Tag Archives: breast cancer

Kimberly’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

One of the most feared things a woman can hear is “You have breast cancer.”

My journey began like many others.  I was going about my life, paving my way in the world, and never for a moment, thinking about breast cancer.

The summer of 2003 was like any other, and it came.  I felt a small something on the outer part of my left breast.  I had an old mammogram order that had expired and thought to use it anyhow.  I called for a mammogram appointment and they scheduled me for a month away.  My husband thought that was a bit far out so I called back the next day and it just so happened they had a cancellation that day. I went in with my expired mammogram order and they did not realize it was expired until after my mammogram.  The Radiologist came in with the first of my bad news.  “You have many suspicious micro calcification’s,” and wanted me to get an ultrasound right away.  The next day I got my ultrasound… Same results… not good… I need a biopsy.

After a recommendation from Margaret McCoy I went to Dr. West at the Breast Care Center in Orange.  His opinion was the same… I need a biopsy and if it is cancer, a mastectomy was my only option.  June 9, 2003 was my biopsy.  The surgery went fine and I was on my way back home.

A couple days later as I sat in my living room by myself Dr. West called with the news no one ever wants to hear… you have cancer.  This is where my journey began…I spent sleepless nights searching the web for information about breast cancer.

I’m not really sure when that moment passed.  After the initial shock and hysteria wore off, I created a believable illusion that I was okay.  That I could handle whatever cancer handed me because I was a fighter, and I was tough.  I let autopilot take over as I phoned friends to break the news.  I hate those words. YOU. HAVE. CANCER.

I met with Dr. West to learn my options.   It was all too much to take.  Without a second thought I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy.   I needed to do everything I could do reduce my risk of developing a new breast cancer in the future. I just wanted to get rid of this “cancer” thing in my body.

I found a web site called Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.  The moment I logged on to the site, I felt like I had arrived.  I was surrounded by a cyber sorority.  Women from all walks of life with one common bond.  They were all mad as hell, and not taking cancer lightly.  After a few days on the discussion boards I had a core circle of friends.  These girls were my salvation.  I learned more from them then I did from any of my doctors.

After meeting with Dr. West, I met my oncologist, Dr. Margileth.  As the doctor looked over my chart the next agenda was to talk about additional treatments… Chemo. I told him I would decide if I liked him if he let me keep my hair.  He then gave me a couple of options.  Given my stage one option was to take a lighter dose of chemo over a longer period of time and I could keep my hair.  That was it… I wanted it.

I left the office with a plan. Cancer thought it had one up on me, but with my plan set in motion, I leveled the playing field.  Cancer was missing one important piece of information–  that I only play to win.

First on the agenda… a bi-lateral mastectomy from Dr. West and Dr. Hagstrom, my plastic surgeon, would come right behind him and recreate the breast Dr. West removed.  Using my tummy fat and 12 hours of surgery I had my new mounds.

It was not an easy recovery but it was very doable.

Next on the agenda was Chemo…

I went into chemo like it was my first day at school; determined to divide and conquer.  My wrists were piled high with pink bracelets.  I wore pink from head to toe, I was ready for war.  My best friend Jeanne Shroyer sat by my side at every chemo party we went to, that’s what I called it… “My Chemo Party”.

On weeks to come, life was anything but normal.  I went to a class called, “Look Good, Feel Good.”  I remember sitting in this class and they offered me a wig and I said “no thank you I’m not going to lose my hair”.  At that moment a women across the table lifted her wig off and said “that’s what they told me”.  I know the look on my face told it all but I kindly said “I’ll wait”.

I quickly learned how to be my own best advocate.  I researched, and read books.  I joined every online cancer community that was available.  Within these cyber walls, I found a sisterhood that welcomed me with open arms.  If I had a question, my sisters had the answer.  When I experienced side effects from treatment, my sisters knew how to ease my pain.  Although I had a huge support team of family and friends in my corner,  I knew they could never fully understand.  I knew that they wanted me to be okay, so I swallowed my hurt and put on a brave front.  With my cyber sisters, there was no need to hide.  When someone was sick, we prayed.  When someone was sad, we listened.  When someone had surgery we sent gentle hugs.  When someone was dying, we put our own fears of death aside, and mourned a life that was not done living.

