Archive for the ‘Survivor Spotlight’ Category

Survivor Stories: “I Feel Like I Can Conquer Anything Now.”

Posted By on November 14th, 2014 at 7:53 am | 2 comments.

Tomika-Bryan-for-PLTomika Bryant, Montgomery County

It started with me feeling really tired, just no energy, and I thought it was low blood sugar. And then I got an email that the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s mammography van was coming to my husband’s workplace at GlaxoSmithKline. My gynecologist had been telling me to get a mammogram and then the day the van was scheduled, I felt a lump in the shower. I thought I must have been imagining things. I got the mammogram done, told them about the lump I felt, and they saw it. I needed to get a biopsy. That was right before Mother’s Day in 2013.

Afterwards I got a call saying it was triple-negative breast cancer. She started talking about grade and tumor size and I didn’t know what it all meant. I decided to get a second opinion at Penn and wound up having surgery and treatment there. I had a double mastectomy and tram flap for reconstruction. I had to have chemo but no radiation because there was no node involvement. My treatment is all finished now.
Throughout the process, my mother and my husband made sure I was never alone. They asked questions and helped me. I sat my children down and explained everything to them and hoped they would understand. My son couldn’t imagine at the time how mommy could be sick. That didn’t happen. He was afraid. My daughter was all about the pink ribbon and asked a lot of questions. I teach her about looking out for things in her own body.
The whole experience showed me that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. It gave me a new reason for living and a new voice. I feel like I can conquer anything now. I feel like there are times in our lives when we let fear cripple us. Now after all I’ve gone through I learned that fear is not real. I don’t have time to play with fear.
When it was all done, I said I gave cancer its eviction notice out of my body and apparently it accepted that. I encourage other women to share their stories if they can because you don’t know who you might help. I was blessed because I had a large village of people who stepped in to help.

Friend’s Advice Proves Life-Saving for Local Breast Cancer Survivor

Posted By on August 15th, 2014 at 8:49 am | 0 comments.

Betty-Fish-PhotoPLBetty Fish, Cumberland County

A fellow Girl Scout leader and I were talking at an event when she told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer through a routine mammogram and she’d had a mastectomy. I had been so busy at work that I hadn’t had a mammogram for a full year. She grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “You have to promise me that tomorrow you will call and set up the appointment.”

I had the mammogram a month later. After my husband and I heard the news that I had DCIS, she was the first person I told, and I thanked her for saving my life.

The phone call confirming the diagnosis came the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I told my children before we drove home to Virginia to visit family. I told them that it’s very early and I’m going to be OK, but I decided not to tell my parents because I didn’t want to worry them. I have three older sisters, and none of them had had a recent mammogram. Just like my friend did for me, I pulled them all aside and said you have to promise me that you’ll make that appointment. They all did, and they were all fine.
I chose to have a mastectomy and had no problems. The weekend after the surgery we planned to go to a museum, and I said, “Let’s go to a dog shelter instead.” My daughter found a Blue Heeler puppy and we all fell in love with him. We adopted him on the spot and named him Ferris. He was the best therapy for everyone in the house. We were all busy concentrating on the puppy, training him, taking care of him, and he got everyone out walking him together. When he would come and lay on my chest at night it felt really good.

Now I bring it up with everyone I talk to … you HAVE to get a mammogram. What if I had put it off another year? My scout leader friend provided tons of support throughout the entire process, giving me suggestions for post-surgery and encouraging me. She’s a true lifesaver!

Betty is Director of Promotion and Public Service at abc27 and lives in Hampden Township, Cumberland County with her husband David, son Billy, daughter Nikki … and Ferris!

Giving Back and Celebrating Life with “Lori’s Loop”

Posted By on July 11th, 2014 at 12:51 pm | 1651 comments.
Lori's-LoopforPL

Survivor Lori Rhinehart, pictured here on the left with her daughter Brooke, hosts the annual Lori’s Loop 5K to benefit the PBCC

On February 26, 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a 1 cm. triple positive lump in my right breast.  Since then that 1 cm. has represented one biopsy, four surgeries, 35 radiation treatments, three scans, 17 Herceptin treatments, four chemo treatments, seven months of baldness, one bone scan, one bone marrow biopsy, countless sleepless nights, seven years of after-care medications, and 20 extra pounds.

