Hello, my name is Denise. I'm pretty new at this "Cancer-girl" thing. I was only diagnosed 6 months ago.I'm writing today, not to tell you how I found my cancer, but to help others understand-maybe- what I need while I go through the horrible treatments and painful surgeries ahead of me.I hope that my story might help some friends & family members out there, support their own loved ones better.

When I was diagnosed, in April, I kept the news to myself for as long as possible. I told close friends & my co-workers, because I knew they were my "rock", or the base of my support system. And, they have proven to be some of the best people on the planet!

I have friends who've helped me with my treatments- getting there & staying with me. I even have some friends that bring me little things to brighten my mood on those "creepy" days when I have to go to the R.O.C. at Halifax Hospital.I also have one friend lined-up to "kick my butt" ,when I try to wallow. He's a good friend!

I must tell you that I am a healthcare worker, myself. I work at Halifax Health Hospital. I am also in treatment for a second cancer.

Yes, it's scary! Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it's a rotten deal, for me & my family. But, with prayer, God, support, my friends & a ton of humor - I am getting through this!

I am bald with peach-fuzz eyebrows! I am boobless, but I have nice bras with socks in them, for now.(Noone that I haven't told would know that) I have been through chemotherapy & will begin again, next week. I am strong and weak at the same time. I have energy, but lack the stamina to do the usual "stuff". I am in good humor, today.

Please, if you remember nothing from my story... remember this- I want to be treated like you have always treated me! Help me some, but most of all... love me for who I am- not as "Cancer-girl".

Thank you for reading this.

God Bless,  --Ms. Denise Hall, Ormond Beach, FL


I was Lazy about my monthly breast exams!

I had a scare in 1970 and at that time I was prepped for removal of my breast . They shaved my chest and arm, in those days you did not have a choice. I woke up and my Mother, rest her soul, said Its ok. I remember feeling my chest to see if my breast was still there and it was. Thank you God.

But I got Lazy with monthly exams of breast. Then 2004, a pet scan of my lung showed a huge mass on my breast, It was so big the size of a lime. I must have been very lazy for long time. So now, I had to do chemo before any surgery which I did. Then on 2/25/2005 I had my racial mastectomy, 23 nodes removed, then more chemo...no time to be lazy now.. Finally after all that, I had 34 rounds of radiation. Again, no time to be lazy.

So, here I am now, 10/23/2007 I am team captain for Daytona Making Strides.I am not lazy now. I am trying to get the word out to all women do not be lazy about your mammograms and monthly breast exams.

Angels on your pillow,  --Patricia McKenzie, Ormond Beach, FL


You hear the words, "You have breast cancer". All of a sudden your world is turned upside down and you feel totally alone. Then you look over your shoulder and see all those who've come before and are now walking with you on your journey. You ARE NOT alone!  --Kathy Rumbley, Debary, FL

I was so shocked when I heard the words "You have breast cancer", surely they had the wrong person. Breast cancer was not supposed to effect me. I had watched my grandmother and mother-in-law die from the disease. My aunt Linda was in her 4th year of survival. But it wasn't supposed to be me. I had just married the love of my life two years prior. I was in the middle of obtaining my MSN. With the help and support of my husband, family and friends I some how made it through surgery, chemotherappy and reconstructive surgery. I graduated with a 4.0 average 3 months after my last treatment. I had dinners prepared by friends for an eternity. My brother had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 days prior to my diagnosis yet he and my sister in law were my strength. It was the love and support of all these people, espeially my husband that make me want to stride forward for all survivors. I have joined our local Making Strides team and am a team committe member so that I can give back to all the survivors that held my hand, told me their story or just gave me a hug. It is for my family and friends that I will take my strides over the the bridge in Daytona Beach on October 27th.  --Mrs. Charlene Brady, Daytona Beach, FL

Sometime in early September of 2002, while getting out of the shower, I looked in the mirror and noticed a dimple on my left breast. I assumed that it had something to do with being "that time of the month" or maybe it was the recent weight I had lost by running 3 miles a day. When I noticed it was still there a couple of weeks later, I decided, after a casual mention to friends, that I should go to the doctor and get it checked out. Everyone agreed that it was nothing to worry about.