It was the beginning of the next chapter of reclaiming my life.

I had a lot of good days, and I felt like the worst was behind me.  But, the downside of having so many friends in the cancer community is the reality that some of them will have a recurrence, and some of them will die.  I realized early on, that just because I got better, the fight against cancer wasn’t over.  I felt this rite of passage from the sisterhood, this sense of duty to help women through the emotional roller coaster of cancer.  I began to mentor women going through breast cancer on my own.  In 2008 Janelle Basham and myself were asked to take over the Bosom Buddies, a breast cancer support organization founded in the early 90’s by Carolyn Knight, Margaret McCoy, Linda Johnson and Cathy Zaitz  all of Canyon Lake, CA.  It was a club dedicated to support woman in their struggle with breast Cancer.  Our mission as a Bosom Buddy is to Educate, Inspire and Support newly diagnosed Breast Cancer Survivors during their Breast Cancer Journey.

This experience is more than I ever could have imagined.  I am a part of something that is so much bigger than me, and for that I am so grateful.  I have the chance to give back what I’ve received.
It brings me great joy to celebrate being a survivor, although it has come at a price.  I have lived through triumph and hope, just as I have lived through sadness and loss.  I celebrate to honor the lives that cancer has cut short.  I celebrate for my sisters who are sick, with hopes for brighter days ahead.  I celebrate those that came before me, and those that undoubtedly will come after me.  And when the day arrives, when we finally have a cure for this life changing illness, that will be the greatest celebration of them all.

 

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Kathy’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

As my family planned a huge party to celebrate my 50th birthday, we also were preparing for my bilateral mastectomy just three days later. A mammogram earlier that summer had given me a clean bill of health, but an MRI weeks later led to the diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in October of 2013.  I had faithfully visited Temecula Valley Imaging every few years, as I watched my mother and my aunt (her sister) deal with pre-menopausal breast cancer in their forties, and I was well aware that “early detection saves lives”.  I had confided in my younger sister, Meri, that I expected to get breast cancer someday, but nothing truly prepared me for the news I had been dreading my whole life.

I was aware that I had dense breast tissue, like many other women, but I didn’t realize this increased my chances of developing cancer, or that it made it more difficult for mammograms to detect cancer tumors.   Thankfully, Dr. Amy Bremner of Breastlink in Murrieta recommended I have the MRI due to my family history, and the fact that I had dense breasts. My cancer diagnosis came after a biopsy of the suspicious area, which turned out to be the exact location of my mother’s tumor.  Subsequent genetic testing came back negative for both of the breast cancer genes, but I feel strongly that there is a yet undiscovered gene lurking in my DNA that scientists have yet to identify.

Make sure every woman you love knows about self-breast exams, and gets their mammogram annually once they reach the age of 40.  If you have a family history of breast cancer, these screenings may need to be sooner. Additionally, in September of 2012 a Breast Density Notification Law (SB 1538) was enacted which requires physicians to inform women who have dense breast tissue of possible additional screening options.  This new legislation saved my life!

I cannot tell you how many women I have met who shared that they have not yet had a mammogram because they were afraid of what they might discover. Early detection IS the key, and gives you the best chance to become a survivor if cancer is detected.  You owe it to your family who loves you; please schedule your baseline mammogram today!

I am so very thankful to my amazing family who supported me throughout all of my surgeries. I’m also thankful to Janelle and Kimbo of the Bosom Buddies support group who were available to answer my questions, and continue to support me and other women fighting cancer.  And last, but not least, I’m thankful for the many women who have paved the road before me so that my own journey was not so bumpy.  I will continue to fight like a girl, be brave through whatever challenges lie ahead, and share my story with anyone who will listen!

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Debbie’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

October 22nd, 2009 was the day that changed my life. I had done a biopsy on the 20th and the doctor had just called to tell me the results.  “You have breast cancer. Not sure what type but you are a stage 2 or 3 and it’s aggressive.” “How can this be? I go to all my annual appointments?” I had just been in for my annual pap and breast exam in August and there was nothing.