The very same 1 cm. lump also represented the push I needed to celebrate life with a cruise to Bermuda and a trip to Germany, to quit smoking, to become a fundraiser and help others, to get healthy by working out and running, to gain a better appreciation of the love and support of my family and friends, and to check an item off my bucket list by organizing Lori’s Loop.

I learned about the PBCC when a friend ordered a Friends Like Me care package for me soon after I was diagnosed. Since then I’ve ordered many more of the friends boxes for others.

I stayed active and jogged a course while I was going through chemo and radiation treatment. I always thought, “One of these days I’ll organize a race and it’ll be on this exact space.” Last October I fulfilled that promise and held the first Annual Lori’s Loop 5K to benefit the PBCC. We had 100 runners which was a great turn-out for a first year event, and we raised $1,500 for the PBCC! We will do it again this year in Haines Acres in York.

I’ve learned to try to make the best of every day. You can’t really appreciate that until you come up against something that’s trying to take that away from you. This is it. You don’t get a reset button or a do-over. I switched jobs and am now working part-time, making a lot less money, and realizing I don’t need as much as I thought I did before. I’m enjoying my time with my husband Terry and my daughter Brooke Voloshin.

Bradford County Survivor Finds Inner “Iron Lady”

Posted By on June 16th, 2014 at 8:46 am | 316 comments.
Darci-Baird

Survivor Darci Baird smiles for a picture with her 2-year-old granddaughter Ava.

Darci Baird, Bradford County

Cancer is not a death sentence. I’ve learned that. The word is scary but it’s the word for a disease that can be beaten. You just have to face it, figure out your treatment plan, and go about the business of kicking cancer to the curb.

I was 49 years old in July 2009 when a routine mammogram found my breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy and then radiation and am now finishing up. This is my fifth year of taking Anastrazole (Arimidex).

I always thought I was strong but I learned just how strong I was, and how strong my faith was. I am 100% positive that I had the help of Christ to get me through breast cancer. I wouldn’t have come through without the prayers of so many people.
During one of my many office visits after diagnosis I saw some literature and I asked Helen Harshbarger if she thought the PBCC was worth my time. Helen said the PBCC is absolutely the grassroots organization you want to become connected to. I ordered a Friends Like Me care package for myself and getting all that wonderful information really solidified all the good things that Helen had told me.
Two years ago Robert Packer Hospital and Guthrie Healthcare were getting ready to host “67 Women 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania” and they asked me to help with that. That was a great experience.
About that time the movie Iron Lady about Margaret Thatcher came out. We decided to do a fundraiser with the theme that anyone who has survived breast cancer is an iron lady, so we put together the Iron Ladies Night Out. We had a commemorative stone inscribed for iron ladies past and present and laid it in front of the theatre in Sayre. We had the help and support of Marge Ross who runs the theatre and is a force of nature with a tremendous heart. I’m fortunate to live in such an awesome community.
My husband John was there by my side with whatever I needed, and my kids were too. Amanda and Tim are young adults but it’s still a shock when mom gets sick. My brother cooked for me even after I was back on my feet. Cancer can make the people around you feel so powerless, and I think that made him feel like he could do something.
My granddaughter Ava Rose Baird turned two years old in May and she is one of the reasons I fight so hard to help find a cure for breast cancer.

Survivorship is Sweet for Lehigh County’s LuAnn Mill

Posted By on May 15th, 2014 at 10:15 am | 0 comments.
Luann-survivor-story

LuAnn Mill cooks up sweet concoctions to benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition

The minute I found the lump, I knew what it was. I have mammograms regularly every year. I had a mammogram in January 2012 and then found it myself the following July. I went to my gynecologist right away and she didn’t think it was anything to worry about but ordered an ultrasound anyway to be sure. I was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma and had surgery in August and started chemotherapy in September. I had eight treatments over 16 weeks and then 34 radiation treatments ending in March 2013. Now I’m on anti-hormone therapy for five years.