I should have known that it WAS something to worry about when my doctor saw me the same day that I called and not only scheduled my appointment for a mammogram 2 days later, but also at the same time, scheduled an appointment 4 days after that with a surgeon.

At my mammogram appointment, the radiologist called me in and recommended immediate action. At my appointment with the surgeon, on Oct. 8, 2002, before he even attempted a needle biopsy and approximately one month before my 40th birthday, I was told for the first time that I had breast cancer. Boy, do those words ever make one's world stand still. All of a sudden I started thinking in statistics. I was now one of the more than 200,000 each year that hear those words. I was determined that I was not going to be one of the more than 40,000 who died each year from breast cancer.

I will never forget the emotional cell phone call, from the hospital parking lot, to my mother to let her know of my diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer and therefore HER increased risk. Oddly enough, I felt even more sorry for her than for myself and I felt guilty that she would now have to stop her own hormone replacement therapy that gave her such relief of her menopausal symptoms!

The next several weeks seemed to go on forever yet in a blur, with various tests and 2nd opinions and my own research online. Mostly I was in a fog or I was just going thru the motions of my life. One night, when I was in total despair and I was surfing the web, I saw that the phone lines of the American Cancer Society were open 24/7 and I called. I wish I remembered the name of the angel who answered the phone, but I do remember that he stayed with me for over an hour while I cried and asked questions and rambled on. That phone call made all of the difference in my attitude toward my diagnosis and my treatment. After that I was ready to face my treatment and fight my cancer!

During the following 7-8 months I had a 1 in 100,000,000 allergic reaction to the sentinel node biopsy which made me go into anaphylactic shock on the operating table, I coded out and landed in the hospital with my whole body turned blue from the dye coursing through my body for several days - looking very much like a smurf if I must admit. I underwent 4 cycles of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and lost ALL of my hair; I had a lumpectomy of my left breast; and then underwent 9 weeks of radiation therapy.

In the end, it was determined that I not only had invasive ductal carcinoma, but there was also invasive lobular carcinoma, estrogen and progesterone positive. A double whammy!

So what did I do after 8 months of treatment? I decided to take my tamoxifen as directed to prevent recurrence now I am on femara. I decided to be vigilant about my follow-up appointments with my oncologist, about doing my breast self-exams and about getting my mammograms every year. I decided that hair is OVER-RATED and I found that it does grow back.

I decided that life is perhaps too short to sit on the sidelines. I decided to fight and I decided to have HOPE!

I determined to do some of the things that I always wanted to do in life. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I moved from Massachusetts to Florida. I started a new career as a realtor. I traveled to St. Marteen, Italy, France, England, The Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Bermuda. I went to see my favorite team, the New England Patriots, win the Superbowl and I might just do it again this year!

It is now 4 ? years since my diagnosis and I am determined to make a difference however I can.

I decided to give back to the American Cancer Society for all that they did for me during my treatment and I became the chairperson of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk for the second year.

I decided to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer so that other women, someday, won't have to face the same fight.

Although I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, I actually consider my cancer diagnosis a blessing. It has grounded me in ways that I cannot measure. It has given me a new empathy for those who struggle. It has allowed me a renewed appreciation of this life and the desire to live it to its fullest. My breast cancer has truly made me a better person.

I want to thank you for your attention to my story. It is not unique. It is not in the least bit extraordinary. It is simply the tale of survival. I thank God that I was one of the lucky, that I found my lump very early on, before the cancer had a chance to spread throughout my body and that I found the strength to fight against it. Many who have come to this fight before me, have not been so lucky.

Thank you for caring enough to read about my story of survival and for being a part of the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. By your participation, you are providing hope to those who struggle. You are honoring those who have lost their battles against this horrible disease. You are shining a light for all to follow. Together we can make a difference and together we can help eradicate this horrific disease.    --Kandi Schromm, Daytona Beach, FL

It was a casual brush as my husband reached to turn off the bedside light that started our journey. He asked if that bump was always there. I was sure it was nothing, just the time of month or something.

