Archive for the ‘Survivor Spotlight’ Category

Survivor Stories – Lananh Rissmiller, Lehigh County

Posted By on July 15th, 2013 at 8:22 am | 3116 comments.

Lananh RissmillerWhen I found the lump under my left armpit last summer, I thought it was a reaction to the new deodorant I had switched to. I went to California for the summer but when I came back the lump was still bothering me. I own Milan Café in Allentown and I mentioned the problem to one of my long-time customers whose husband is a doctor. She encouraged me to get it checked so I went to see her husband, Dr. Peter Isaacs. He removed a lump that was the size of a golf ball and ordered further testing. Testing showed that it was cancer and he sent me to see an oncologist.

When you first meet with an oncologist you think “why is this happening to me?” It’s a shock. But once you accept what you have you can move forward and the process becomes easier. I started chemo treatment in February, eight cycles for 16 weeks. It’s important to listen to your body, not what everyone else tells you about chemo. Everyone is different. For me, I was tired and I slept a lot. And I ate fruits and vegetables to help me gain strength like eggplant, kale, clams, pears and squash. Eat the food that will help you rise above the condition you’re in.

I love having my own business and having control over my career. For many years I was in management in retail and did some financial planning too but with my own business I can control my destiny. With breast cancer I think it’s the same thing … you can control how you handle the process.

My husband Darrin and I have two boys, Jacob who just graduated high school and is going to Penn State to study electrical engineering, and Seth who is a junior in high school. Seth wants to be a doctor and will be in the Emerging Health program at Penn State.

I always tell other women you’re going to get through this. It’s only a temporary situation. I feel lucky to be in the United States where we have so many wonderful specialists and all the latest medicines and options. And most importantly, make the decision that is right for you, and always check if something is bothering you. Don’t put it off.

 

Survivor Stories: Sandy Cray – Northampton County

Posted By on June 17th, 2013 at 8:16 am | 248 comments.

Sandy CrayWhile taking a shower, I discovered a lump in my breast. I was 36 years old and this was in 1995, when mammograms weren’t recommended for women under 50. Fortunately, I worked in the radiology field in a very forward-thinking facility. I already had an appointment scheduled with my gynecologist so I explained the situation. He agreed to give me a prescription for a mammogram and I had one that day.

The lump that I found in the shower turned out to be a harmless cyst. But, it called attention to the breast and there were very small areas of irregular calcifications in another part of my breast. That was the beginning of my breast cancer journey. I got a second opinion and chose to have a mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. After the surgery my treatment was complete. I did not have chemotherapy.

I then began my relationship with the PBCC. I felt strongly then and now that I was diagnosed at an early stage and at a young age for a reason. I felt it was my mission to share my story and share my experience with others.

I’m not the only breast cancer survivor. Every member of my family is a survivor of breast cancer. They are the people who helped me the most, except for my medical team. Every time I talk with a woman who is newly diagnosed, the first thing I tell her is “You are a survivor. You become a survivor the day you are diagnosed. You have so much power within yourself to fight this disease. You just have to know that it’s there within you.”

Breast cancer has actually been a positive in my life. It has taken me places for speaking engagements and women’s health opportunities that I never would have imagined.

 Sandy Cray serves on the PBCC Board of Directors as Lehigh Valley Vice President. She represents the PBCC frequently on exhibit committees, as conference workshop moderator, and public speaker. She has talked with countless newly-diagnosed women over the years, encouraging and supporting them through their own journeys. Sandy continues to work in the medical field. She and her husband Bill have a 15 year-old daughter Rachel who is a frequent volunteer at the PBCC Annual Conference.

 

Survivor Stories: Jane Ellis – Dauphin County

Posted By on May 13th, 2013 at 8:57 am | 125 comments.

