that you can get through this. I also believe it is very important to emphasize that until we know the causes and ways to prevent breast cancer, early detection is all that we really have on our side, so more preventative and cause-focused research is needed. This year, Ford has opened up the Warriors in Pink family to include four different breast cancer organizations—giving you the opportunity to choose where you want your donation to go. When selecting an item, you actually see the amount that is donated with your purchase. I am so thrilled that the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is one of this year’s choices.
It was Dr. Love’s breast book that got me through my first experience with breast cancer. Her honesty and frankness about this disease and all its unknowns was what I needed to hear. I didn’t want information just covered in “pink”. I needed to know what I was facing at diagnosis. When the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Love/Avon Army of Women was formed in 2008, I instantly became a member.
There are so many charities out there helping in the fight against breast cancer that at times it can be overwhelming. The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and its Love/Avon Army of Women program is what I believe in and am proud to be a part of. What sets the Foundation apart from all other breast cancer organizations is its mission to move breast cancer beyond a cure by understanding the causes and ways to prevent it. As a survivor, I want to be able to help any way I can in putting an end to this disease. The Foundation’s Love/Avon Army of Women is looking for the help of survivors and those who have not been diagnosed with the disease, and is encouraging all women to take the next step in breast cancer advocacy and participate in research studies. It’s a good feeling to know that I, just an everyday person, can help bring an end to breast cancer. There are numerous studies you can participate in through the Army of Women. They have a number of online questionnaire studies that are easy to understand, and take very little time to complete. When you hit the send button, you feel really good!!!!
Along with questionnaires, I have also participated in the “Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors” study with the Army of Women. This study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was interested in measuring factors that affect quality of life in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I answered a few questions online about my health history, physical activity history, and quality of life. Then, I was sent a small meter (similar to a pedometer) to wear for a period of seven days to measure my activity. Following the seven days, it was returned and I finished with a final questionnaire…Painless!
Every time there is a call for a new Army of Women study, I am so happy to participate if I meet the requirements. Breast cancer is such a complicated disease. You can have two women with the same identical diagnosis, yet one responds poorly and one will have total remission. Why is that? Why did I have cancer twice in the same breast, yet I first had triple negative and the second time I was hormone positive? So many questions…
There is still so much to do in mapping the breast and finding the reason behind breast cancer. That is the type of research the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is doing, and that is why WE, the Army of Women, are so important. I urge everyone to join this program at www.armyofwomen.org/getinvolved and help all of us finally put an end to this disease. I know I am ready! And I know Dr. Love can count on all of us to help her in her mission to eradicate breast cancer once and for all.
Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor
Army of Women Member