Archive for the ‘Survivor Spotlight’ Category

Snyder County Survivor Finds Joy in Helping Others Across Country

Posted By on July 31st, 2017 at 3:29 pm | 0 comments.

Mary Jo Borrelli, Snyder County

After a family celebration in August 2000 at Shenandoah National Park, I needed antibiotics for insect bites. I thought I had an inflamed insect bite under one arm and went to my doctor who said let’s do a mammogram. It turned out that I had a tumor on the outside of the left breast.  I opted for sentinel node biopsy, lumpectomy, and pre-adjuvant therapy with andriamycin.

I’ve been dutifully getting mammograms and this past year was in survivor mode. My sister has an ascending aortic aneurism and I thought I should pay attention and have tests for that. The radiologist found something on my spine. After almost 17 years, breast cancer has come to my spine. I’m now in the METAMORPH study at Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania. The study examines markers in blood, bone marrow, and tumor tissue to understand and track the changes that occur as disease progresses.

I first learned about the PBCC when some newly diagnosed friends were going to the October conference. They had a real hunger to learn more about breast cancer. Without the PBCC, many women would not know the treatment options available to them. I worked for the Department of Public Welfare for my whole career and I know how difficult it is for women to access information and care, and to advocate for themselves.

When I retired from the state, I became a disaster reservist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. I was able to help businesses and homeowners recover from disasters like Hurricane Sandy. It’s a great experience, helping people and seeing so much of our beautiful country while doing it. I’m on a very regular treatment schedule now, which will be once a month starting in August, and my medical team is optimistic I’ll soon be able to return to that disaster reservist work! Meanwhile, I enjoy my beautiful garden around my house, and my two little Maltese dogs who were rescues.

Philadelphia Survivor, PBCC Conference Attendee “Blessed” by Breast Cancer

Posted By on June 16th, 2017 at 10:49 am | 0 comments.

When I heard the words “triple negative breast cancer,” I had no idea what they meant. Because of my faith though, I soon decided that for me it means triple positive faith. I felt I was triple positively blessed by the Holy Trinity … Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I was diagnosed with a routine mammogram in 2010 and then had a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation.

I had the best support team ever with my children, my friends, and family. After about a year, I joined the Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia and met Yvonne McLean Florence and Sarita Joy Jordan there. They both told me about the PBCC, and Yvonne invited me to join her at the PBCC conference in 2015. I enjoyed the conference so much, especially when they announced at the luncheon that 3D mammograms would be covered by insurance. That was a “wow” moment! I was also glad to be able to meet Dr. Edith Mitchell, and to hear about her research on triple negative breast cancer. That is another reason I like the PBCC, because of the research.

Going through breast cancer made me a much stronger person. I have always been the quiet, shy one. This seemed to bring me out of my shell because I learned you could be a positive force in someone else’s life. I want other women to know that this is not your battle. You have to trust and believe that cancer is not a death sentence. You can keep going and keep moving. They will continue to find new treatments and it will be OK.

Without the PBCC, there would be so many people struggling to get mammograms now. Also, 3D mammograms still would not be covered by insurance in Pennsylvania. Without the PBCC, we would be back in the stone age.

Praise Worthy Creations and Events honored Gloria with the Sarita Joy Strength Award at their annual Pink Tea in April. Yvonne was one of the recipients last year and this year the award was renamed to honor the memory of Sarita Joy Jordan, who represented Philadelphia in the PBCC traveling photo exhibit.

Care Package Provides Comfort for Allegheny County Survivor

Posted By on April 17th, 2017 at 9:20 am | 0 comments.

Betty Davis-Smith, Allegheny County
Diagnosed in 2016

When I was putting together a luncheon at my church to make other women aware of breast cancer issues, my daughter offered to help find literature for the event. She called the PA Breast Cancer Coalition and you sent me out the Friends Like Me care package. I could not imagine anyone going to all the trouble to put that together with such nice gift items and great educational materials. The basic information was easy to understand and helped me to decipher all the terminology. I particularly loved that there was a book for the spouse. The PBCC really thought of everything!

I had a double mastectomy in May 2016, and chemo and radiation. I was treated at Allegheny General Hospital and they did a great job. The hospital had a nurse navigator who answered all my questions and told me what to expect all along the way. When you finish chemo, they give you a little graduation certificate. People are just doing their jobs and don’t really have to go out of their way to stop and think about their patients in that way. They made it special. I also had tremendous support from church members and my pastor. I have belonged to a prayer group for about eight years so there was no shortage of people praying for me. I learned that I could do anything through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. I didn’t do anything by myself.

My husband Jessie and I have two daughters. We love to travel, go out to dinners, and to plays and concerts.

I want other women to know that you can survive this. Breast cancer is not the death sentence it once was. There are amazing advances in breast cancer treatment now. And we have the support of the PBCC. Without the PBCC, women might not know what is available to them in terms of information and support.

Berks Survivor Stronger than Ever After Breast Cancer

Posted By on March 16th, 2017 at 12:01 pm | 0 comments.

