October 11, 2016 • by Glen Ivy Contributor
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