Several weeks later, I just as casually happened across that same bump. My husband confirmed that it was the same one he had noticed earlier. No big deal, I was having my annual visit with the OBGYN in six weeks and would talk to him then.

My husband insisted that I call our family doctor the next morning. They saw me that very afternoon and after an exam said it was probably nothing but I should have a mammogram as a precaution. Bells should have alarmed when, late on a Friday afternoon, they were able to get me an appointment at the imaging center for Monday morning.

The mammogram was followed immediately by an ultrasound. Still no bells. The doc said it looked like a fibrodemia and to call my family doctor the next day. Still no bells. They scheduled me into see a surgeon for a biopsy. Still no bells. I opted for surgical removal of the lump, after all, who wants that on their chest, cancer or not? After surgery the doctor showed me the mass and said it didn't look suspicious and he'd see me the following Tuesday.

Every step of the way I was told I was TOO YOUNG for breast cancer.

November 16, 2004.  A day that will stand still in my mind forever. That is when breast cancer became not just words, but a way of life. My diagnosis was a rare form of cancer that accounts for only 1% of breast cancer out there, tubulobular carcinoma at age 39. Guess I wasn't TOO YOUNG for breast cancer, after-all.

With a tumor measuring over 2" and lymph node involvement I was at Stage III and had a tough road ahead. Doctors would not give me statistics but I had to know and looked on the internet until I found it. A 50% chance of survival beyond 5 years. I knew right then that the only option for me was to be on the good side of that statistic! And the battle for life began.

During all of the chaos, I never feared the illness or treatment, I only feared for the future of my daughter. How could I leave a 5-year old to fend for herself in this world? The answer was easy. I couldn't. So I fought back. I asked loved ones, coworkers and friends for prayers and they responded. We talked with my daughter and told her the doctors were going to take my boobies, but they would give me new ones someday. Simple words used to explain something so scary to someone so young. She took it in stride ... even announcing one day to her entire class and several teachers that mommy was going for her new boobies today.

My treatment included a double mascetomy, 16 weeks of chemo and 6 weeks of daily radiation, reconstructive surgery and a proactive hysterectomy. My little miracle tablet, Arimidex, will be taken daily for atleast another three years. Sure, through treatment my bones and joints are those of a much older woman. But I'm alive!

I look toward the future. A future as a breast cancer survivor. And, instead of asking "why me", I have to believe that God has a purpose.

So, I am going to do all I can to help other women that come behind me through the battle. By lending emotional strength and treatment experience, I hope to encourage those with a new diagnosis'. They have a future and that the new normal is indeed a better normal with more appreciation for the things that really matter in life; family, friends, our faith and helping others.

Also, I am going to do all I can in the fight against breast cancer. That's why I'm volunteering my time to The American Cancer Society and the Making Strides Committee. By doing my part, I'm hoping that my daughter and all daughters of the world will have an opportunity to raise their families without this disease.

Breast cancer is now reaching epidemic levels, reaching younger and younger women with 200,000 new diagnosis' every year. One in seven women will get breast cancer. Those numbers are staggering and unacceptable.

So, I walk for the future ... I walk, not just for my daughter, but for all of our daughters .. our sisters .. our mothers. I'm a Making Strides walker because I refuse to sit back and let the disease win! I want to do all I can to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer, so that my daughter will never have to face this diagnosis with the same fear that I did. So she will never have to put her family through what I put her through.

My message is simple .... Listen to your body, pay attention to unusual lumps and bumps when doing your monthly self-exam (and please do! if I had I would have found it before it had moved to the lymph nodes) ... you are checking for a pea size knot. That is when you want to find it. Don't let your doctor tell you or anyone you love that they are too young.

Girls in their late teens are being diagnosed. Women that I know of, in their early 30's, are now dealing with terminal breast cancer. Listen to your body, pay attention to your gut feel.

Together, through education and raising money towards the cure, we can and will make a difference!  --Sally Sebastyn, Ormond Beach, FL 






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