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Bobbie F.

In 1997, I was in the Navy and 32 years old when my mother passed away from breast cancer that was detected just two years earlier. After many discussions with women health doctors at the military base, they agreed to let me get a mammogram even though I was under 40.  I had mammograms every year with no concerns. Fast forward and I retired from the Navy in 2013, still getting annual mammograms. In July 2016 I went to the Denver VA Hospital for my annual check-up. The nurse practitioner had no concerns but wanted me to get my annual mammogram done and get a baseline MRI since I was new to this particular VA Hospital. The mammogram came back normal and the MRI detected my cancer. In true “go big or go home” fashion, my cancer was “ER positive” on one side and I was “triple negative” on the other breast.

Thankfully, my cancer was detected early so I did have a couple of options. One option was to have a lumpectomy on the ER positive side, but the triple negative side required a mastectomy. I was given time to decide what option was best for me, so my friend that was going to go to all my doctor appointments and surgeries with me decided we wanted to hike our first 14’er (any mountain over 14,000 feet above sea level).  We decided on hiking Mount Bierstadt here in Colorado. It was during that hike that I was able to clear my mind, reflect on the news, talk about options, and decide what I was going to do. On the ascent I actually met another woman on the trail who had just finished up chemotherapy; we chatted briefly wishing each other the best. I chose to do a bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction because I wanted to reduce the chances of it coming back. My exact words to the Oncologist and Plastic Surgeon were “chop these puppies off and give me young perky ones!”

In September 2016, right about the time my mother had passed away 19 years earlier, I was in surgery for a bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and nipple sparing. I had been running 5k’s and 10k’s all of 2016 and had a half marathon that I had been training for that was scheduled for 2 weeks post-surgery. Race day rolled around….. I did not “run” that race but with the permission of my plastic surgeon, I did walk the 10k version, drains still intact, swinging my arms only from below the elbow. I felt fantastic and wasn’t going to let the surgery stop me from trying to remain healthy.

November 2016 I was back on the operating table with my plastics team because of tissue necrosis. Two weeks later I started chemo therapy. I can’t say how I managed to do this, but I was not sick with any of my chemo sessions. I finished chemo January 2017. During that entire process I continued to work, missing only one day at the end. After chemo, in 2017, I had two more plastic surgeries, and in 2018 I had one more surgery. Here I am in 2019 and I still have two more plastic surgeries to finish up this entire process.

I can’t quite pin point what has made me a survivor. When this journey started in 2016, one of the first things I told my oncologist and plastic’s team was that “I didn’t have time for this because I had horse shows to compete in and races to run!” 😊  Hearing the words “you have cancer” were hard, but didn’t make me cry, what made me cry was when my plastics team would tell me that I couldn’t ride my horses for a couple of months after surgery. That motivated me to do as they instructed so my body could heal, and I could be back on my horses. Keeping a positive outlook on things right from the beginning I made the conscious choice to not let it beat me or get me down. I would say having my horses helped and played a pretty big role in helping me to stay positive. The horse group I compete with, and am a board member of, hosts an annual event called “Trot for Ta Tas.” We raise money for local equestrians who are combatting this dreadful disease. In 2018 our event raised $8000; it was amazing to be the one to present those women with checks of over $1000 each. I was the perfect representative for the horse group as I can relate to them and where they are in their journey. Presenting them with that little bit of financial relief helps me in all reality. Those checks bring lots of smiles and tears.  At this point, I am just ready for this journey to come to an end….it’s been 3 years. I’m a planner and don’t plan for cancer to come back; I just want to be able to do things without trying to schedule it around my next surgery.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

-Bobbie F.

Roxanne H.

Family, friends, the ranch and hard work are integrated with faith in the life of Roxanne from Forbes, ND.  After undergoing treatment for breast cancer in the last few years, she said “If telling my story can help just one person, just one, it is worth it.”

Roxanne works with the public health team so is in tune with the medical field.  She concentrates on her family and the health of others.

My journey started on February 24, 2017, the day they diagnosed me with breast cancer.  I was 53.  Doctors discovered my cancer during my annual mammogram.  Not once since being diagnosed has my lump ever been felt at my medical appointments.  It was close to the surface, but I couldn’t feel it.  My cancer would not have been found if it were not for my annual mammogram.  I cannot stress enough how important regular check-ups can be.

Taking a deep breath, she said, “It was Stage 2A in one breast.  It was a [email protected] breast cancer which was more aggressive than other types.  They followed the diagnosis with six rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and 25 treatments of radiation I finished in May.  I had a regime of Herceptin IV’s every 21 days for a year, which tells the cancer not to come back.  I will take a daily dose of Anastrozole for 5 years.  Then my treatment will be complete.