When I was in treatment, a nurse told me she saw marriages strengthened through breast cancer and others that fell apart. My marriage was definitely strengthened. My husband did things for me I never thought he would be able to do. Todd was my nurse after my bi-lateral mastectomy. He fed me, emptied my drains, bathed me, and made sure he gave me the pain meds on time. It was incredible.

I had found the lump myself. I just moved my hand across my breast and felt it. I got on the bed and asked Todd to check but he could not feel it. Fortunately, two doctors live next door and I asked one of them to come over. She did a breast exam right there in my living room. She said not to worry but to schedule a diagnostic mammogram. I had the mammogram and there it was. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life when I heard the words “you have cancer.” I drove to where my husband works and fell into his arms. We retreated to our home. We had been planning a weekend at the beach and were all packed to go. I decided that nothing changes, not the plans to go away and not the things we wanted to do. I just kept saying that I wanted to live, I wanted to grow old with him, and I wanted to dance with our son Eric at his wedding.

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. My surgeon said that is run-of-the-mill breast cancer and you are going to get through this. Hearing that made me feel much better. I put on my armor and went to battle at every chemo session. I wore the same outfit each time, my survivor t-shirt. My treatments turned into parties. When folks at the infusion center saw people coming in with balloons, they knew those visitors were coming to see me.

God was in this with me throughout. I knew I was a spoiled princess, daughter of the most high King.
I joined a support group called Loving Arms, the only faith-based support group in Berks County. When I meet women who are newly diagnosed I tell them to let people help you. If friends offer to clean your house, let them. If people want to cook meals for you, let them. If they cook something you cannot eat, feed the meal to your family. The outpouring of love, encouragement, and support I received was incredible. That only happens when God puts that on their hearts.

In the end, I got everything I asked for. Todd and I take walks, relax at the beach, and enjoy our time together. I danced at our son Eric’s wedding in May. He and his beautiful wife Jeannie are expecting a baby in October. Boy or girl, the baby will wear a pink ribbon. I have already picked out a onsie that says “I wear pink for my Grandma!”

Conference Scholarship Recipient Thankful to be Linked by Pink

Posted By on December 14th, 2016 at 1:37 pm | 0 comments.

mary-law-survivor-storyMary Law, Erie County
PBCC Conference Scholarship Recipient

I didn’t have to go through this alone. Someone else already has and we can learn from one another. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Linked by Pink support group in Erie. I was reluctant at first but a good friend said I think it would be good for you, and I’ll go with you if that helps. She’s not a breast cancer survivor but just said “come on, let’s go.”

I’ve learned a lot from the women in that group, including from some who have passed. They are incredible in the way they take the focus away from themselves and equip their families to move on without them. They keep on giving even when facing the end of life.

mary-law-for-pl-2

Mary and her son Will

All the women in the group share things coming up and they spoke very highly of the PBCC and especially the conference. I decided to try for a conference scholarship because of my financial struggle at the time. When I learned a scholarship was granted to me, I felt like a queen! It meant that much to me. My favorite part of the wonderful day was hearing Dr. Emily Conant, who won the research award for her work on 3D mammography. I want all mammography facilities to have someone like her on their team! She was a great example of the many people who are fighting on our behalf, and she was so humble! I also enjoyed learning about the legislative changes that happen in the House and the Senate and how these things move forward. It takes a team effort. You have to have supportive people like that in your corner moving your initiatives forward.

I found a lump in my breast during breast cancer awareness month in 2013 on my 26th wedding anniversary. You see so many reminders but something caught my eye on Facebook and I felt around and told my husband “I think I just found a lump.” I credit social media and the friend who posted that, because I caught it at an early stage.

My job has also helped me through this. I’ve worked in a psychiatric mental health treatment facility for the past 17 years. Trauma is a big part of people’s lives, and when you’re diagnosed there certainly is trauma. After being diagnosed and approaching menopause, it all affects you. It’s a struggle. So I like to physically move. It makes me feel healthy, and eating well and moving lessens the effects of symptoms. My granddaughter was born during the time I was going through treatment, and I plan to be around for her!

Beautiful Inside and Out: Survivor Empowers Women Facing Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Posted By on November 16th, 2016 at 8:33 am | 0 comments.

traci-smith-survivor-spotlightTraci Smith, Philadelphia

I should have been more in tune with my body but I was not. My mother had breast cancer in the exact same spot I did. In April 2013 I went to my doctor at Lankenau Hospital for a routine check-up and I mentioned to her that I felt an ache under my arm. Instead of saying come back for a mammogram, she sent me straight upstairs to the oncologist who did a CT scan and then a biopsy. Four days later the results came back: stage 3 breast cancer. My doctor really saved my life that day by sending me directly to the oncologist.

My family and friends were an excellent support system. Over six months of chemo, friends came with me, sometimes six, seven, or eight of us at a time! In fact, the hospital gave us a private room. We laughed and joked and called it our own chemo party.