Jane Ellis and FamilyLast September,  I had what I thought would be a routine mammogram, but crystallized spots showed on the results. I had a biopsy and was then told that I needed to see a surgeon. The surgeon determined that it was DCIS and that I had two options…What to do?…either have the breast removed or have a partial mastectomy followed by radiation and five years of tamoxifen treatment. I left the office leaning towards having the breast completely removed, but I felt like I should get a second opinion first. The surgeon didn’t think a second opinion was necessary but said of course it was up to me.

I had the second opinion at Johns Hopkins. They looked at the test results and said it was atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), a pre-cancerous condition. The treatment they recommended was just the partial mastectomy. I had the surgery done there there and then a follow-up biopsy. That biopsy matched their initial diagnosis.

Then I worried for a time whether the first hospital or the second one was correct. I wasn’t convinced I’d made the right decision until my six-month follow-up appointment; I was completely clear. I think that following my instincts and having a second opinion was crucial in saving me unnecessary radiation and drug therapy.

My family was very supportive. I’ve been married for 23 years and have two wonderful daughters. I work in a fast-paced environment as assistant to the Vice President of Sales at HealthAmerica. For fun and relaxation, I travel to the Caribbean with a group of girlfriends. We’ve been doing that every year now for the past five years!

Survivor Spotlight: Julia Palmer Saul

Posted By on November 15th, 2012 at 9:00 am | 248 comments.

My husband Ted and I have four children – Rose, Lily, Sage, and Dillan, who we call Dill.  I had breastfed all my children and when I was weaning the youngest I noticed a lump and some inflammation of my breast. The doctors thought it might be an infection because I had breastfed for a long time. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have had a mammogram since I was only 38 at the time. It was July 2011 and I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. It was a big shock because of my age and the fact that there had been no family history.

With four little ones you wonder what will happen. You never know what’s going through their minds. My oldest daughter was distant for a while and we talked about it. It turns out she thought maybe she could catch it. People sometimes ask how do you do it with four kids, but I say that’s why I do it … FOR the four kids. . I love herbs and flowers and these four are my own little garden, Rose, Lily, Sage and Dill.

I’ve been through radiation and chemotherapy and some surgeries and I have just learned that the cancer has come back and is in the bones. It’s a whole different ball game now because now I’ll have a different treatment plan. It’s scary but at the same time it’s just another chapter of life. My faith has not wavered and I know that God will get us through this. You play the hand you are dealt and with God’s help, you succeed. I know I didn’t go through this without a reason.  I want to show other people that this is not the end; it’s a new beginning.

Survivor Spotlight: Let It Shine On You!

Posted By on October 16th, 2012 at 8:58 am | 357 comments.

Each month we turn the spotlight on a breast cancer survivor living in Pennsylvania and tell their unique story. This month, in honor of breast cancer awareness month, we encourage all breast cancer survivors to share their experience with those around them. Let the sharing of your story be a release for you; motivate others to get the mammogram they’ve been putting off;  reassure someone in the midst of their breast cancer journey. Add your story and your voice to the collective understanding of what life is like for women with breast cancer.

If you’d like to share your story with the PBCC, please email Amy at Amy@PABreastCancer.org. If you are able to tell of your experience in 400 words or less, we may feature you in a future FrontLine or PinkLink newsletter.

Survivor Spotlight – Patti Kostrubiak

Posted By on September 17th, 2012 at 11:59 am | 2791 comments.

At my yearly check-up in 2004 my doctor felt a thickening in my breast. I was 39 years old so he said we should get a baseline mammogram. I had no family history or risk factors. After a biopsy, I had to decide between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. I chose lumpectomy and they removed 15 lymph nodes and six of them were positive for breast cancer. I had chemotherapy from August through February, and then had radiation for 33 straight days.

I was really annoyed that I was diagnosed because I’m a very busy mom. I thought this is going to interrupt my schedule and I just didn’t have time! Fortunately Grand View Hospital in Sellersville is just five minutes from my house so I had radiation before work, then went to work and went about my day.

Once I finished treatment I wanted to find a way to give back. When I found the PBCC’s website I thought “this is for me.” I wanted to tell my story because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Now I represent Bucks County in the PBCC traveling photo exhibit and volunteered this year at the Take A Swing Against Breast Cancer home run derby in Reading.It was so much fun!