“I was so very fortunate to wear a ‘cold cap’ during my chemotherapy.  This therapy allowed me to keep my hair.  This was such a huge blessing for me, but especially for my family.  I tolerated my treatments well, the medical advancements in therapy and medications are astonishing.”

Roxanne explained that she wore the cap for about seven hours each time, including an hour before treatment and three hours after treatment.  The cap was hooked to an air conditioning machine that kept the head temperature at 32 degrees.  The chairs where she sat had heaters, she had plenty of blankets and she learned to wear sweatshirts.   

My kids and Barry would take turns going to treatments with me.  They were all kind of mad at me.  I found out on Feb. 24 and I waited until Easter Sunday, the day before my treatments started to tell them my treatments were going to start April 18.  I wanted to have my own plan.  It was a long time before you knew what all the tests meant.  It was torture not having answers to the questions that I had and did not want my family to go through that misery.  I wanted to have the answers and knew that it would make the process go faster for them.  I delayed as long as I could.  I didn’t tell my co-workers at work either.  I’m a mom, I take care of other people and didn’t want others to worry.

Someday there will be ways to treat this cancer with no surgery.  Rozanne said the surgeon who did her breast surgery told her that with the changes in technology and other advancements, it would be the happiest day of her life if she were out of a job.

I understand that the attention comes with the technology and improved survival rates of those who have battled breast cancer.  It is no longer a death sentence for women.  I feel bad for all those who battle any cancer.

-Roxanne H.

Joan N.

When you live your life, you seem to always find time to sit down and picture the perfect little things that combine together to make you, you. If you are anything like me, you live your life until the inevitable happens… death. Once I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in September 2016, my second journey of battling cancer, life as I once knew it suddenly changed. I felt as if I was defeated, however, despite my odds, I chose to fight.

Within two weeks after my diagnosis, a collaborative effort from my surgeons devised my plan for the best possible outcome of beating this cancer, and I had taken off of work from September 2016 to December 2016.  A Bilateral Mastectomy with tissue expanders being placed simultaneously for reconstruction surgery was scheduled. After surgery, I started my six rounds of chemotherapy and 32 treatments of radiation was scheduled to follow that. I finished my last radiation treatment in March 2017. I had a year to wait to begin reconstruction due to radiation.

During that next year, my body went through the unthinkable. I experienced two failed tissue expanders, which was treated with two major surgeries. I dealt with infection after infection. The chemo damaged my body to where I was so weak it would hurt to walk. My entire body had edema and swelling.

After my one year waiting period was over, I was then eligible for reconstruction surgery. Reconstruction surgery was scheduled for March 2018. The surgery was successful.

Ten days post-op from my reconstruction surgery, I had developed a nasty infection. My surgeon scheduled yet another surgery (surgery #6) to remove the breast implants on the right side.

Since this surgery, the only way I can receive reconstructive surgery is to do a flap procedure, which is the removal of skin from one area of my body (belly or back) and form a breast out of the flap. I chose not to do this because I am done and do not want any more surgeries.

Now, I am back at work. I am doing well, and my life has resumed like it had before my diagnosis. Thank God I am now cancer free.

-Joan N.

Holly K.

My story begins at a regularly scheduled routine mammogram in November 2014, right after my 40th birthday.

A very small lump was found in my left breast and time sort of stood still and started rolling out of control all at the same time.

I was devastated, scared, worried for myself and my family all at the same moment.

Ultrasounds, biopsies, chemo, surgeries, radiation, all in the matter of only about 9 months.

Chemo and the whole process was actually pretty uneventful for me. I feel very blessed still that I was not sick or hurting through any of it.

Besides losing every stitch of hair on my body which of course came right back, and a few scars, I’m pretty unscathed really.

There is of course the emotional side of it still. There is not a day that goes by without it being in my mind and the constant worry of if or when it might return.

But my two wonderful girls help to keep those thoughts at bay. Watching them grow and do things they enjoy, especially ride and showing their horses, is a daily reminder and push for me to get up every morning and live life just exactly how I want.

-Holly K.

Debbie S.

My ‘cancer story’ originally began in 2001. After 6 weeks of inconclusive testing, I lost my mother to a brain tumor. At that point, I realized that my grandmother, my aunt AND my mother had been stolen much too early from the deadly disease known as CANCER. I also realized that ultimately I would take my turn as well.

