Wall of Warriors
Previvors. Fighters. Thrivers. Survivors. And the Taken.
We are lucky enough to be able to share with you stories of local women touched by Breast Cancer. Please know, you are not alone. These ladies chose to be brave, sharing their stories, in the hope that readers like you may find comfort, inspiration and education & help remember those we've lost.
I was 35 with 3 young kids, and had very recently weaned my youngest, when I woke up with blood on my shirt. Bright red blood came out of my nipple upon squeezing. No milk, just blood.
After being told repeatedly “it is probably just inflammation from weaning”, I had an ultrasound, MRI and biopsy and was diagnosed with DCIS (an early-stage Breast Cancer). I got this news from my doctor while standing in a store on my phone, sweet little faces staring up at me. I went into immediate “how do we fix this mode.”
The following day, I learned the cancer was so large that my only option to defeat it was to have a mastectomy. I opted to have my cancer-free breast removed as well. My husband cried. I didn’t shed a tear, just asked how soon I could get it done.
One month later I had a double mastectomy. Fortunately, that was the only treatment necessary for me. I’m thankful for the unbelievable support I received from my family, friends and coworkers through my diagnosis and surgery. That truly got me through.
At 39 years of age, I found a lump in my right breast. I quickly went in to a clinic and was told (based on my mammogram and ultrasound results) this will NOT be my last visit there. Fast forward 2 years, 2 MRIs, 8 mammograms, numerous ultrasounds, severe dense breast tissue, 13 lumps biopsied (in both breasts) as well as numerous cysts needing aspiration, they were so right!
I was told that I essentially had two options. I could begin intensive surveillance programs to closely monitor my breasts, or have a preventative double mastectomy. I spent the next few months weighing my options with close friends and family. Fortunately, I was in a great place in my life (with support from loved ones) and decided I was ready to have the double mastectomy.
I’m now doing everything in my power to be a "Previvor" instead of a Survivor. I don’t want to be known as the woman who beat Breast Cancer, I want to be the woman who never gave Cancer a chance.
I noticed a lump in my left breast in October 2019, during a self-exam. My husband convinced me to call my doctor the next day and a biopsy took place a week later. By Monday, October 14th I had my diagnosis. Invasive ductal carcinoma, Grade 2. The interesting thing was that my cancer was completely undetectable on the mammogram because my breast tissue was so dense. I had two separate tumors spanning almost 5cm in my left breast and they couldn't see them on the imaging.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of doctor appointments, google searches, conversations with the kids, paperwork and tears. But I was determined to do whatever I had to do. My Oncologist wanted to do surgery first and have the tumors sent for testing...that indicated I would need chemo but not radiation. I elected for a double mastectomy, which took place November 21st. I started chemo in January 2020 but due to COVID precautions I had to go to many appointments on my own. The Taxol absolutely wiped me out and the muscle and bone ache lased for days.
My last treatment was May 1st, followed by two additional reconstruction surgeries in June and September, and a bonus surgery in November for a 10" benign cyst they found on my right ovary during one of my scans (because, why not?). For now, I'm monitored every three months and I take Tamoxifen daily for probably the next 5-10 years. But I'm here. And I will continue to do whatever I need to do to make sure I'm here for my children and their future.
5 years ago, I was trying really hard to loose weight. I had lost 25lbs and was feeling great! Then I found a lump in my breast. I ignored it for a while but finally had it checked. May 2016, at 37 years old, I found out I had stage 3 Breast Cancer.
I went through chemo, surgery, radiation, and too many complications for nearly 2 years. But the help of faith and family, I was able to overcome and become strong. I have been NED for 4 years!
I am so glad though to have gone through my trials because soon after I was diagnosed, 2 ladies from my work were diagnosed as well as a good friend. Because of what I had gone through, I was able to talk & walk them through their experience.
Literally a year ago this month, I had a clean mammogram. Then in January I felt a lump in my right breast. I went to the doctor in February, it was Cancer.
After 4 months of Chemo, I had a double mastectomy. With a complete response to the Chemo, it did not spread. I am now considered Cancer Free!
2018 - Passed June, 2021
At age 32 she was diagnosed with early stage Breast Cancer. A wife and mom of 3 little boys, she was thankful it was caught early. After a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, she was told her chances of recurrence were slim to none.
Then this summer, right before her 44th birthday, she went back in for a spot on her sternum. On July 30, 2018, almost 12 years after initial diagnosis, she was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. With cancer throughout her body, including some organs and bones, she was in shock. A bigger shock though is that her blood tests are all still normal, she’s “healthy”. She has God on her side. Currently she is participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial. Having completed her second treatment, she is thriving!
2019 - Passed April, 2021
The call that changed my life, forever, happened April 11, 2012. “We have your test results, I’m so sorry to tell you that you have Invasive Ductile Carcinoma” the nurse said as gently as she could. I sat in my car with tears streaming down, as I dialed my husband. I was consumed with the thought of having to tell my 4 children.
After meeting with my surgeon, oncologist & plastic surgeon (I was completely unprepared for the massive amount of appointments I’d have) we decided on a treatment plan. I had a total of 7 surgeries, 8 rounds of chemo and 4 weeks of radiation. The treatment plan was completely overwhelming, but I was determined to fight the cancer with everything I had.
