BODIES OF COURAGE - STORIES...(more to follow) 

    Alma

I was working for a local hospital and they purchased a Mammogram Bus for the community. They offered employees a mammo for free so I said ok.  I was approached in the hallway by a Doctor who said they detected a lump and that they had scheduled me for surgery the following Friday. Again I said ok. I met with the surgeon and we discussed the plan. I told him to do what ever he thought was needed. I was very faithful and trusting God that this would be minor, they would take it out and I would be back at work on Monday. well that did not happen. I woke up to find I was admitted with a breast missing. Now what! I knew nothing about cancer breast or other wise. I am a single mom with three young children. WOW. I put my head up and kept moving . Six months of chemo. Not the knowledge we have today just wing it. My saving grace I believe was my faith and the fact I had to take care of my children. I told no one of what was going on , so when I was admitted everyone knew. I have been blessed to only have a one more scare, and that was a lump removed from the other one but it was ok. I am well today. I now deal with the fact my 41 year old daughter has been fighting for three straight years, so I stay strong to help her. I wish there was more then, but I am really grateful for all the support available today. No one has to do this alone ever again. I found faces of courage years later and am very happy for Peggie and the whole crew. I have learned you can't always help others but you can always help yourself.

Tish

I am Tisha and I have cancer. I originally started with breast cancer in 1998. It was a small spot behind the nipple. Because my mom had breast cancer before, I decided to have the whole breast taken. I was in remission for 10yrs. In 2007 I had breast cancer again in the other breast. This time it was stage 4, very aggressive. That was the second mastectomy and the first time for chemotherapy. I got thru it and was doing good for a while. In 2010 I was diagnosed with bone cancer. It was a metastasis from the breast. I had been on maintanence drugs until now, 2012. I have a spot of cancer on my liver. I am now on chemotherapy again. It is also a metastasis from the breast. I pray that God continues to bless me and keep me independent and smiling and most of all blessed. Please pray for me if you don't know me and if you do, please continue to pray for me as I am for everyone else. Thank you for listening. 

 

EDITORS NOTE: In the Spring of 2013, Tish lost her battle with

Cancer.

 

Herb

 

A MBC Survivors's Story

 

My name is Herb and at the age of 69, I am a 7.5 year breast cancer survivor. Although very rare, approximately 1% of all breast cancer is diagnosed in men. It is estimated (in 2010) that about 2000 men in the US and approximately 200 men in Canada are diagnosed annually with male breast cancer (MBC). As a result, approximately 450 men in the US and about 45 men in Canada will die from this disease each year. When diagnosed with the same type and grade of tumor at the same stage, the prognosis and treatment options for men is similar to that for women. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for men is not as good as for women because, more often than not, male breast cancer is diagnosed at a later, more advanced stage. Consequently, the survival rate for men diagnosed with breast cancer is about 76% compared to about 87% for women. This is in part due to the fact that many men are unaware that breast cancer is a disease that can affect them and also because men, in generally, are reluctant to seek medical advice, especially about a breast issue. Consequently, my mission has become to increase male breast cancer awareness and therefore, early detection.
 

Carol

A Personal Story By Carol

I play soccer, run, lift weights, ride horses, and rescue animals. I work tirelessly as a single mom, and I work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet and I have…no health insurance. I have always been consistent with my mammograms, which I received through the Mammography Voucher Program (MVP).

On April 4, 2008, a biopsy from the results of a questionable mammogram revealed invasive ductile carcinoma in my right breast. I was shocked and sad in that I felt that my body had betrayed me. As a result of my biopsy, it was hard to keep my arms up and as a result, I was unable to work. MVP referred me to the Pinellas County Health Program, which referred me to one of their surgeons that would provide me with a mastectomy without an option of reconstruction. Although the federal government mandates insurance carriers provide a woman with the option of breast reconstruction, the county program does not. However, I was able to get a referral from the county surgeon who was not comfortable treating my cancer, to go to Moffitt Cancer Center.