Yearly exams in July were always a must for me and I never questioned their importance. Therefore, it was a total shock when I found a lump in May of 2015 doing a self-exam. I did not really think it was serious because I had always been told, ‘Women who nurse their children don’t get breast cancer.’ However, I saw my doctor quickly, and got a diagnosis by June. (Ironically, this diagnosis was a few days prior to our “Monica Lopez Benefit Tournament”!) I immediately thought, ‘Okay, here it is, I am going to die soon’. I am going to leave my husband and my 12 year old son!

In July, I had a lumpectomy procedure and an ‘Onco’ test done to find out if I needed chemo. Since I was in the mid-range, the decision was mine to make. Of course, it was really no decision at all, because the prayers had been said already and my husband and I never even discussed whether or not I would have chemo. We were going to do everything possible to prolong my life!

We found a place that matched my hair color to a sample and ordered my wig, knowing that I would be losing my hair on the 14 day. Being a teacher of 6 yr old’s, I needed to keep things consistent and inconspicuous. Losing my hair, however, was worse than I ever imagined! My husband had travelled to Paraguay, so I had to enlist the help of my son in law to be my barber! (I never realized, number one, how much ‘stubble’ would stick to the pillow when you tried to sleep and number two, how cold your head would get without hair! ) My wig ‘looked’ natural, but it definitely did not ‘feel’ natural! The netting around the edge of my forehead nearly drove me insane! After my students left for the day, I would close my door and immediately yank it off! I began to realize that something had to change, so I got a book from the ACS that explained how a little girl’s mother got sick and lost her hair. Her little girl would have ‘hat day’ with her so she could share in the support of her mother. I remember telling my kids that I would still love them even if they did not have hair. I proceeded to ask them if they would still love ME if I didn’t have hair and after a bit of discussion, I told them I was wearing a wig. Of course, they wanted to see my shiny head!

My treatments were basically uneventful except for the marvelous privilege I was given to be a ‘guinea pig’. Wise Health had a new ‘shot’ called the ‘on-body injector’ from Neulasta. I was thrilled to test a new tool that would be used by future cancer patients in Decatur, Texas! The trial injections and chemo went pretty smoothly and I only had to miss 2 days of school total!

Now, it was time to tackle the radiation! I incurred severe burns under my arm and had to cut the edges off my bra as well as wear large loose fitting clothes! Treatments were done daily, Monday through Friday for 33 consecutive rounds. We set a goal to be finished before our Christmas ski trip on December 17 and I made it with 2 days to spare! (Needless to say, the fatigue prevented me from skiing that year.)

In the summer of 2016, the 3rd Annual Monica Lopez Benefit Karate Tournament was in my honor. Mr. Starnes, Monica and all of our karate family were absolutely amazing!

It has now been almost 4 years and I still feel fear when there is an unfamiliar pain somewhere because I don’t think that a person is ever really ‘cancer free’. I have vowed to live every day to the fullest, love my husband, my son and my Lord to the best of my ability. I pray that I can be a supportive, positive influence to other women facing the fight just as Monica, my school family, my karate family and my church family has been to me! No ONE person ever has cancer, FAMILY and FRIENDS have cancer!

Thank you for the opportunity to share ‘My Cancer Story’ with you!

-Debbie S.

Cheryl D.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

My story began October 10 years ago. I was in the middle of a divorce, dealing with the day to day problems and the stress of a divorce while working every day and trying to maintain my sanity.

It was past time for my yearly mammogram (three years past). I scheduled an appointment for a mammogram, plus all the other medical work ups that needed to be done, because I was about to lose my insurance. To make a long story short, the mammogram was abnormal, and I had to then face a sentinel node biopsy. But I just knew everything was fine. My follow up appointment was scheduled to be on a Friday. When the doctor’s office called and told me there had been a cancellation and could I come in today, being Wednesday? “Of course”, I said. I went in that afternoon to see the surgeon. When she walked into the room, she said that she was glad I had been good about keeping up with my routine mammograms. (Which I had not). Because they had found the cancer early and blah blah blah. That’s all I heard. Total shock. I asked her, “are you sure you have the bright patient?” She checked the chart and yes, it was mine. I had breast cancer. The following Monday I had breast cancer surgery. When I went to sleep, I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I learned later that they did not have to do a mastectomy. It was a large lumpectomy.

The surgery was outpatient and I was able to go home later that day. I had a great employer who let me take two weeks off work at that time. When I returned to work it was time to begin the radiation treatments. I was so depressed at that time that I didn’t care if I took radiation. Between the divorce and being alone and discovering I had cancer, breast cancer at that, I just didn’t care about going on any longer. At the Cancer Center there was a wonderful Nurse Navigator who talked to me numerous times and even volunteered/threatened to come get me and bring me for my treatments. She had been through breast cancer two times, so she knew what I was going through.

