Since my late thirties, I have always been diagnosed with cystic breasts, so when I felt a pea size lump in my right breast in May of 2005 I guess neither my doctor nor I thought much about it. When I went to her, she said let's watch and see if it changes in a few months. I went back in August for my annual mammomgram and it had not changed. She wanted to keep a watch on it and scheduled me to come back for another mammogram and ultra sound in November. As it was nearing the holidays, I figured I would just wait and go back in January. However, after Thanksgiving the spirit of God whispered to me in my sleep and said "Go get checked, now". I called from work that same day to have my driver's license renewed and to have another utra sound. That's the afternoon my whole life changed. My doctor said I needed to see a surgeon because the lump had changed and more than likely it was maglinant. All I could do was stare at her. I was thinking I had made so many plans, why was God doing this to me? So in my barganing spirit I asked if I could wait until January to see the surgeon. She said emphatically "no". There was something foreign growing in my breast and it needed to come out immediately. I left her office in tears knowing this was serious since she had made arrangements from her office for me to see the surgeon in less than 5 days. I sat there thinking what was I going to do now - not to mention what would be the outcome. As I left her office, I felt afraid, ashame and helpless. I couldn't think of anything except the friends I had lost to breast cancer. As I was driving I was thinking how can I tell my husband and my children--my mother, friends, how? I finally talked myself into keeping my driver's license appointment since they had already expired. As I sat in the parking lot, my baby daughter called and she could tell in my voice something was wrong. She coerced me into telling her and after all of her encouraging words and the shedding of tears, I felt better. I cleaned my face up and walked into the driver's license office. The man immediately called me up, said I looked great for my picture and snapped it. Today that's the same picture I show everyone who needs to see my identification. It's like my majic mirror. My cancer was caught early but even at that, it was stage 2. If I had not talked to my older daughter who works at CDC with a PhD who had just completed her Breast cancer treatment I'm not sure if I could tell my story this way today. She and I became best friends. As a matter of fact, I would not have had the knowledge to ask certain questions and request certain procedures be performed by the doctors had it not been for her. In addition to my husband and children, she was a great support system for me. I must say, I had wonderful doctors also. They always answered the questions and communicated with my family throughout chemotheraphy and radiation. The one thing I would like to convey in this message is what my friend in Atlanta told me and that is to never let a doctor remove a lump, put it under a microscope and say it's not malignant. Ask them to slice it in little slivers to ensure a speck of cancer has not penetrated into some other tissue. For more information about my story, you may contact me at (850) 476-5064.  --Ms. Mary E. Farrow, Pensacola, FL


I am in the US Army Reserve. I was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom for 3 tours. On the last tour I noticed a lump on my breast, I didn't think it was anything, Breast Cancer didn't run in my family. When I returned I went to the doctor. I had all the test and the results were breast cancer. The last year I've been going through the treatments, it's been a rough year, but I made it through!  --Lia E. Johnson, Milton, FL


In July 2005 I was in bed and decided to do a self breast exam and to my amazement I found a little knot that felt like a hard english pea. The next day, I was on the phone with the Ann Baroco Center making my appointment. I thought that it was nothing because I go every year for my mammogram. On July 19th 2005 I was told I had cancer and it needed to come out right away.

July 22nd 2005, I had surgery and a lump was removed. I was very sacred because my sister had died at 36 years of age of ovarian cancer. I was told they got it all, but I would need to go through chemotherapy and radiation.

On August 25th 2005 I had my first chemotherapy treatment and my last treatment was on December 1st. Then on December 13th I had my first radiation treatment and my last one on January 30th 2006. With all that said, I really had no trouble with any of my treatment. I was told by my doctor when I started, "Not to listen to anyone about how it was going to go, and not to compare it with my sister's treatment because each person was different. Each cancer was different."