In September I noticed a big lump on my right breast. I really didn’t think much of it.  My PA was on vacation so I scheduled my appointment for when she came back. No rush, it’s nothing.  When I finally got in, she checked me and said, “It’s probably not cancer but I want to make sure.”  I even joked with her how I wanted one on the other side because it made my boob look bigger.  She called Breastlink and from there it all began.  The mammogram hurt like hell. How can you squeeze any harder than what’s already been done to it? Then the ultra sound. They told me to wait for the doctors to go over my results.  Finally, I got called back to the room.  Dr. West’s PA came in and said they needed to do a biopsy and if I could do it that day.  I actually paused and considered how bad traffic would be for the ride home.  I live in Lake Elsinore and was in Orange.  But I didn’t want to drive all the way back so I decided to go ahead and have it done that day.  I got to watch the procedure on the computer.  It was really cool.  He told me he would call me in the next couple of days.  I wasn’t worried.  “Cancer doesn’t happen to me.”

Now here we are.  I called my husband and told him.  He told me it would all be ok.  Next I called my dad.  We prayed together and he said that I will get through this alright.  Next, I told my friend, who drove over right away.  I think she cried more than me.  She kept saying how it wasn’t fair.  I told her it would be ok.  I joked that maybe I would get my new boobs now.  She asked if I was going to work and I said, “why wouldn’t I?  I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself.”  That night, we also had to sit down with our 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter and tell them I had cancer.  My daughter took it really hard.  But I assured them that I would be ok.  I also told them that I would always be upfront with them and tell them the truth of what was going to happen.

Not one time did I get mad or asked God, “why me?”  There was a reason why I got it.  That was my thinking.  My husband was pissed.  He didn’t understand why I got it when I go to all my regular doctor’s appointment, had all my check ups and did my mammograms.  I told him, “why not me?”  One in eight women get breast cancer.  I went through my family.  I have 4 sisters, my mom, aunt and cousin.  I went through every one and explained why they couldn’t go through it.  “I am the logical one.  I have a great support system, I don’t have to work, I have great insurance and I can handle it.”  When I explained it that way he saw where I was coming from but was still mad.  I told him things happen for a reason.

One of my friends, who had just finished the process of reconstruction, had invited me to her house to meet other women who had gone through it.  It was supposed to be just Kimbo and Janelle but more people were invited.  They explained what I would be going through and what to expect.  Then they all started talking about their procedures and the boobs all came out.  I don’t think I had ever seen so many boobs out in one place.  It was a little overwhelming but so helpful.  Women supporting each other.  It was so empowering.  And they kept saying “be positive and laugh a lot.”  Something I tell all the women I meet.

November 19 2009, was my first chemo.  I had 16 treatments every 3 weeks.  I was also able to participate in a research program with another chemo medicine.  I was pretty excited on being a part of this research and hopefully helping someone in the future.  Chemo was hard.  I got tired just taking a shower.  But I went to work every day.  I also made sure that the kids got to all their activities.  I didn’t want my kid’s lives to change because of what I was going through.  I made sure my son got to all of his football practices and games and that my daughter got to all her social events.  And that our day-to-day living didn’t really change.  Although looking back, I should have milked it more with my kids.

Exactly 14 days after my first chemo my hair started falling out.  I had promised my daughter that I would let her shave my head.  I was so grossed out in the shower when my hair came out in clumps.  I guess I was expecting it to just all fall out at once.  So that morning I went to work with a hat on.  When my kids came home from school, my friend came over and we had a great time shaving my head.  I let my kids draw on my head and we took pictures.  It was a nice time with my kids.  Being a part of what I was going through was important to the kids. I also wanted them to see that in a bad situation you can still be positive.

I finished chemo in April and had my double mastectomy on May 19, 2010, my son’s 12th birthday.  Poor guy got to spend it in the hospital.  I was ok with getting rid of both of them.  We had done our research and talked to all the doctors.  My plastic surgeon is the one who really convinced me to have them both taken out.  And watching my boobs grow every 4 to 6 weeks was cool.  Finally, in November 2010, I got my implants.  I was finally done!  A year of ups and down and I was finished.  No more cancer!

