Starla Taylor: 2003 Age 50
On January 9, 2002 I was canoeing through the mangroves of the Everglades. We paddled all afternoon trying to reach the Lard Can chickee, a raised platform camping shelter. We didnt make it. We had started too late in the day and as days turn to night early in January , we elected to be safe and turn back. That evening a vein popped out in my neck. It was concerning and unusual. It didnt go away. Upon returning to my hometown I went straight to my doctor. He immediately took a chest x-ray. When he returned to the examining room to speak with me, I knew it was something serious. He sat down in front of me and looking me in the eye said he wanted me to see the best pulmonary specialist in town on this same day. As there were no openings in that busy doctors calendar, he sent me to the emergency room of the hospital where that doctor worked knowing I would eventually be seen by him. My right lung was filled with so much fluid it was pressing on my pulmonary artery and that is what was bulging from my neck. I had spent the previous week paddling and biking and hiking in Florida Keys and Everglades with the use of only one lung. I had noticed shortness of breath but chalked it up to being almost 50 years old and out-of-shape. How wrong I was!
I’m A Man And I Have Metastatic Breast Cancer
‘Men get breast cancer too, and we just want to be part of the conversation’ – Rob
Rob was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer when he was 57 years old. He believes his diagnosis of metastatic disease was the result of being diagnosed with breast cancer late, and he puts this down to a lack of awareness that men can get breast cancer too. Rob shared his story for our Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate campaign in 2016.
Breast Seed Localization Offers A More Patient
After completing chemotherapy, Sheila was scheduled for her lumpectomy with Dr. Cappuccino. Prior to the surgery, in a process called breast seed localization, a tiny titanium seed with a small amount of sealed radiation was inserted into Sheilas breast to mark the exact location of her small tumor. Roswell Park is one of the only area facilities to use this more patient-friendly procedure that eliminates the use of an uncomfortable tracking wire that protrudes from the patients breast.
During the surgery, Dr. Cappuccino used a radiation detection device to locate and remove the seed and the tumor. During the same operation and same incision 20 lymph nodes were removed and analyzed, and only one showed evidence of cancer.
Sheila still has part of her treatment journey ahead of her, including completing radiation therapy with radiation oncologist Simon Fung-Kee-Fung, MD, but is already thinking forward to the healing. She will soon begin hormone-suppressing medication and will receive care and training from specialists in the Lymphedema Clinic to manage lymphedema in her arm, a condition in which lymphatic fluid builds up as a result of lymph node removal.
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Virginia Vaughn: 2003 Age 43
My monthly cycle had been out of whack for a long time. Instead of a one week per month cycle, it was three weeks with only one week off each month. This went on for almost a year. My gyn did a pap, tv ultrasound and endometrial biopsy — to no avail. There was bloating, but I was never sent to get a CA125.
In late February 1999, I had severe abdominal pain and nausea. I went to the ER. After numerous tests, they found fluid in the left pelvic region and put in a catheter to drain it. After one week they sent me home. The gyn felt it was not gyn related, but rather diverticulitis. I underwent a colonoscopy, which only discovered a tiny polyp . I felt the doctors knew what they were talking about and went home to go on with my daily routine.
In mid-May, the severe pain and nausea returned. At the ER, after numerous tests over approx 24 hours, they found the fluid had returned and doubled, my wbc was more than double what it should be and on exam, they felt a mass in the left pelvic area. When antibiotics and pain medication did not appear to clear up the problem, exploratory surgery was scheduled. During the surgery, a tumor was found on my left ovary. Even at this point, my gyn didn’t feel it was cancer, but rather a large cyst. The pathologist returned with a diagnosis of cancer. I underwent a total hysterectomy, including removal of the omentum, lymph nodes and the lining of the bladder. There were microscopic cells on the omentum and one lymph node was positive.
Molly Grubbs: Love And Kindness
Molly Grubbs is celebrating because its been exactly one year since her last chemo treatment.
Molly, who has been a part of Lee Health for five years, visited her primary care doctor in 2016 for a routine breast exam. During the exam, the doctor found a small spot.
A mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy determined that the spot was benign. After a follow-up appointment six months later, she was reassured that she was healthy. Molly returned three years later, a few days after she turned 40. A 3D mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and an MRI showed that the same spot that had once been benign had turned cancerous, and it had spread.
Molly received a diagnosis of stage two invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ. Her right breast had three spots of cancer that had spread into the lymph nodes. She also learned that she was estrogen dominant and her body had difficulty detoxing through her liver. Molly started her treatments right away and took advantage of the incredible care and expertise of the staff at the Regional Cancer Center.
The gift in my diagnosis was seeing how much love and kindness my family, friends, and co-workers shared with me during this difficult time, Molly said. I felt supported and encouraged every step of my journey.