So I listened and followed his instructions to the tee and breezed through all of it. My side affects were minimal; I just lost my hair and I was tired. God truly blessed me. He has used me where I work, with many members who have gone through the same thing. I hope I have in some way been a help and support for them. I have wonderful doctors and great support from family, friends, and coworkers. I work for a great place that was very supportive, and I could not have done as well if I did not had all the support. As a gift to myself, I and three of my very best friends went to Disney World to celebrate being done. To this date, I am doing great and have no signs of reoccurrence! I have used this as a wake up call to thank God everyday, use each day to its fullest, enjoy life, and love my family and friends. To all my fellow women out there I suggest to do self breast exams often and always get your mammogram!!!  --Gail Pursell, Pensacola, FL


I had just begun chemotherapy before 2006 Making Strides. I was bald and it was cold! I was sick and fatigued, but I dragged myself out of bed and, with my daughter, went to see what it was all about. It struck me beyond words. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in pink ribbon-clad gear of some sort or another everywhere! I came to the realization that these people were out here for me! They were out here for me and for every woman who is fighting the same fight, those who fought and survived and those who fought valiantly but lost. When they handed me my pink "Survivor" t-shirt I felt a little strange. I wasn't a "survivor", I was just "surviving" at that point. Then I saw another woman sporting one. And another. And another... Some were young, some not so young. But they had makeup on, had hair, were smiling, and looked like they could walk the distance. The word survivor was printed on their sleeves, just like the one they handed me. But I didn't feel like a survivor. I felt like I was in the worst fight of my life. But, I'll tell you what: Looking at such vibrant and HEALTHY women with "survivor" printed across their sleeves made me realize that in a year, that would be me. This year I look forward to sporting my survivor t-shirt and looking like one - hoping that I'll be the inspiration for some young, bald, sick, no make-up wearing woman who drags herself out of bed on a cold morning to see what this is all about.
--Mrs. Donna Marie Boudreaux, Pensacola, FL


I'm telling my story to share with ALL WOMEN how important it is to be aware of their bodies. Self-exams are very important - but in addition to that; staying on top of the diagnosis is paramount to good treatment. I found the lump in my right breast while showering 2-1/2 years before my cancer diagnosis. I went to my OBGYN for a checkup (I was 37 at the time). From there, I was sent to have my first Mammogram at a Women's Center that promotes "early detection". That began the 2-1/2 years of having "routine" mammograms and ultrasounds - to be told by the attending radiologist/doctor "everything was fine - no cancer detected - return in one year (or six months) for additional screening". I was also told to reduce my intake of caffeine (I drink coffee; but I wouldn't consider myself an over-indulger). On top of all this - my grandmother (my mother's side) had breast cancer. She had underwent a Mastectomy (both breasts at different times). However, still nothing further was done.

The lump continued to increase in size. And I continued to get what I thought was the treatment needed. At least, I continued to do what the "doctors" told me to do. On the 19th of November 2001, I went for my "routine" mammogram at the Women's Center. After the mammogram, an ultrasound was done (mostly because the lump had grown considerably). There just happen to be a nurse at the center, that came in to talk to me. Because our children went to the same high school - we had something in common and she must have felt comfortable in talking to me. Her words were "even though these doctors are telling you that the lump is nothing; you really need to see a specialist and tell him you want it removed". She was so adamant about me looking further into it - she even gave me the name of a Cancer doctor.

I am a strong believer in God - and he talks to us to many ways. I couldn't forget the concern in her voice; nor could I get that "little voice" out of my head. I went back to work that day - got on the phone and made an appointment with the cancer doctor that she had recommended. Two days later (21 Nov), I kept that appointment. He immediately told me that he definitely wanted to do a lumpectomy; it needed to be removed. We scheduled a lumpectomy for Wednesday after Thanksgiving (28 Nov). He came out and told my husband and parents that he wanted to see us in his office early Friday morning (30 Nov) - he felt it was definitely cancer. Sure enough - our fears were confirmed that day. I had 3 out of 4 types of cancer cells in my right breast. The cancer has already spread to the surrounding tissue and into my lymph nodes. I was scheduled for a Mastectomy surgery on Monday (3 Dec).

Such a whirlwind........our lives were tossed and turned - I honestly don't remember much about those months. All this, while holding on to the piece of paper from the Women's Center - telling me to come back in one year for follow-up, nothing else needed. To think of what would have happened, had God not sent an angel to look out for me - the nurse who took it upon herself to be concerned for her patient. And I do believe she was an angel!!

I could go on and on - but I can't dwell on what might have been. I know that all of this happened for a reason - God has my life planned and the things that happen; are part of that plan. I could not have survived without the love and support of my family and friends. But most important - I could not have survived without my FAITH IN GOD. I put everything in his hands - to this day; I lift up my life to him. May he use me to touch others.  --Mrs. Denise Renee' Davis


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