What an adventure this has been.  Everything I went through, I either learned something new or made a new friend.  All the procedures that I had to have done, I got to watch.  Which I thought was really interesting and cool.  How encouraging and kind all the technicians were.  I had so many amazing friends that helped, my family who were with me, and my husband and kids.  I also got to make new friends who were going through the same thing and I was able to help them.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m glad God gave me this journey to go through.

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Janelle’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

When I think back to 2004 when I got those piercing words,”you have breast cancer,” it seems almost like that was another person.  She was a younger woman that seriously thought she was superwoman and could do just about anything.  Now I know I need God to carry me through each day.  I know with all my heart, everything I have gone through is for a “bigger reason” a “bigger lesson”.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I had a GREAT OB GYN that had given me a base line Mammogram when I was only 38 because of a small non-suspicious lump I had found when I was in college.

When I think back on how God guided my steps to being cancer free I still get very teary and know his hand was in it all. I had begun running into one of my neighbors often!  I didn’t see her very much because she home schooled her kids but suddenly I ran into her everywhere.  I remember the day she invited me to her sister Dayna’s fundraiser.  She had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the young age of 38.  Dayna was to become my Guardian Angel here on earth.  My appointment had come up for my yearly Mammogram. Soon I got a bright pink slip in the mail that said ”RE-Check” in six months.  I know myself very well.  I go 150 miles per hour and I know that I would have gladly tucked that slip into my day planner six months out had Dayna’s face not come into my mind and remind me that breast cancer does not discriminate. Anyone can get breast cancer, even a young woman of 41.

I asked my doctor for a biopsy and then after I convinced a Specialist it is what I needed to have, I got my biopsy. I was standing in my kitchen the day I got the call that would forever have me wearing pink ribbons and fighting for other women’s lives…  I had breast cancer. This is where one of the gifts of breast cancer began.  All my friends and family rallied around me.  I had one dear friend set up all my doctor appointments at the Joyce Kiefer Breast Cancer Center in Santa Monica. She too was a Survivor and another Angel that would help me through my journey . I had prayed for years that John, my husband, would get another pilot job but with his excellent insurance I was able to go to this very amazing hospital. My prayers were not answered for a reason.  I met with my female surgeon and was told that my breast cancer had been caught so early, just calcification, stage zero. I received a simple lumpectomy and I was already to go back home and get on that fast track of life that exhilarated me daily.  I remember spending the night with John, my sweet husband, at a near by hospital and being more sure than anything that the next day I would cross the street , go into that hospital and my surgeon would give me a clean bill of health and send me home.

What I got was my Doctor drawing on a paper of other areas of cancer they had discovered and the bomb of all bombs that I would need chemo and lose my hair.  I was also told I would need more surgery, either another lumpectomy or a mastectomy.  I remember the picture that immediately came to my mind of the mastectomy I had seen in a medical book.  As I looked into my husbands eyes I knew he was thinking the same thing. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had always been so healthy. I had always had a nice body and nice breasts. I felt the hope being sucked out of me.

The next thing that happened was the most wonderful thing. It was my miracle.  What happened next made every difference in my attitude and thought process.  I was told to meet with a plastic surgeon that would explain all my options.  I barely remember the drive to his office or what we talked about.  The amazing office was on the penthouse floor of a very nice office building in the 90210 zip code.  I remember the beautiful fresh flowers in the office, but what I remember most of all was the look in my plastic surgeon’s eyes.  There was empathy and warmth.  We went over my options and then he opened this book of patients he had done reconstruction on. I felt my heart rejoice and I felt like I exhaled and breathed for the first time since I had been given my new diagnosis.  At that moment I became a breast cancer SURVIVOR! I knew I could once again look like a woman, look like me.  Beautiful reconstructed breasts all shapes and sizes filled the pages.  The pages were a very bright light in a very dark place. The book was hope. The breasts were hope.

