Stephanie Lunt, a 37-year-old mother and wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2010. She was 34 years old and completely taken aback by her diagnosis, as there had been no history of breast cancer in her family at all.
"It was completely unexpected. I had no history, did no self exams; I wasn't even thinking of looking for anything. When I found the lump, the doctor said it was probably nothing, but sent me to get tests done anyway. After that, it was kind of a whirlwind," Lunt said.
Lunt seemed to have a very common reaction to the news of her diagnosis.
"I was in shock," she said. "When I told people, it's almost like I was talking about someone else. It hadn't completely registered that it was me." She said the hardest person to tell was her daughter, who was 8 years old at the time.
"From day one, I got a good plan together with my doctors and took everything head on. I wanted to know about everything: my diagnosis, my procedures, my recovery, everything," Lunt said. She proceeded to undergo a double mastectomy in August, followed by 16 rounds of chemotherapy and the drug Herceptin which she finished taking last December.
Lunt said that she had no choice but to have a mastectomy on one side of her breasts, because the cancer was so spread out and had gotten into her lymph nodes. "I didn't want to be in this same situation 10 years from now, so I was being proactive and went ahead and got them both done."
Lunt had an excellent support system during her journey. Her family was a large part of staying strong while on the road to recovery. "My parents live in Savannah, and every time I had chemo, they would come stay with me. There was also my sister who lives in Tampa, and she came and spent three weeks with me after my first surgery, which took the longest to recover from."
Lunt said her church was another big part of her support system. She had already been going to Eastridge for about nine years prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer. "I really don't have family around here, but between my friends and church family, we were taken care of."
Lunt also relied heavily on her husband Jake, for support. She said she could not have gone through this difficult time without him.
"He was by my side through the entire journey and we are excited that we were able to just celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary," Lunt said.
Since her recovery, Lunt works part time for the Children's Ministry at Eastridge, and has become very involved with the Newton Medical Hope Boutique in the Women's Diagnostic Center at Newton Medical Center. The program is entirely run by volunteers, who are all breast cancer survivors. Lunt and the other volunteers talk to women who have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, sit with them during chemo, and offer any other type of support that they can.
The program raises money, all of which goes to current breast cancer patients: providing them with wigs, blankets for chemo, head scarves, help books, and anything else they might need. "We just let them know they're not alone, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a hard journey, but everything is going to be OK."
"Everything that's happened has changed me because before then, I had never volunteered for anything like that. We all learned through our experience that it isn't just you that cancer affects. Breast cancer affects your whole family, your friends, everybody. Whoever we need to be there for, we're there for," Lunt said.
Lunt now feels very strongly about women being proactive with their check ups.
"Mammograms and check ups are important," she said. "Women know their bodies better than anyone else, and they have to be the biggest advocate. If you think something's not right, you need to get it checked. Family history does not matter."