I met with Dr. John Kiluk, a surgeon at the Moffitt Breast Center. The first words out of his mouth were, “Do not worry about anything” and that his job is “first, to eradicate the cancer and second, to make me look good.” He presented my options based on my pathology reports; and it was my choice in how to approach the surgical aspects of the treatment.

In retrospect, I know that my breasts do not define me. However, a wave of nostalgia swept over me as I remembered breast-feeding both my children, and I thought about my figure flattering collection of vintage dresses. My reality was to get rid of the cancer and I will deal with my emotional and physical trauma later.

I had my breast reconstruction surgery with Dr. Paul Smith. He is a true artist, and I am amazed at the results. The breast cancer patients at Moffitt are true warriors. We face this beast called cancer, with strength and integrity and at the end of the day; our faith is with our doctors, family and friends to help us through the tough times. Faces of Courage is a divine Non-profit organization that is structured with a mission to meet the needs of all cancer survivors at varying stages of treatment. 

Michelle

 

The story of Michelle ...

I was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 4 in 2004, actually on my 36th birthday. It's been a long journey and I continue to fight back. In 2005 I had a bilateral mastectomy.  In 2008 I was to discover yet another cancer, uterine cancer.  In 2009 I had a reoccurrence at stage 4 in the same breast area although I no longer had breasts and it's metastatic. I am now a four-time cancer survivor.  There have been many treatments of various types but my family and I, along with a loving supportive group of friends continue on fighting. All in all, the journey has taught me a lot of things about myself, about other people and how to just live life to the fullest while I can. Because of this experience, I've decided to be proactive in helping others become aware of the importance of early detection.  I feel the need to give back because I don't want another woman to feel the terror that I felt when I heard those words, “You have cancer.”

 

 

EDITORS NOTE: In the Spring of 2012, Michelle lost her battle with Cancer.

Wendy

 

Wendy

What is the definition of a survivor?
S - strong
U - unyielding
R - resilient
V - vivacious
I - intelligent
V - victorious
O - optimistic
R - reborn
I am a survivor; 5 times,
30 years.

Shari

 

Long distance bicycling is my thing! I added golf to my athletic agenda to enjoy it with my husband. My breast was sore after adopting a new golf swing. Although I had always done monthly self breast exams, I questioned if I could have been even more thorough. I found the lump myself, got tested, and received the breast cancer diagnosis from my doctor. The Baccalaureate trained Registered Nurse in me took over and I was very logical. Days later the fear crept in, and then later, the tears.

I was not alone. Even though my sisters were not nearby, I had others who were. My beloved husband was my primary source of encouragement and love through out my treatment period. He still is. I was going to forgo all treatments, and enjoy the rest of my life, which I thought would be shortened by this disease because as a nurse I had seen cancer patients at the end of life in the hospital and had lost many friends and family members who were not helped by cancer treatments. My husband introduced me to a handsome vibrant man at our golf club who had bravely faced his cancer treatments, and had stories to tell of thriving long term survivors! He prayed with me right there on the golf course, and I decided to go for treatment. In addition, I found that my cancer support group provided amazing examples of survival, camaraderie and information exchange…leading to some very valuable and special relationships which I enjoy and value today. How I value these “sisters” and other friends who have drawn near and dear to me!

I asked a lots and lots of questions…I questioned everything and every one…until I was satisfied! For example, I interviewed several surgeons and chose one that best suited me. At my request, my oncologist offered several treatment options. This process felt very empowering.

In spite of breast surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I was able to work full time, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done…and before treatment I had gone 100 miles on my bike in the mountains in one day!

My husband continues to show his support in so many ways. Since my recovery, together we have chaired several large events for private individuals and for non profit agencies known for supporting research and providing services to cancer patients. It feels good to know these efforts help others and help towards a cure! We feel forever grateful to those who contribute their funds, skills, and time to these efforts along with us.

It took me a year after treatment to get back on the bike, and I am enjoying it! I never did stop golfing throughout my treatment period, although some days I was in a fog! Gratefully, the fog has lifted and I have to admit…I have never stopped trying for that hole in one!