One day at home my doorbell rang and in walked Kimbo Slingerland.  She would become the most important part of my journey, “my soul-mate”.  She was determined, full of life and very matter of fact.  She told me she had done a bi-lateral mastectomy.  She showed me her breasts and I felt like I had an answer.  Another Angel came to my door and she too showed me her reconstruction and I called my Surgeon that day and asked her what she thought about me taking both breasts.  “I think it is a wise decision” I knew with all my might and faith I would fight this once! I knew I wanted both breast off!  Being alive meant more to me than keeping my natural breasts.  I had three beautiful children that I wanted to see grow up. I had a wonderful husband I wanted to grow old with.  I have never once regretted my decision.  They did find cancer in the other breast I removed voluntarily.  I had taken my health into my own hands and made an aggressive decision that was right for me. God has carried me through my breast cancer journey.

I feel blessed that I was given the choice to have the reconstruction surgery at the same time as my mastectomy. I received my double mastectomy with reconstruction on my 42nd birthday.  I had everyone in the operating room sing to me.  My birthday present to me was my life. I also had melanoma cancer removed from my left arm that was much more deadly than my breast cancer if I had not found it while looking at pictures in a books at the hospital library waiting for my pre-operation consultation. God was guiding my steps.  I remember waking up from surgery with my little nipple less mounds, but as little as they were, they were there. I remember my husband peering into my eyes and another lesson of my journey became apparent.  Nobody that really loves me cares what I look like they just love me for being Janelle.  Sometimes when I look at old pictures with my old body I do get tears in my eyes.  But… I am alive and one of the lucky Survivors.  I feel blessed by God to be able to help other Breast Cancer sisters with their journey.  My song is sweeter and my future’s so bright!

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Maja’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

A client of mine who became a good friend had been waging a long fight with cancer.  She insisted that I promise to never skip a mammogram, something I had not considered important in the past.  Sadly, after 18 years she lost the battle.

Not long after, I received a reminder from Kaiser to schedule a mammogram.  I remembered my promise and followed through.  A couple of days after my screening, my husband and I went to  Catalina to do some scuba diving and hiking.  I remember how strong and healthy I felt that day.  Afterward, upon arrival at home, I listened to a message advising a second appointment and ultrasound.  Chills ran through me and I recalled a dream I had on Christmas Day the year before.  I dreamt I was  a cancer survivor and a spokesperson for some organization.  I could not believe this was happening!

Within a couple of days I had a series of mammograms and knew I was in big trouble.  The physician suggested an immediate biopsy.  After the biopsy, surgery was scheduled. In absolute shock and shaking, I put an ice pack on my chest and went straight to work.  After work, I told my husband I had cancer.  This was the hardest time of the whole ordeal, afraid of the unknown and upset that my body had let me down after years of taking good care of myself.  My doctor convinced me that being in good condition would hasten recovery.  He was right.

My friends and coworkers helped me maintain a positive attitude and I focused on the needs of my clients.  But, after work I would go to my car and emotionally collapse for a few minutes.  Then I employed the same techniques I used to get through bad situations under water:  “Maja, stay calm.  Think straight.  You can do it!”  Then I would crank up the radio volume and scream my lungs out singing along with rock and roll singers.

It was less than a month from my first mammogram to surgery.  My doctor was very good and I trusted his experience.  On the day of surgery, my husband was stressed out so I drove myself.  It actually worked out well because I was concentrating on driving instead of worrying.  The surgery went well.  It was on a Monday and by Wednesday I was walking.  By Sunday I was walking my regular five miles, and by Tuesday I was back at work.  Every day for five weeks I went for radiation then to work.  After work, I went for walks with my husband and made dinner.  I was not going to let cancer take over my life.

I was not yet done with radiation when friends encouraged me to join the Race for the Cure.  It was such an amazing and emotional experience full of love and support.  We ran 5K and I dropped cancer right there in front of Nordstrom!

For about six months, I felt like a road bump detector, feeling every movement, every imperfection in the road.  What really helped me was returning to normalcy as soon as I was able to– working, exercising, having a monthly massage, and being surrounded by healthy supportive people.  Life is beautiful if you open yourself up to it.

Writing this story brought back some uncomfortable memories and feelings and I almost gave up, but as usual I invoked my self-pep talk:  “ You can do it Maja!”

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Crystal’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

One day when I was getting out of the shower, my husband pointed out a lump in my breast. I assumed it was a clogged milk duct, because I had just stopped breast feeding, but promised him I would ask my doctor about it at my upcoming appointment. My gynecologist suggested I get a mammogram as a precaution, but because I was only 29, healthy, and had no family history of cancer there wasn’t anything to worry about. It was probably just a cyst. I wasn’t worried.