Eventually I needed someone to comfort me in a way that only survivors can. I started Traci’s B.I.O. (Beautiful Inside and Out) as a beautification organization. The mission of the organization is to help women maintain a level of normalcy while going through treatment. When my hair fell out I really wasn’t prepared for it. I needed someone to teach me how to put eyebrows on! I knew that I couldn’t be the only one struggling with these things, so I started helping other ladies with the things our doctors don’t talk about … because they’re busy saving our lives. Someone told me they’d been following me on social media and asked if I’d like to tell my story but I didn’t think I was all that interesting. So she said how about a collaboration with the ladies you’ve helped out. I asked them, and that turned into my first book of 13 stories called the Pink Sister Chronicles.

I ignored all the signs and when I finally did something it was stage 3 breast cancer. We need to know and listen to our bodies and take care of ourselves. Whatever inner strength you think you don’t have, get it. There are people to help you but you must reach out. You can’t do it by yourself. And remember, sometimes you have to use your inner beauty to shine when you’re not feeling beautiful on the outside.

Survivor Spotlight: Lynne Weber

Posted By on September 16th, 2016 at 8:30 am | 0 comments.

lynne-weber-for-plLynne Weber, Cumberland County

My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer one month before I was. Other than that, we had no family history. I felt like I was sucker-punching my Mom and my Dad, knocking the wind out of them so soon after my sister’s news. Mine was found through a routine screening mammogram in January 2014. Initially I had a lumpectomy but since it had spread to the lymph nodes, rather than stage 1 it was stage 3. I had chemo then a double mastectomy, radiation, and reconstruction.

Throughout treatment I attended a support group and in addition to that had incredible support from friends and family. My mother came out for my surgery, friends came to be with me, and the people at HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) were flexible and accommodating for my schedule. And once we figured out what I could eat during chemo, my significant other John made sure we always had those foods ready. That was mostly what I called the “white diet,” … mashed potatoes and mild things.

I love to read and to garden and kept that up during treatment. Now that I’m feeling better I like to travel. This summer I went to Romania with a group from HACC. A colleague teaches a course looking at child development in Romania and the students learn about our system compared to theirs. I was able to join them as the second faculty member. It was really powerful for the students, and for me. I was glad to be healthy enough to go.

One interesting thing is that when all my hair fell out, I didn’t really mind being bald. I had wigs and hats and everything but I actually thought being bald was kind of cool. Usually a wore a hat outside because I didn’t want my head to be sunburned but I didn’t feel like I always needed to be wearing a perfect wig. I wasn’t prepared for losing my eyebrows though!

My advice to other women is this: The doctors are doing their job and you have to do yours as a patient. Eat healthy and exercise even if you don’t want to. I made sure I walked and even ran a little bit. Some research has come out indicating that the chemo might even work better if you’re exercising. Going through breast cancer treatment taught me that I’m stronger than I knew I was. When you’re looking at surgery, radiation, more surgery, you can think there’s no way I can go through all that. Now it seems like a long time ago. I’ve learned to value my time and how I spend it.

PBCC Photo Exhibit Participant Stresses Importance of Early Detection, Screenings

Posted By on August 16th, 2016 at 10:07 am | 0 comments.

Dorothy Klyap for PL

Dorothy Klyap, Indiana County

I heard so many horror stories but my story was nothing like that. My regular yearly mammogram found my breast cancer in May 2010 and no one ever wants to hear those words, “you have breast cancer.” What is amazing now is that when I look back on it, it has taught me so much.

After chemo treatment, I couldn’t eat for the first two days but I never got sick. I must really have an angel on my shoulder. My husband Jim attended every one of my treatments with me. Our son who lives in Montana flew home to be with me through my first chemo treatment. Our daughter lives nearby and she’s the one who always pushed me to get mammograms, and she’s the one who brought me meals.

I first learned about the PBCC through my nurse navigator. Since then I was honored to be asked to represent Indiana County in the PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit, along with Maria Swinconis and Mary Waugaman. I was a guest at the 2015 conference and heard the announcement that 3D mammograms are now covered by insurance, and I called to tell my daughter that news right away. Indiana Hospital just got 3D mammograms and I said, “Honey, go get that mammogram!” I learned so much at that conference. There were things I forgot to ask my doctor and I was able to bring home so much medical information.

We live in a beautiful home on 40 acres the woods. There is a property connected to ours with a house that had been empty for over seven years. Sometimes during treatment, I’d go back there and sit on the rickety steps where my husband couldn’t see me crying. I dreamed of owning that house and now I do! I put every bit of paint and wallpaper on it myself. My husband wanted to name it Dorothy’s Dream House but I’m calling it B & J Retreat after my daughter Bridget and son Jimmy. We rent it out by the night or by the week. My beautician is planning to hold meditation classes there.

My favorite things to do are sewing and gardening. I just bought fabric to make drapes for my living room. I have vegetables and flowers in my garden and everyone laughs at this but I love getting on my tractor and mowing the grass. That’s my meditation time. Two weeks from now I’m having knee surgery. The surgeon wanted to have a physical therapist work with me until he heard that my husband and I cut down two big trees on Saturday. He said, “You do enough. You won’t need a therapist.” I don’t stop.