LeHua

I am Lehua and I've survived Cancer five times.  Here is my story.

THE 50's:  My Mom had breast cancer when I was an infant.  She didn't survive it. She was 20 years old.

THE 60's:  When I was 20 I had my first mammogram.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was told it was a very aggressive cancer and that I had from two to five or seven months to live.  Of course, I thought...like Mother, like Daughter.  I told my Dad and my Step-mom.  They violently threw me out of the house!  I turned to friends and neighbors, but everyone rejected me when I told them.  Then I met some hippies who invited me to their commune.  They were just what I needed!  It didn't matter there that I was jobless, homeless, pregnant and had breast cancer.  I gave up my baby for adoption in preparation for the end.  Months went by and then a year, then another year and I was still alive!  I believe that for me, the hippie lifestyle, daily drum circles and meditation healed my breasts. To this day my favorite meditation is to be surrounded by crystal bowls and the droning sound of the didgeridoo.

THE 70's:  Ten years later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Both ovaries were removed and my marriage ended, because he had wanted us to have a child or two of our own and he kept taking it out on me...blaming me that he became an alcoholic, since I ruined everything! So, I divorced Jerry after he tried to shoot me with a shotgun.

THE 80's:  Several years went by and onr day I woke up scratching my left breast.  My left nipple was itchy and there was a rash on it.  There was also a small hard lump and a little dimple next to my nipple.  I returned to Florida, got a biopsy and then another one.  I prayed it wasn't breast cancer, but it was...and I didn't want to tell my new husband, but I told Michael anyway, he left.  So, I quit my job and drove to California.  I told my half-sister and she took me in.  She needed help with her husband who had advanced prostate cancer.  They had a two year old daughter.  When my sister was home, I went to meditate at Shrine Lake.  I never missed a day there.  Rain or shine, I went!  It was working for me!  As the months rolled by, my left breast slowly healed until my nipple no longer resembled a walnut from hell!  Even the lump and dimple began to disappear!  By the time the rash on my nipple was nearly gone, it wasn't itchy anymore.  I continued meditation at Shrine Lake for another year and then my brother-in-law passed away.  He called me a crazy hippie since the day we met and my sister was amused by it; but she wished he believed in meditating and sound healing the way I do.

FLORIDA - THE 90's:  I was suddenly hemorrhaging!  My neighbor rushed me to the hospital.  The diagnoses was uterine and cervical cancer.  (My ovaries were removed; it was not detected that the cancer had begun spreading!  I flat-lined during my hysterectomy and I had a near-death experience.  Eleven years ago after a party, my abdomen began hurting and I was unable to fall asleep, so I went to the ER.  The pain was getting worse while I was there and I felt very cold.  I was shivering, but my body was hot.  After a few days in the hospital, the diagnosis was that I had abdominal cancer.   I was told that the cancer my be isolated or not, so exploratory surgery was recommended.  During the surgery I flat-lined and I was shocked back to life.  After a few hours, I had another near-death experience.  Shocking didn't work this time, but adrenaline injected into my heart, plus shocking, did.  I woke up from a week long coma and I was told I might have two more years to live and to set an appointment to start chemo, after my staples and stitches have been removed, and then follow up with radiation.  Six weeks after my discharge from the hospital, I had the sutures and staples removed.  As I watched, it looked like a long industrial zipper!   I left without making a chemo appointment.  Instead, I went to pack for a vacation in Hawaii.  I rationalized...after all I have been through and dying three times, I'm very alive and I'll enjoy living my life, however far it goes from here. I didn't believe I had only two years left in me and here I am, almost ten years beyond that, and I'm still going strong!  It takes courage, perseverance and unconditional love in order to  have no room at all for fear.  I've learned that lesson and many others...and I know how beautiful the journey is.  Where there is no fear of death, there is no fear of life. 

This is my story.  May it help others in positive ways.  Mahalo!

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