I went for the mammogram, waited in the room with all of the old ladies, and even the technician laughed when she saw my age. But then, while she was doing the mammogram her demeanor changed completely when blood came out of my nipple. She said I needed to go get an ultrasound and because I had a PPO, I was heading there now. The ultrasound technician seemed nervous and after doing her exam asked for a doctor to come in. The doctor said he needed to do a biopsy, today. He did three: one in my armpit, and two in my breast. I asked why I was getting a biopsy in my armpit, and the assistant said “because it can spread.” I didn’t ask what she meant because at that point, I already knew. The doctor said a breast surgeon would call me with results. The next day I went to work in a fog and waited impatiently for the call. When the surgeon finally called, she asked for me to come in for results. I asked her to please just say the word over the phone, and she did: Cancer.

The surgeon referred me to Dr. Link, founding oncologist of Breastlink, in Orange County because of my age and type of cancer. He said it was Her-2 positive, approximately 7 cm total, and had spread to my lymph nodes, making me a stage 2 or 3. The first step to my recovery was chemotherapy because he wanted to get my rapid-growing tumors under control. He could provide no answers when I asked the one question I still have no answer to today: why? Why did this happen to a healthy, 29-year old mom and teacher, with no history of cancer in her family, who exercises and eats blueberries in her oatmeal everyday? He could only say: You’re one of the random, unlucky ones.

After six rounds of two types of chemotherapy and herceptin infusions, my tumors hadn’t gone away or even gone down as much as they’d hoped. His next step was a mastectomy and lymph node removal. I opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy for aesthetic and preventative purposes. While the surgeon was in there he took 17 lymph nodes as well. I had my patchy head shaved on my eldest daughter’s fifth birthday; I had my bilateral mastectomy on my youngest daughter’s second birthday. A lot can happen in just a few, short months.

After my surgery, I was told they didn’t get the margins they were hoping for and they suggested further treatment. Once my expanders for reconstruction were completely filled, I started radiation. I remember going to get radiation every day after work (33 rounds total), and although I was still getting herceptin infusions, my hair was growing back. Finally, exactly one year after diagnosis I received my final herceptin infusion and was done with cancer treatment, besides a daily tamoxifen pill. A few months later, I got my expanders removed and implants put in, but never elected to have nipples tattooed. I qualified for extensive genetic testing, but the results have still been inconclusive.
And I thought that the worst part of 2011 was going to be turning 30. Being blindsided by a breast cancer diagnosis at such a young age was a traumatizing experience to say the least, but it gave me the unique, albeit unwarranted, opportunity to inspire others with my optimism, courage, and hope in a way I never could have predicted. I wrote a blog so I could document my experience for my children. I thought it was going to serve as a memory for them when I passed away. I am so beyond thankful to say that we will get to read it together.

Check out Crystal’s blog here – Wearpink.weebly.com

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

 

Mary’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words.

My name is Mary Jaramillo. I will be 58 years old this month (October). My mother was 50 years old when she died, after being diagnosed with breast cancer at 48. Because of family history, I have always been proactive. I started my yearly mammograms at the age of 35. In 2009, my husband and I made a move to Hawaii and back again to California in 2011. With all of the busyness of living and moving, I ended up skipping a few years of mammograms.

In July of 2014, while going with my cousin to get her mammogram, I finally made my appointment. July 24th was my mammogram, biopsy on August 13 and diagnosed August 18, 2014, with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) (a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct.). I got lucky. I was not shocked with the diagnosis and my first thoughts were to “just get rid of them” so on September 25, 2014 I had a double mastectomy. I have felt so blessed throughout, with so many wonderful friends and loved one’s support. I always knew my decision was a good one, for me.