I began my seven weeks of five days a week radiation treatment and when my last treatment was over, I went to my car and sat and cried. I was just overwhelmed. I had reached another milestone. Thank God I did not have to undergo any chemotherapy.

I am thankful to my surgeon, my oncologist who I have seen now for ten years, the nurse navigator who treated me like her sister, the plastic surgeon who worked his wonders, my employer at that time and my family for being there.

Today I visited my oncologist, who has been there for 10 years, and he told me, “all your blood work is good, everything looks fine, come back in one year.”

Ten years a breast cancer survivor. I never thought that I would see this time in my life. Who knows what the next ten has in store for me.

-Cheryl D.

Beth C.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

August 11, 2014 is a day I will never forget….32 years old, dairy farmer wife and mother of 3….just being told I have stage 3 breast cancer.  6 months prior to that was when I suspected something was wrong.  Being so young and no family history and no health insurance made thus diagnosis near impossible.  Finally after months of being told I was fine…..1 mammogram…2 ultrasounds and a course of antibiotics….I finally found a surgeon that did a biopsy to reveal what I had been telling them for months.  So after I had a moment to deal with the anger and fear….I was jumping into treatment.  I had a port placed, started chemo…..6 months of hard chemo….followed by a bilateral mastectomy 3 weeks after chemo completion…..weeks of physical therapy and expander fills….I had to start weekly radiation treatments….32 total.  My skin was badly burned so about 5 weeks in…..had to take 2 weeks off to heal.  Once I was finished with radiation….I started on a hormone blocker called Tamoxifen.   In April 2016….I had my reconstruction surgery where they made my new “foobs” as I call them out of my belly fat.  It was a long surgery and a long recovery….but it was worth it.  So I thought I was free and clear…..but little did I know….cancer was waiting to make its appearance again.  The fall of 2017….I had started to not feel myself.  Was tired a lot….felt off.  Since I was going back to see my local oncologist every couple months….i brought it to his attention.  I kept being told it was a side effect from the tamoxifen…..and who was I to doubt him??? Well I did….only because I learned to listen to my body.  December 2017….I checked myself into the ER because I feared I was having a heart attack.  I had terrible heartburn that wouldn’t go away….regardless of what I took, what I ate…etc.  My blood work all came back normal….it was not my heart.  After fighting with the ER doc to do more testing…a CT scan showed an enlarged lymph node in my chest….which was causing my discomfort.  And the “C” word was brought up again….REALLY! I was so angry…..but I decided to go see a new oncologist.  After getting not one, but 2 biopsies on the node….my fear became reality.  It was cancer….I was/am now stage 4….terminal, metastatic Breast cancer.  There is no cure. After starting on new chemo, oral this time…..and having PET scans every 3 months…..they have found disease in my bones, liver and brain.  Cancer doesn’t define who I am…..but it is my new normal….my husband and kids new normal.  I have learned a lot….lost a lot…..but gained more than you can imagine.  My faith in God and love of my friends and family has gotten me to where I am today.  One thing I have learned through all of this is to trust your body….cancer doesn’t care who you are, how much money you have, how healthy you are….it will uproot your life in a blink of an eye.  Your body will tell you….you need to listen and stay proactive.  Not only am I a Breast cancer survivor….I am a Breast cancer Warrior…..and I am tough enough to wear pink!

-Beth C.

Deanna S.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

Being from a small rural community has its benefits and downsides.  While I had always enjoyed the benefits the downside presented a challenge in my treatment when I was diagnosed at age 41 with multi focal, invasive ductal, hormone positive breast cancer at the age of 41.  This jumble of words translated into how my breast cancer was treated, age and family history also play roles in treatment plans.  As for me I had no family history of breast cancer, both my sister and mom passed away in 2008, so it was my close group of girlfriends that helped me make decisions.  

In April 2012 I found a small firm tender non movable mass in my breast.  I had been very good about performing breast self-exams and I recognized as a change, notified my Doctor and within days had my mammogram, biopsy and diagnosis of breast cancer.  My immediate reaction was to comfort my coworker who delivered the news.  I just kept saying we caught it early, but it would not be easy, the first obstacle was insurance.

