I was living in New orleans when I descovered a lump on my breast. I immediately paid a visit to a physician, who reassured me that it was a "normal" lump. About a year later, during self-examination, I found that the lump had transformed into a "dimple". I realized at that point that I was in trouble. I went to what was then referred to Charity Hospital and scheduled my first mammogram, and subsequently, a core biospy. The test was inconclusive, but the doctors were not satisfied, and followed up with a needle biopsy, which confirmed the presence of cancer. Fortunately, it was a slow-growing type of cancer. I had a significantly sized tumor removed, and follow-up care included radiation treatments. I've been cancer-free for more than ten years. I learned that there is no such thing as a "normal" lump.  --Ms. Judith Kay Dillon, Palm Bay, FL


It's amazing how there are times in our life that we remember events vividly and others that are a distant memory. I remember every detail of my life in 2005. I remember one of my closest friends telling me she had a recurrence in January 2005. I was shocked and devastated at this news and it really shook me up. I had a restless week sleeping back in February of 2005. Every night, I woke up with a feeling something was wrong with me but couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't feel a lump but the feeling was intense. I called to set up my mammogram two months prior to the actual date. After having the mammogram, I was driving back to work when they called and told me to come back. I remember sitting on a small bench when the radiologist stood in front of me and said, "I'm sorry, it doesn't look good." She kept repeating it like a broken record. I was numb and devastated. I had a biopsy, saw a surgeon and it was determined that I had DCIS - noninvasive. I was so relieved. My husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate. I had a lumpectomy and knew the next step was radiation. At my one week checkup with the surgeon, he asked me where my husband was. I knew something was wrong. He told me he had mixed news. The pathology report came back that it had turned invasive and it was aggressive. I made a decision to have a mastectomy and asked how soon I could have it. I remember sitting an hour later in a plastic surgeon's office wondering what was happening to me. It all seemed so surreal and I wondered when I would wake up from this bad dream. I had the mastectomy and found out the best news of all - no lymph node involvement. Because of my friend's recurrence, she encouraged me to do everything aggressive. I told the oncologist that I would endure chemo to kill any microscopic cells. The day after my first chemo treatment, I was eating soup and the hot soup bowl slipped off the potholder on to my chest and since I couldn't feel it, I burned a second degree hole the size of a 50 cent piece. A month later, I got a staph infection that would last for four months and caused me to have my expander removed for 14 months. I had IV antibiotics seven days a week. On top of that and chemo, I was feeling real humbled. It was the most challenging part of my life but the most incredible learning experience. My faith in the medical community was restored and these wonderful people were so supportive and became my family. I was overwhelmed at my family and the many friends that supported me, encouraged me, and loved me throughout this process. I never questioned God about why this happened to me, instead I realized that God was calling me. I have spent a lifetime wondering how I could encourage and help others. Now I know that my experience will help others who need support and some encouraging words of, "I know how you feel and you'll be OK." I also share the funny part of my experience with my wig and prosthetic piece. I knew I had come a long way when I was dancing at my 30th high school reunion in a nice black cocktail dress and my friend whispered to me that my prosthetic piece had slipped down below my breast and looked like a growth. While still dancing, I reached down, pushed it back up and continued to dance. I am a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society and I have found my calling after 47 years. A month after my last chemo treatment in August 2005, I decided to become a team captain for the Making Strides Against Breast cancer walk as part of my healing and formed "The Breast is Yet to Come." I was so surprised and touched that 20 people signed up to walk with me. Last year, I returned with my same team and 62 more people that signed up to walk. This year, I am coming back stronger and more passionate about raising money for this important cause. I am using this opportunity to give back because I was fortunate enough to have caught my breast cancer early and survived. I am also writing a humorous book about my experience to lighten the spirit and mood about the daily challenges we all face. I am grateful and blessed to be alive and I pray for those women that are going through it and those who will go through it. This year, I am proud to be walking with family and friends as "The Treasured Chests."  --Ms. Susan A Lorenzo, Melbourne, FL


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