Life was going well, Breast Cancer – gone, CHECK…got my reconstruction, CHECK… feeling good, CHECK…when I started to have some bleeding and  thought it should be taken care of, along with some skin spots that should also be looked at. So I had a colonoscopy and when I woke up, I was told I had Anal Cancer. I was told that the HPV virus was the reason for this cancer. (totally unrelated to my breast cancer) This was a shock. I was going to have to have Chemotherapy and Radiation. My first thought… I’m going to loose my hair. (My hair happened to be down to my rear end.) I cried. I then decided, with prayer, I would be fine. I cut my hair shorter and I started my Chemo and Radiation on March 14, 2016. I finished treatment on April 20, 2016 and still had some hair, on my head. On August 5, 2016, I had a pet scan, which showed no signs of cancer. I’m in remission! I have had some skin cancers and because of my white, freckled skin, I will always need to be proactive with that but I’m good.

All I can say is… BE PROACTIVE, GET A MAMMOGRAM, SEE YOUR DOCTOR, EARLY DETECTION WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, DON’T BE AFRAID, BE POSITIVE, LOVE YOURSELF. 

I’m feeling stronger and know I’ve come out on the other side. I am a warrior! I am Blessed!

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Sylvia’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

It was the summer of 2012.  We were getting ready to take my youngest daughter to school in New Hampshire, when I discovered an indentation on my left breast.  I tried not to make a big deal about it but it never left my mind.  I was preoccupied with the trip at the time.

When we got back, I made an appointment for my mammogram.  After the appointment they told me I had to get a biopsy because they had found a small lump on my breast.  My mother, my husband, and I went for the results and got the worst news of my life.  All I heard were your results tested positive for “BREAST CANCER” and the rest was a big blur.  I thought that was the end for me.

I was given a few options for my surgery, which included a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.  I decided to go with the mastectomy.    About three months after my surgery, I started chemotherapy, which was not the greatest thing I’ve ever done.   I lost all of my hair a few weeks later, but I didn’t mind since I was able to wear some cute hats, wigs and head covers that my family bought for me.

My reconstruction started at the end of 2013.  The procedure I chose was a Bilateral Free Flap reconstruction, which is the process of removing fat tissue and muscle from my abdomen and fashioning it in to my new breasts.  When I woke up from the 13 hour procedure, I looked like a “stuffed burrito” from all the swelling.   That was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to go through.  My recovery was slow but with the support of my loving family, my faith in God and a positive attitude, I was able to conquer that feat.

This life changing experience has made me a stronger, more faithful, and hopeful person.  It is a blessing to be alive today and to be called a “SURVIVOR”.

 

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Laura’s Story HERE

 

Laura’s Story

On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words. 

In August of 2015 I turned 40, I went to my Doctor’s for my annual physical and he referred me out to have a mammogram (because I was 40 now), so in December of 2015 I had my very first mammogram (oh and by the way, it’s not that bad, not bad at all, I mention this because prior to going in for my first mammogram, I had heard stories about how painful it is and they smash your boobies until they are flat as a pancakes, that can scare a woman a little bit or a lot).

Shortly after that, I received notification that they wanted to do an ultrasound (I freaked out). I was told that it is very common to follow up with an ultrasound after you’ve had your first mammogram. So I had a private one done (because I couldn’t stand the nerves)and I was told that there was nothing to worry about, normal and small micro calcification tissue, nothing alarming and they would not biopsy, no lumps, no tumors. I then had another ultrasound done (this one referred by mammogram and I did not mention to them that I had already had a private ultrasound done). This ultrasound led to a biopsy, again I was told not to worry, normal procedure, again I was told that I had normal, small micro calcification tissue, very common in majority of women, no lumps and no tumors, just being precautious I suppose, honestly I don’t know why or who decided to biopsy my right breast but this is what saved my life and changed everything.

I went in for my biopsy on March 2016, St. Patty’s day, I’ll never forget. The woman who performed my mammogram, and the woman who performed my ultrasound were both there to assist the Doctor with my biopsy. The 2 women, had told me that they had never assisted in a biopsy together with the same patient, and one of the woman was Irish and being that it was St. Patrick’s day, this was my lucky day!! They were so sweet and told me not to worry about anything, this time next week I would be celebrating, cancer free most likely, because odds are with me, 85% of woman come back negative for breast cancer.

I don’t know why I thought, what about the other 15%? I also remember thinking, I can’t be the exception, I am a woman too and who falls into that 15%? I had 3 biopsies done on my right breast. I gave it a few days and then started hounding my Primary Doctor for results.

