To send in your story of battling breast cancer or how it affected your family, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your comments at the bottom of this article.
The Rockdale News asked survivors and those who have been touched by breast cancer in their families to tell us about their experience.
Breast cancer survivor of 31 years, owner of Ambrosia Expressions gift shop
I grew up in Nashville. I’ve been in Georgia for 25 years. I’m a high risk because my grandmother had breast cancer. Coming from a family of all girls, two of the four sisters had breast cancer. And it missed my mother. My second sister was diagnosed before I was. She went through five years and got it again. She is now doing well. It’s been three or four years since that last time.
I don’t remember at what age I was when I realized (my grandmother) had breast cancer.
I do remember her talking with me about breast cancer and showing me. I can still remember how my grandmother looked when she had no breast tissue. That’s something you never forget as a child growing up. Seeing your grandmother with a bare chest.
When I was diagnosed, my thoughts were — what is that? Has it been there before?
I had to have a mastectomy.
It made me be more aware. Of being fortunate enough to be a survivor and to continue what I need to do — doing the self check and going for my checkups.
I have to have (a mammogram) every year. I go to St. Joseph’s. I keep asking them when is that going to change? They have not changed in 31 years. You know how medicine has improved, how science has improved. But the mammogram has not changed. I’m surprised the process has not changed after that length of time.
It (surviving breast cancer) will always be a part of me.
Co-owner of Clean & Tidy Carpet Cleaner
My mother is a 13 year survivor of breast cancer. She is a survivor and happy and excited about that.
My daughter-in-law has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
We’re facing a long battle. We’re facing months of chemo. We’re facing additional biopsies. We’re facing big surgery, after the chemo. It’s an incredible battle physically, emotionally, physically, financially.
We’re still kind of numb. Immediately you think what’s the best care for her. It definitely brings the family closer to focus on her.
You kind of put aside whatever you think is the hard thing in your life and your focus goes to the person and what her needs are.
Stuff becomes less important. Stuff in your life. I’m a member of First Baptist. The pastor’s going through a series — losing your life. Going from material things and things that don’t matter and gaining the things that do matter.
That’s where we’re at with this.
The whole experience has been, go to a specialist. Don’t settle for the first course of treatment handed to you.
I have a 16 year old Mary Kay business. That’s the way I can see I can help them, financially. The one thing I have determined to do is donate 20 percent of all of my sales directly back to the support of whatever it is they need Anyone interested in purchasing products, skin care, analysis, can call (770) 761-8961.
Who lost her mother Jean King to cancer
The four of us (siblings) were kids. I was 12. I remember when she came home from the doctor the first time. I remember she felt badly, but I don’t remember the details. She had so many treatments. But it didn’t matter what treatment she had, she tried to be brave. She and Aunt Bernice talked about the fact she wouldn’t be here. She was 37, which is really young.
There’s three sisters. There have been some scares. I have aunts who have had breast cancer. It makes you so much more aware when it’s right there in your family, to see the devastation. The treatments they give are so harsh. They have to be, I get that. It ends up taking all the joy out of any life they have left. But you don’t know. You have to make that choice. I think Mom got to a point where she was too tired. She ultimately died of pneumonia.
The biggest thing is when you see it first hand. It’s like that car wreck you see driving down the road. That’s too bad, but you keep going.
But when it’s in your face, it affects you. You don’t want your children to have to go without a mom.
Know that you could be the one it hits next. Know your body. When things change, go to the doctor.
I remember when I hit my 37th birthday, I thought, let’s make it through one more year and I’ll live longer than she did. When I got to 38, it was, you know, I’m going to be OK.
Thank God my aunt was there. Some people are not as fortunate to have someone love us like she did and know our mother and take care of us like she would.
Breast cancer survivor of 6 years
I have faithfully had an annual mammogram done since I was in my late 20s. In September of 2005, I kept having shooting pains that went from the front of my rib cage to the center of my back. It wasn’t all the time at first, but then it got to be more and more often. I finally went to see the doctor for back pain. She ordered several tests, including a chest x-rays. They discovered a lump at the lower edge of the right breast, but imbedded in the muscle wall attached to the ribs. That was what caused the pain. It was in a spot that did not show up on a normal mammogram. I received eight rounds of chemotherapy, had a lumpectomy and then had 30 days of radiation treatments.
My daughter was just starting middle school. She knew I was sick, but I don’t know that she knew that it could be fatal; mommies are always there. My husband was obviously afraid we wouldn’t win this battle, but he was beside me all the way to make sure I had everything I needed to get better. That included going to a lot of doctor’s appointments, preparing meals for the family, being mom and dad to a very active sixth grader and helping me through long days of weakness and vomiting. My Mom, my sisters and my extended family helped keep my spirits up by sending cards, little gifts, phone calls and even coming down from Virginia to take care of me when my husband and daughter had to go to California for a competition.
You go through the different stages of denial, pity, anger and lots of other emotions, but I never once believed that I would not live through this. I have always been a take charge kind of person and know that I can manage nearly any situation. But in this case, I just let go and let God handle it. The entire time I was ill I had a picture that stayed in my mind. At the top is a brilliantly shining cross of gold that shines over me as I am being lifted by many, many hands. There are no faces, just hands. I felt these represented the many people whom I knew and didn’t even know who were using their hands to lift me up in prayer or to meet the physical needs of myself and my family when I didn’t have the strength to do it.
There are so many wonderful things that occurred during my illness. My daughter's team of teachers sponsored a fundraiser and all wore ribbons in order to support cancer research. One of the students in my homeschool music program cut off her beautiful long hair and donated it to Locks for Love in honor of my battle.
Friends and neighbors that I rarely saw and some I didn't even now, made sure I had food, that my daughter got to and from practices and programs, and took care of all of the little things a Mom does. They allowed me to spend my energy on surviving. Thank you to the many unsung heroes that contributed to me being here today.
It's not all sad and bad. There were one or two funny moments. I was wearing my "cranial prosthetic device" (wig) while attending a PTO meeting.
Funny story. I was PTO president at Edwards Middle School when I was going through treatment. Of course, I lost all of my hair and had to wear a "cranial prosthetic device" (wig) when I dressed up. At a recruitment meeting for PTO members and officers for the next year, a gentleman was giving me the excuse that he couldn't be an officer because, he "was an officer once and (pulling off his hat) this is what happened (bald head)." I shot back by pulling off my wig and saying, "Me too, but that doesn't stop me!"
Advice to others? Get a second opinion. Make sure that you eat a healthy diet including lots of healthy protein. Attempt to live your life as normally as possible. Follow the doctors' directions. Keep a journal of your journey and focus on the positive aspects of your life. If your doctor offers counseling and medication to fight depression, take it! It doesn't mean you're crazy; it means the chemo is throwing the chemical structure of your body for a loop and you may need medication to set it back to normal. There may come a time when the chemo makes you too weak or too confused to ask for help, so set up a support system to help you get through it. It's okay to cry; it is not a sign of weakness. Read, study, find out all you can about the enemy and defeat them. Fight the battle hard and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up. Pray. Every day above ground is a good one!