My husband John and I have two children. Our son Sean is 19 and our daughter Erin is 23. I work as a career EMT at Volunteer Medical Service Corps of Lansdale, and serve as a volunteer firefighter at Perkasie. This is something I always wanted to do, and so did my daughter. When she turned 18 she was old enough to be certified so we went through certification together. I also love to cross-stitch, scrapbook, and go to the beach.

The best advice I got was to never listen to anyone’s horror stories. You just take it one day at a time and one treatment at a time. And keep a positive attitude! That’s the biggest thing.

Survivor Spotlight – Lesley Rogers

Posted By on August 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am | 195 comments.

In May 2010 while participating in a breast cancer fundraiser, my husband, Scott, read the statistic about 1 in 8 women being diagnosed and immediately asked when my first mammogram was. The next day I made the appointment for 2 weeks after my 40th birthday. At the appointment the radiologist told me I needed to have a biopsy. That was Tuesday; by Friday I had the biopsy and by Monday was diagnosed.

Based on my physician’s recommendation and the BRCA test result I had a bilateral mastectomy. While my cancer was confined to the ducts it was widespread and aggressive so I was thankful I hadn’t waited to have my mammogram. Over the next 8 months I had multiple surgeries including an oophorectomy and unsuccessful reconstructive surgeries. In March 2012 I had successful DIEP surgery at Johns Hopkins. I feel grateful to my breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Soto-Hamlin and my current reconstructive surgeon Dr. Rosson for their guidance.

I had heard about the PBCC before I had breast cancer. My company, Deloitte Consulting, sponsors the October conference. And then a couple weeks after my diagnosis I received a Friends Like Me care package. I attended the 2011 conference and was excited to see the grant given to Dr. Meyers to support his cancer research. The PBCC’s tagline “finding a cure now so our daughters won’t have to” resonates loudly since we have a 4 year-old daughter, Ashley. This year we participated in the Take a Swing against Breast Cancer Home Run Derby in Harrisburg. While participating, our 6 year-old son Tyler, asked “If I hit a home run, does that mean no more breast cancer?”

I tell everyone I am an example of why you should get your mammogram as soon as you turn 40, not 6 months later. And if someone you know is diagnosed, instead of asking “can I do anything?” offer something tangible … prepare a meal or run an errand. I am lucky to have had such an amazing support group – my family, friends and co-workers made my crazy journey a little easier.

Gloria Ferri – Survivor Spotlight, Carbon County

Posted By on July 18th, 2012 at 9:59 am | 272 comments.

I was 60 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought it couldn’t happen to me. That was 22 years ago. My doctor had scheduled a mammogram for me and that mammogram saved my life. I wouldn’t have known about the cancer until it was too late. Sometimes women tell me that they don’t want to have a mammogram because they’re afraid it will hurt. I tell them that one little hurt is going to save you a big one later on.

When I was first diagnosed, Pat Halpin-Murphy hadn’t created the PA Breast Cancer Coalition yet. But once it got started, the PBCC invited me to represent Carbon County in the traveling photo exhibit. I agreed right away. I’m always willing to help with anything. I know that Pat and the PBCC have been working tirelessly and will always keep going to help other women.

Through surgery and radiation treatments, I had faith. And I kept my sense of humor and kept busy. That will get you through difficult times. I love to crochet and have made many bride dolls, and I wanted to do something special for the PBCC. So I made a pink doll and attached 67 roses to the train to represent the women in the 67 counties from the exhibit, and I added pink beads in memory of those we have lost. I was happy to be able to present the doll to Pat at the recent exhibit opening at the Hazelton Health & Wellness Center. Quite a few friends have asked me to make one for them but I won’t make another one like it. It’s one of a kind, just like Pat is.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of changes, like digital mammograms and other advances. I see many more women getting mammograms now and talking openly about their breast cancer. It’s really good to see that.