Below are true stories from real breast cancer survivors in Louisville. These stories remind us that Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is more than just the name of a walk it's the hope that each year will bring us more breast cancer survivors and that the future holds a day when no one will have to hear the words "You have breast cancer."
"Take Care of Yourself Today Because God Will Take Care of Tomorrow."
- Rose Marie Phillips
"Early Detection Saves Lives....It Saved Mine."
- Georgeanna Stanckiewitz
"Everyone is Responsible For Their Own Happiness."
- Gayle Hoskinson
"Cancer teaches you to make good use of every day God grants you. You are here for a reason. Don’t give in without a fight."
"Our lives are too precious to take for granted...so, do everything you can to live life too its fullest. Sometimes the strongest medicine comes from the most unlikely places. For me it was my 2 year old god daughters "I love you Aunt Jebby" that kept me going."
- Jebby Erdman
"In April 2005, I found a lump in my right breast. I didn't think much of it because I had fibrocystic disease and a little lump here and there wasn't too unusual. On July 1 of the same year, I also found out I was pregnant with our second child. Those first several weeks I noticed that the lump was changing in size and shape. At 6 weeks pregnant, I went in for my first prenatal visit and brought the lump to my OB's attention. My mother is also a breast cancer survivor, so she said since I noticed a change and with my family history she was sending me to a surgeon. In mid-August, I went in for my appointment where she did an ultrasound that day and told me she felt it was not a "common cyst" and wanted to do a biopsy. That made me nervous! Both my surgeon and my OB agreed to the biopsy under local anesthesia when I was in my second trimester. At 13 weeks pregnant, I went in to have an aggressive biopsy. On September 12, the report came back. My husband came home from work early and had to tell me the hardest words he ever had to say, "It's cancer." We both immediately collapsed onto the ground in a pile of tears with our 2 year old son, Isaac, watching. The hardest thing I have ever done was to call and tell my parents. We were living 10 hours away at the time and even though mom's battle was 4 years earlier, it was still fresh in all our minds. Plus just the weekend before we were home for a wedding and we just shared the news we were expecting again.
I had a lot of doctor appointments that following week. I had several choices to make but some were made for me because I was pregnant. I had to start chemo (6 months of hair losing chemo and 12 months worth of non-hair losing medication). I had to have another surgery because the borders of the biopsy came back unclean, and I was pregnant and wanted nothing more than a healthy baby. On September 23, I had a partial mastectomy, had a port placed to receive chemo through, and nodes removed to check to see if the cancer had spread (I had one positive node.). My team of doctors couldn't have been more amazing as they all kept in contact with each other to give me the best and safest care.
On October 12, I began chemo. Amazingly enough, the chemo drugs do not cross the placenta so I was able to receive all of them while pregnant. I had four rounds of adriamycin/cytoxin. My son and husband shaved my head before I lost all my hair, and it was a surreal moment. Having a 2 year-old and knowing I was pregnant and needed to stay strong and healthy made me stronger and live life as normally as possible. In December 2005, I began my second round of the taxol/herceptin combo. After just 3 treatments, my high risk OB noticed that my amniotic fluid levels were dangerously low. I was put in the hospital for 2 weeks until those levels could rise. I had to stop all treatments. It was the herceptin that was causing this side effect. Because I could only be off chemo for 4 weeks, they had to take the baby 6 weeks early. Ethan Joseph was born on January 27, 2006 weighing 4 lbs. 12 ozs. He is now an extremely healthy 15 month-old and a true miracle.
One week after his birth I started with the chemo again. I completed the taxol on April 11. I had made the decision to have a double mastectomy because, in all honesty, I didn't want any more breast tissue in my body! So on May 2, I had the biggest surgery I pray I ever have, double mastectomy with reconstruction. It was no fun but I do not regret it for one minute. I continued with my weekly herceptin treatments.
In June of last year, we were able to move back closer to home. Since all my big milestones were behind me, I knew I needed to get out there and be there for other young survivors. I am now a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately there are more and more younger women being diagnosed, and the need is there for survivors like myself. I try to help out as much as I can with the ACS because I want there to be a cure!
I had my final phase of reconstruction in January 2007 and finished all my herceptin treatments at the end of February. I still have one more minor surgery remaining, but it will be very easy in comparison to what I have already been through. It feels good to be at the end of my long journey but scary at the same time. It can be difficult going from battle mode - when you are actively fighting the disease - to survivor mode - when all treatment is done and you are to go on living "normally." It is a new normal, one I am adjusting to slowly. But what I wouldn't give to go back to a normal day before September 12, 2005 came along.
|To read more stories from breast cancer survivors, please click here |
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