My husband Rick was great support. I know it was hard for him to see me going through it. One of the hardest things was telling the kids, even though they are grown. Cards and prayers from the congregation at my church really increased my faith and my strength. The pastor came when I was having surgery and I can’t say enough about how much that helped. For every test I was scared but then I would remember that God’s in control and that helped me get through it.

You have to trust your doctors and have confidence in them. I was treated at the Breast Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital and they gave me a brochure about the PBCC. I ordered one of the Friends Like Me care packages and loved how informative it was! It helped too to know that I wasn’t the only one and that there was hope.

At the time of my diagnosis, a friend’s daughter was getting married. The bride knows I love to bake and she asked me to make the favors, blue nonpareils to match the bridesmaids’ gowns. While I was doing that, I got the idea to make pink ones for breast cancer awareness. As I was going through chemo, I started making the pink ones and taking them to various businesses in the Emmaus area. Doing that gave me something to do and to focus on. All the money raised by selling them goes to the PBCC. The first year we raised $1,000 and then $1,300 the next year. This October will be my third year and I will have a stand at a craft show in Leesport.
You never believe it until it happens. I worked with cancer patients and I remember thinking at the time now I am one of them. Sometimes I worry but I have a very good prognosis and I know whatever happens I will be able to handle it.

PBCC Grassroots Partner Shelly Mix Reflects on Breast Cancer Journey

Posted By on April 15th, 2014 at 8:32 am | 1 comment.
Shelly-Mix-for-blog

Shelly, wearing her prize belt buckle, poses here with her horse Reggie

I was in the middle of Central PA Rodeo season in August 2004 when a routine mammogram found my breast cancer. My horse Reggie was winning a year-end award and I didn’t want to miss the chance to get the belt buckle prize because of surgery. Since my doctor is a horseman too he understood and I was able to delay the surgery until after the rodeo season was complete. Winning that series really helped me to move forward and face the breast cancer treatment.

My mother also survived breast cancer twice and she opted for a mastectomy both times. That seemed like a better option for me too. I chose not to have reconstructive surgery. I didn’t want to go through additional surgeries and I don’t regret it for a moment. I wear a prosthetic and I’m comfortable with my personal choice.
As part of my therapy after surgery, I brushed Reggie a lot. That was great arm-stretching exercise, and he was very sympathetic during my recovery.

About five years later I decided it was time for me to give back to the breast cancer community. After a little research online I saw that the PBCC has opportunities for grassroots partners to create their own events and I thought that fit right in with what I wanted to do. I created a barrel race called Ride 4 Life. In rodeo, only women compete in barrel racing but in an open barrel race anyone can participate. Right now I’m planning the 4th annual Ride 4 Life show which will be at the Shale Knoll Arena in Annville on April 26th. A portion of each competitor’s entrance fee goes to the PBCC, and sponsorship funding is divided evenly between the show costs and donations to the PBCC. For more information: www.midatlanticspeedhorse.com.

My husband Kenny was extremely supportive in every aspect of my journey and that really helped. My mom and my sister were very helpful right after my surgery and during chemo.

People tell you you’re brave and strong when you’re going through breast cancer treatment but really you don’t think about that. You just grit your teeth and go.

PBCC Volunteer to Celebrate 10 Years of Breast Cancer Survivorship

Posted By on March 14th, 2014 at 8:23 am | 0 comments.

Lark-Survivor-Photo-2Lark McCarley, Lancaster County

In August I will be celebrating 10 years cancer free!