Australian Ovca: 2008 Age 55
I am an Australian and live in Brisbane Queensland. For a year or more I had been feeeling very tired, working long hours, sometimes 85 hours per week in a girl’s boarding school. The catalyst came when I took a girl to the emergency room at the local hospital and stayed there for hours. The next morning I could not find the girl’s personal file which I took with me. My mind had gone blank. My boss wasn’t happy and I was threatened with dismissal. I loved my job and for the life of me could not understand why this happened.
So I went to my local GP who said that I was suffering from stress and wanted to put me on an antidepressants. I was tired but never really felt stressed out, so I went to another GP, a lady this time. She acknowledged that there was something very wrong and asked if I had any other symptoms. So I mentioned that I had problems with my bowel, like if I was shopping and felt pain, I had to always run for the nearest bathroom. She sent me to have a virtual colonoscopy, and when the results came back it said I was OK, on reading the results I felt there was something wrong as they mentioned a tubal ligation and I had never had one.
I had many friends at one stage but when they found out about my cancer they dwindled away, but I have made new ones and they have been wonderful. I don’t know what will happen to me in the future although now I live each day as it comes and try not to worry about the future.
Kathleen Smookler: 2001 Age 45
I was diagnosed with fourth stage Ovarian Cancer over two years ago at the age of 45. I am a two time Survivor, the first one was Breast Cancer in one breast almost ten years ago. I am doing just fine, thanksto My Spiritual Growth with God, and love and support from my family and our humor, which for me is so important!! I am waiting to hear from my insurance company for the ok on the Gene Test since this runs in my family. I have two daughters in their thirties that are waiting to see if I have the Gene!! Positive thinking is my answer so therefore I have a fifty per cent chance I don’t carry this!! The waiting is the mostfrustrating part for me. I take one day at a time and Thank God everyday for being here to help others!! Sincerely, Kathleen Smookler
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Three Dots Mark The Spot
I got my first tattoos at the age of 41: three tiny, distinct blue dots not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. There is one punctuation mark in 12-point font in the center of my chest and two slightly smaller polka dots on each side of my rib cage.
The pin pricks in my sides were easy, nothing more than light pokes. But I let out an audible yelp when they injected the needle into the taut layer of skin over my sternum. Read the rest of Liberty Barnes’ story.
Real Life Stories Of Breast Cancer Patients
Stories of breast cancer patients and their journeys from symptoms, through to diagnosis, surgery and beyond are becoming all too familiar as more women are diagnosed, but how they cope is as individual as they are. No two journeys are the same but there is a lot of common ground, and as such, a lot that can be learned when breast cancer patients share their stories with others, whether thats in person, in the media or simply with a friend.
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Elder Vanessa Marshall: 2006 Age 47
It is a true statement that trials come to make you strong and God will not give you more than you can handle. My mother Vanessa is a social worker for an Institution for the mentally challenged for over 20 years. She loves her profession, because she loves working with and helping others. Many of the residents family members have treated my mom as if she was their own loved one. My mom also loves her church family. Being an Elder in the ministry, my mom ministers with comedy/simplicity. After being saved since 1975, she accepted her call into the ministry in January 1993 as an Evangelist. Working in the ministry was her greatest joy, witnessing to others about the goodness of Jesus, Love of God, and the gift of salvation.Her desire was to see her family and friends accept Christ and live a life pleasing to him. My mom is a mother of two girls and 7 grandchildren. She is a graduate of VSU with a Masters in Sociology. She has spent the last 20 plus years of her life working in the ministry.In April of 2005 after 5 months of being terribly ill she was diagnosed with OVCA Stage 3C.
Because of the peg tube, my mother was only to have clear liquids for her diet. I remember telling her..One more challenge, one more miracle..She called me her cheerleader.
Donations may be made in lieu of HOPE:
Helping Others Patiently Endure, a Christian Cancer Support Group 49 Walnut Blvd. Petersburg,Va 23803
Patti Tarango: 2006 Age 30
My ovarian cancer story started on a brilliant California Halloween day in 2002, when fatigue and a mild increase in abdominal girth brought me into my internist’s office. I’d just celebrated my 30th birthday the week before, and was in the best shape of my life. I’d been training for the LA Marathon, was up to 16 miles at a time, and couldn’t figure out why I was gaining weight. He felt a mass in my right lower quadrant and sent me for a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound, thinking it was probably nothing.
Bilateral echogenic masses on the ultrasound sent me strolling to the OB/GYN’s office. He thought it was probably endometriosis and suggested waiting a few months and watching it. I’ve never one to stand up to doctors , but a little voice told me “waiting and watching” just wasn’t good enough. Since I wanted to try to get pregnant after the marathon in March, I asked that he do an exploratory laparoscopy to get a definitive diagnosis.
