Our Lost Battle Against Breast Cancer;

In March of 2003, our whole lives changed. We received the news that our mother had an advanced stage of breast cancer. In that moment, not only was the doctor telling us our mother had cancer, but that everyone in our family had cancer, too. For almost three years, we all fought the disease with all our power and all the strength that God could possibly give us. After almost six months of intensive chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, our mother became a survivor. Her hair started to grow back and her life was beginning to return to normal after a six-month battle. Unfortunately, six months later our mother had a relapse and the cancer returned in a tumor on her left arm. It was a shock to all of us, but that is when we learned that our mother had not been cured; she had only been given hope to survive. After three months of treatment, the tumor had been destroyed, but a short time later she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on her right breast.

Again chemotherapy began, followed by surgery for the removal of that breast. During this time, she underwent a blood test to see if she had the mutated gene BRCA 1 for breast cancer. A couple of weeks later the results came back positive. At that point my sister and I decided we needed to undergo the same test and found out that we also had the gene. Because the mutation gives you a 15% to 54% chance of getting ovarian cancer, my mother's oncologist recommended she have her ovaries removed. A couple of weeks later, she underwent a Hysterectomy.

After undergoing surgery, she also had a Mastectomy on her left breast, but chemo had to continue for several weeks after the surgery. While treating the inflammatory breast cancer, several tumors returned to the side where she already had a mastectomy. Chemotherapy treatments continued in hope that the tumors would disappear, considering they where not surgically removable. In November of 2005, the cancer spread to the brain and our mother was given six weeks to live.

Our New Battle

Words cannot explain how difficult it is to have to watch the person that you love die. We had lost the battle against breast cancer. Even though our mother never gave up, when the doctor told her that she only had six weeks to live, she told him, "I believed in miracles." She passed away on January 1, 2006, exactly six weeks later, and spent her last Christmas with us. Our mother was the bravest woman we had ever seen. I think that her faith is what gave her the strength she needed to undergo so many treatments, withstand so many surgeries and maintain a positive attitude despite receiving bad news.

Though my sister and I also tested positive for the breast cancer gene, this does not mean we have cancer. It does, however, mean we have a 36%- 85% of developing breast cancer and 16%-60% of developing ovarian cancer. Our family oncologist tried to put us on Tamoxifen as a prevention for breast cancer, but, because of our young age, our ovaries were being affected. Therefore, we now must live healthy lives and keep ourselves very closely monitored. We will be able to try taking Tamoxifen again at the age of 30. Despite ongoing medical research and great drugs like Tamoxifen that can help decrease our changes of getting cancer, there is no cure for breast cancer.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is a program that helps raise funds for the research to find a cure. We ask you to please contribute to this event and help us find a cure. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in the world and it does not discriminate against race, age or gender. Just because your mother, grandmother or aunt did not have breast cancer does not mean that you will never get it. Our mother was the first to have breast cancer in her family. Please realize it is so important for you to check yourself frequently and get your annual checkups on time. Some women think it will never happen to them. In fact, I know that is what our mother thought and now she is no longer with us. Our mother lost the fight, but there are women out there still fighting against breast cancer, women who, like us, hope to someday find a cure. We invite you to join us in the walk against breast cancer, or otherwise contribute so that we may find a cure to this debilitating, devastating and deadly disease.  --Ms. Estefany Villavicencio, Orlando, FL

I learned that my grandmother and her sister were breast cancer survivors many years after they had been diagnosed and gone through treatment and surgery. My mom casually mentioned my grandmother's fight against breast cancer one day and was like, "Didn't we tell you about her cancer?" My response? A resounding NO! In June of 2004 I was visiting my great-aunt when she pulled me into her room and lifted her shirt,showing me her mastectomy bra and her "new boob" (i.e. FLUFF STUFFING!)I was so upset that another woman in my family had gone through a breast cancer battle and I had no idea! I knew then that I had a mission to help women become educated about breast cancer and to share their stories so that other women could learn from and benefit from the information. We've got to talk about this disease and encourage women to take initiatives to learn and share with their fellow loved ones!  --Lauren M. Nelson, Winter Park, FL


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