Turns out, I was part of that 15%, within a 3 month period I had had my first mammogram ever, a couple of ultrasounds, 3 biopsies on my right breast and confirmation that I had stage 0 breast cancer in my right breast (DCIS, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), the cancer was not spreading, it was trapped in the milk ducts. Oh and I didn’t get a straight answer either, no one wants to be the one to confirm that you have cancer. You could say that I kind of harassed people into confirming, I was like, “I need a yes or no answer because I just didn’t understand any of the terms.” Not only did I call my Primary Doctor’s office and his cell, I called the location that did my biopsy and I called City of Hope, I read the diagnosis and asked Yes or No? I asked what does this term mean and I read the term to them DCIS, I read everything to them that was on that form, after a little hesitation from everyone, it was a yes. I met with my Primary who went over my options, including Double Mastectomy.

I will never forget that conversation. I had no idea what to expect. I thank my Doctor so much for going over ALL my options. I say this because when I first met with the Surgeon/Doctor that was going to “remove” the cancer, this (double mastectomy) was not one of the options given. Had I not known everything I needed to know before meeting with that surgeon I probably would have been so happy to hear that I wasn’t going to die and we are saving my breast by treating the area (possibly lumpectomy), remember I have no lumps and no tumors. I mentioned “double mastectomy”, a bit extreme in my case. It was however, the only option for me. Too many stories of woman who are in the same situation as mine and only treat the area, only to find out years later that the cancer is back, or in the other breast and always much more aggressive than the first time around.

I did not want to take that chance.

Also, I never, ever self examined, I was always very honest with my Doctors about this, I know it’s bad but I am a hypochondriac and I would have been in the doctor’s office every week, if not every day thinking there was something wrong with me and self examination would not have discovered the cancer because I had no lumps or tumors. Everything was happening so quickly. Oh and by the way I tested negative for the BRCA gene. My surgery for my double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction occurred on June 15, 2016, this was the best decision I could have made, and my Surgeons were great. I got to keep most of my skin and all of my muscle, none of my lymph nodes had been affected by cancer, we did not spare my nipples or aeriolas. We (my Doctor’s and I)  don’t believe that I will  need any chemo or radiation, still waiting to see the Oncologist.

I am currently under reconstruction, I have expanders in that are filled once a week to stretch my skin and get me ready for permanent implants and eventually they’ll make me some new nipples and aeriolas, it’s amazing what they can do. Everything is coming along just fine, I did have a little “bump in the road”, a little “hick up”. A couple of months ago I noticed a little hole, the size of a pen mark on my scar on my right breast, so my Dr. did not fill, we watched it, hoping it would scab up and heal but it didn’t. Instead the hole kept getting bigger, my Dr. removed some fill to relax my skin and hopefully allow it to heal on its own, my Dr. did not fill me for about a month, he saw me once a week and assured me there was no infection, because of course, being the hypochondriac that I am, I was terrified of an infection. I wasn’t healing and the hole was just getting bigger, my Dr. scheduled another surgery on September 14, 2016, only 3 months after my double mastectomy.

He opened me back up, removed more fill and made sure everything looked good (no infection) and closed me back up. Today (Oct.3, 2016) we began filing my right breast again. I am happy to say that I am healing perfectly well. I can’t help but to think how lucky I am, the 2 ladies that assisted with my biopsy were absolutely right, that day was my lucky day, it was the day that my breast which had absolutely no lumps or tumors were still tested for breast cancer and I was extremely lucky that they discovered it at stage 0 and I was able to make a life saving decision.

I am a survivor of Breast Cancer and this is my story.

Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE

Check out Kathy’s Story HERE

Check out Debbie’s Story HERE

Check out Janelle’s Story HERE

Check out Maja’s Story HERE

Check out Crystal’s Story HERE

Check out Mary’s Story HERE

Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE

Sign Me Up

Sign Up now to receive email promotions, spa news, and more.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs is solely owned and operated by GOCO Hospitality.
To find out more about GOCO Hospitality please visit, GOCOHospitality.com.
© Copyright 2017 Glen Ivy Hot Springs.
All Rights Reserved.