The GYN came out of the OR the morning of my laparoscopy and told my husband that I had dermoid cysts but they were too big to be removed laparascopically. He biopsied the one on my right ovary and sent it off to the pathologist.
The next day, two days before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my GYN’s partner . All I remember from that day was writing out the words “serous papillary carcinoma” as we were on the phone, and knowing my life was about to completely change.
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Maureen’s Mom: 2006 Age 64
My mom was dx Stage 111B Dec2000. She had total abdominal hysterectomy and omenectomy. Chemo taxol/carbo for 6 cycles then topotecan. She had DVT and blood clot on her inferior vena cava. Treated with Coumadin for 2 years. Complete remission until June 2004 Ca125 began rising. Pet Scan showed one lymph node in groin was positive. Lymph node removed, 6 weeks radiation and weekly carbo. Became sensitive to carbo and switched to weekly gemzar. Ca125 lowered to 20, began elevating Feb 2006. Pet scan April 5,2006 showed small spots on intestines. Started Doxcil, and received 2 doses. Last weekend had severe constipation unrelieved, then went to ER. Intestinal obstruction underwent surgery on thursday, June 1st. She now has colostomy and fistula. Three tumors were not resectable. Plan is for PICC for nutrtion . My mom is a trooper, wants chemo ASAP and trying to convince oncologist to go with platinum drug with premeds so she doesn’t react. Initially my mom had GI symptoms heartburn and bloating, no appetite. She was told she had ulcer, IBS or gall stones. I fought for a cat scan and she was finally diagnosed. If something is not right speak up, scream and demand testing!!! I have endometriosis and have undergone fertility treatments. I demand a transvaginal sonogram. I’ll create symptoms if I have to. I will be screened and not let this silent killer strike again!! Please pray for my mom. Thank you.
Becky Bennett: 2004 Age 44
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer September 27, 2001 during an exploratory surgery. My cancer was Endometrioid Adenocarcinoma , weighed 10lbs., the size of a watermelon. I was given six treatment of Carboplatin/Taxol chemotherapy therapy was administered three weeks apart. I had regular pap smears and pelvic examinations twice a year beginning in 1987 until 2000 with no irregular results. I experienced the following symptoms over a period of time: weight gain, edema, pelvic swelling and tenderness, amenorrhea, fatigue, rise in blood pressure, headaches, frequent urination, acid reflux, depression, pulmonary embolus, sleep apnea and umbilical hernia.My symptoms that went undiagnosed:
1986 – dysphasia stage 3 – removed with laser surgery1990 – pelvis swelling and discomfort1992 – pelvic enlargement and tenderness, amenorrhea1993 – amenorrhea, weight gain
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Wanda Heit: A Role Model And Fighter
Wanda Heit has been at Lee Health for nearly 17 years.
Four months after a routine mammogram with normal results, Wanda felt a lump on the outer edge of her left breast. Her surgeon was confident that the lump would be benign, so Wanda had it removed.
But just three days later, she received devastating news: Stage 3 breast cancer.
I was shocked to hear those words, you have breast cancer, with no family history of breast cancer, five sisters, and I just had a mammogram with no signs, Wanda said.
Wanda decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery after determining that the cancer was only in her left breast. Surgeons removed nine lymph nodes, and seven of those were positive. That meant radiation treatment.
Wanda began aggressive chemotherapy treatments, which took a toll on her body. She developed painful mouth sores, and she had a low white blood cell count. She then had to undergo a second round of radiation.
Support from her husband, co-workers, and long-distance family pushed her to continue fighting.
Sheila H: 2004 Age 49
I am an Ovarian Cancer survivor from Montana and moved here last year. Two years ago, I had a cold and coughed quite hard and pain went through my body like a knife. The next day, after 5 hours of surgery, the doctor removed a 6lb, football sized tumor. I had no idea I had cancer. The only symptoms I had was heartburn, which started a month before the tumor ruptured and a little bloatness, which my doctor’s nurses thought might be attributed to an ulcer, so treated me for that.
It took me a little while to get over my anger that this was not caught earlier as i had been to the doctor 3 months prior, talking of pain and discomfort. I am very much aware of how lucky I am to be here, so I am not angry anymore.
I was thinking about talking to someone about lobbying to have ultrasounds or something available to women to detect this cancer. I am obviously here for a reason, not too mention an angel must be watching over me. The cancer was contained to that tumor and did not spread, God only knows why. I think something more has to be done to detect this cancer early. I read everyday women dying from this cancer.
If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions or if I can be of some help, please email me and let me know. If I can help one person, I know my efforts have not been wasted. Thank you in advance for your time.