In January 2004, I was 48 years old and had been married for just 5 months.  I finally had the back surgery that I had put off for years and thought my life would be greatly improved. After much pain and rehab, by April I was happy I had decided to have the surgery. I went for my annual physical and mammogram which both had great results, but two weeks later my husband discovered a large lump on one of my breasts. I returned to the doctor who said it had to be a cyst but ordered an ultrasound to be sure, and again the results appeared clean. After insisting on more tests, I was sent to a surgeon who did a biopsy. I had to wait three weeks for an appointment due to medical personnel’s vacations. On the day I received the results, I was having my feet massaged by a nail technician, my husband was holding one hand, and I had a glass of wine in the other. When they told me it was cancer, I never before had such a feeling of dread. I knew the future would bring a lot of bumps in the road, but also that we could handle it.

They thought a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy would be sufficient. However, the results from that showed the margins were not clean and identified additional issues. My invasive ductal carinoma was grade 3, fast growing, and there was also in-situ carcinoma so they recommended a mastectomy. I went with a double mastectomy since this had been so hard to diagnose, and I chose to have implants. The surgery was scheduled in August, with chemo starting in October. The final procedure was when I received the implants in March 2005 almost a year from the original diagnosis.
Many wonderful things came from that year of surgical procedures and chemo.  I met another woman who had breast cancer and who, like me, grown up in Nashville and recently moved to Pennsylvania. She will always be my “bosom buddy”.   When I discovered the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, I signed her up to receive a Friends Like Me care package.  It was a nice surprise when I got mine and I wanted to share it with others. In fact that is why last October I volunteered to help a very good friend Marc Crusemire with his “Bridges for Boobies” scooter tour in Lancaster to benefit breast cancer awareness. I recommended the proceeds go to the PBCC and we had a very successful first year. I am excited that Strasburg Scooters is having another “Bridges for Boobies” tour on October 7th.  It’s a great day spent with guided scooter tours through the back roads of Lancaster County.

The biggest gift I was given that year was the outpouring of love and support. I received prayer shawls from churches I was not familiar with, and cards from elementary school kids that I did not know. Friends from all over the country flew in to help my husband Michael run our Bed and Breakfast, Lovelace Manor, so that he could go to chemo and other appointments with me. The other B&Bs in Lancaster County were amazing. For months they brought food for us, food for our guests and many other wonderful and thoughtful things.
The surgeries, the pain, the nausea, the hair loss, the weight gain and the cloudy memory were the bumps in the road. But the journey was well worth it for all of the positive experiences which made me a stronger, grateful, motivated and happier person.

Life’s Work Comes Full Circle for PA Breast Cancer Survivor

Posted By on February 17th, 2014 at 8:55 am | 0 comments.

Linda-Falco-for-PL-and-webLinda Falco, Montgomery County

I have worked for the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) for 21 years. For seventeen of those years, I worked with uninsured or underinsured women to make certain they were getting free mammograms. This was a very rewarding time for me, in which I met with women at area Montgomery County hospitals on the day of their scheduled appointment to offer support and teach breast self-exams.  I am now 62 years old. This year when I had my annual mammogram, the right breast showed some change.

There is a history of breast cancer in my family. My grandmother died from breast cancer and my mother, after being diagnosed as well, had a mastectomy and lived the remainder of her life cancer free. I was fully aware of what my plans would be… to start and continue the screening process early! So at this year’s screening, after having various pictures taken through a follow up ultrasound, I felt that something might be different this time.

I was called in to speak to the radiologist. I knew from experience with so many of the women I helped at MCHD, that this was probably not going to be good news. The radiologist confirmed my fears. She explained that because of the changes seen on the ultrasound, a biopsy would need to be performed. It took about a week to get the results of the biopsy (it felt like a lifetime).

The results were in. I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) which would require a mastectomy. The diagnosis hit me like a heavy weight. My mind was racing with so many questions: What does this mean?, Has it spread to my lymph nodes?, What kind of treatment do I need? How am I going to do this? Will I survive?

In April, 2013 my right breast was removed and I am currently in the process of having breast reconstruction. Today, I am living cancer-free and celebrating life. My friends, family and coworkers are the support system that gets me through this chapter in my life one day at a time. I share my story with you to show you the importance of early detection. My annual screening saved my life.