I chose to get an opinion from a provider in Tulsa that was in network in Tulsa OK, 90 miles away.  I left that visit discouraged and confused as to where next to turn.  My next option was out of network and understanding the potential cost of treatment eliminated that option.  My next in network option was 600 miles away.  I would drive to Tulsa board a plane to be covered in- network.  For 18 months I made the trip every 3 weeks.  I had surgery to remove both breasts, chemotherapy and a smart antibody treatment along with multiple surgical complications including a blood clot to my lung. Traveling was rigorous.  My 20 year marriage had ended shortly before my diagnosis  and I was raising my twin 16 year old daughters, my 12 year old son plus working  full time; I felt like a ringmaster trying to keep everything going.  In retrospect traveling to my appointments forced me to focus on my care even if for a few days at a time.

Support during breast cancer is very dynamic you gain friends, and you lose friends. Learning to accept help from others is a lesson and a blessing.  Being single during this was difficult and I did not want to burden my friends so I coped frequently on my own.  A close friend recognized this and together we created a closed social media group for area women, which now has 280 members.  We have a completely open forum so that all the uncomfortable topics can be addressed.  Breast cancer isn’t just pink ribbons it is ugly scars, loss of your hair, loss of feeling and many other dynamics that don’t get addressed sometimes even by the treatment team. 

Since 2012 many things have changed and the healing continues.  Helping other women deal with the fear of a biopsy, the breast cancer results, the aftermath of treatment has in turn helped me heal.  My wish is that no one deal with this alone.  My plea is that men and women learn their breast tissue by doing self-exams and get your mammograms yearly.  Early detection saves lives.

-Deanna S.

Veda M.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

In September I found a small lump in my right breast. A week later my son gave me whooping cough. I coughed so long and hard, I had a pain start under the spot where the lump was. The pain was so bad I was having trouble working. This caused me to go on to the doctor when normally I would have put it off. The doctor said I had two broken ribs from the coughing and sent me on to a specialist for the lump in my breast.

After going to the doctor and having three different tests I was notified that it was cancer. I went to see the surgeon he recommended a double mastectomy because it was already stage two and very aggressive cancer. That’s why I say whooping cough saved my life it made me go to the doctor.

Three weeks later I had surgery of double mastectomy luckily the cancer hadn’t spread to my nobs they started reconstruction at the same time.

A month after surgery I started chemo. Fourteen days later my hair started to fall out. I also ended up in the emergency room because I wasn’t drinking enough fluids and my kidneys were shutting down.  They gave me fluids and sent me home. From this point on everything tasted like metal and I had to make myself eat and drink.

I took chemo every week for five months then every 21 days for a year and a month. During this time, I stayed sick and tired. When I was sick my eight-year old son would get cold wet rags and try his best to take care of me. He felt like it was his place to take care of me since it was just me and him. I would sleep during the day so I would have the energy to take my son to his activities and spend the evenings with him.

I had a hysterectomy to help prevent the cancer from returning. After eight surgeries and over a year of chemo I was told that I was cancer free. I have had my check-ups every six months then every year so far so good.

So whooping cough saved my life, my son and I had one really bad year to have the rest of our lives together.

-Veda M.

Adrienne B.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

June 4, 2018, I went to the doctor for a pre-op appointment for a hysterectomy. I mentioned to my doctor that my breast was hurting. He sent me down for a mammogram and six and half hours later I left fighting breast cancer. I spent most of June and early July getting many scans and visiting hospitals. I started chemotherapy on July 11th. It was very difficult for the next two weeks, but I celebrated my 37th birthday getting my second dose of chemotherapy. I had a birthday party in the infusion room. I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me from celebrating with my family. I continued chemotherapy, even having a very scary allergic reaction during one of my infusions. I spent my daughters first year of showing chickens at our county fair not being able to be there for her. Other parents helped her with her animals and let her hang out with them while I stayed in the camper. Even though I felt horrible, I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on her first year. On October 23rd I finished my treatments. Our family celebrated with a party. We thought things were getting easier and the worst was behind us, when my father in law passed away. My next step in recovery was a mastectomy. On December 3rd I had a double mastectomy. Cancer was found in 2 lymph nodes. I started radiation on January 14, 2019. I am currently on 21 of 33 treatments. I receive one shot a month of Zolodex to put me into menopause because my cancer is fed by estrogen. Once radiation is over I will start taking pills for the next 10 years to stop my cancer from coming back. Throughout all of this my family, friends, 4-H and work family have gotten me to this point. We have always remained positive. Breast Cancer does not discriminate. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I have been there to talk her through everything and to give her advice. I hope I can be an inspiration to others for years to come. Thank you for letting me tell my story 💕

-Adrienne B