Chemo brought something unexpected, anxiety. It was something I’d never dealt with, I didn’t know how to process what was happening emotionally. How does one come to terms with a diagnosis of this magnitude, permanently changing your body, marriage issues and emotional trauma? I’ve concluded this is where we earn the title: SURVIVOR.
While breast cancer was one of the hardest battles I’ve fought, it paved the way for me to be on the reality tv series SURVIOR: Millennials vs Gen-x. The craziest part of my time on the island was that I found myself competing & winning an immunity challenge exactly 4 years to-the-day that I had been diagnosed! This proved to me there is hope and life after cancer.
2019 was very challenging for my family of 4. Starting December 2018 with my annual checkup…a quick (routine) breast exam led to finding a small lump on my left breast. Then my first mammogram. I wasn’t worried, my doctor thought it was just a cyst. I had the mammogram. Then was sent to have an ultrasound. After that, a biopsy. They had found another spot in my armpit.
I received the call January 7th. The most devastating words anyone can hear, “You have Cancer”. I didn’t want to die…those are the first thoughts that run through your head. I was told I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Triple Negative. I came to learn Triple Negative is NOT good and is very fast growing. The next 2 weeks were a series of appointments with the Surgeon & Oncologist. These amazing doctors came up with a plan; Chemo first, then surgery. Before Chemo, I needed a CT, Breast MRI & genetic testing done, as well as having a port put in. I tested negative for any Breast Cancer gene. I was so relieved my daughter won’t have that heightened risk.
Next, 20 weeks of chemo; some very hard weeks. I lost my hair, eyebrows & eyelashes. Had no appetite, and lost 25lbs. Meanwhile I met with a plastic surgeon to find that a double mastectomy with reconstruction was in my future. When the chemo was complete, I had 4 weeks to rest up & recover in prep for surgery. Very scared, I had the surgery. The next day, I got the best news - Complete Pathological Response to Chemo (I was cancer free)! I couldn’t believe it, Cancer free!
Next off to the Radiologist, and a 3 week trial, my last hurdle. 2019 had been the hardest year of my life, but I am here and enjoying everything God has given me. There for me every step of the way, my friends & family were the biggest blessing to me.
My life changed forever December 2011. The day I was told those dreaded words - IT’S BREAST CANCER. After that, it was like Charlie Brown’s teacher was talking to me. I hung up the phone & ran to our master bedroom melting into a puddle. This isn’t what I was supposed to hear. We were just about to sell our house & move to Atlanta. My husband had accepted a new job and I had donated my hair to make Cancer wigs, for the second time.
I needed to talk to EVERYONE who had ever had Breast Cancer. I wanted to know their best counsel, their treatment, regrets, medical team, natural methods of dealing with Cancer vs. chemo… I searched for those miracle stories and clung to any ounce of hope I could find. I needed a plan! My two little girls were counting me. At 36, I was not expecting to be diagnosed with two breast cancer tumors. I can now look back and say it was a blessing that I had been doing self-exams and found a tumor, because I was told I would have never felt the second one. After lots of research, I had a bilateral mastectomy, no nipple sparing, reconstruction and chemotherapy.
Now, I proudly help run a non-profit, mentor and inspire hundreds of survivors, have become the “go to girl” when it comes to health, wellness & Breast Cancer, raised two beautiful girls that understand the importance of health, and am an inspiration & mentor to my husband. Whenever I meet a newly diagnosed person, I will say these words, “I’m sorry that you are joining my club, but I promise you will find so many silver linings out of this.”
Diagnosed in 2001, she had several rounds of chemo which her body, thankfully, was very responsive to. Most likely due in part to her personal strength and beautiful mindset.
No stranger to Breast Cancer, two of her sisters have received diagnoses’ of Breast Cancer in the past 17 years. Ever since, she had routine mammograms, followed by a breast MRI/MRA every 6 months.
She tested negative for the BRCA1, BRCA2, but was told she had dense breast tissue and Fibrocystic Breast Disease.
Several suspicious spots required ultrasound-guided needle core biopsies. These were always negative for a malignancy, until that spring when, at 60 years old, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer – Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
She had a bilateral mastectomy, and had debated reconstruction.
I was 33. Married with 2 young children. Then I got the call. I cried that night, but never again.
I was a mom, daughter, sister and wife. Strength took over.
Six years later, I am stronger than ever.
I was diagnosed, at age 55, via a routine Mammogram with aspiration biopsy… I got the news on my drive in to work. Filled with shock and amazement, I thought “No God, not me!”
My husband was working out of town, so I met with the doctor alone. After meeting with Surgeon Jill Julsrud, my husband and I decided the right path for
us was a double Mastectomy with a "Tram Flap" procedure, done by Plastic Surgeon Dr. Wilke!
Chemotherapy was not a picnic at all. Hair loss happened at day 15, just as Dr. Bender said! I was
so fortunate to have Dr. Gail Bender with me on this journey. She has since retired, but she is sometimes
in the office for my yearly visits each November!
2017 & 2023
I found a lump in my breast in November 1986, I was 36 years old (and going through a divorce). The on-call Family Practice doctor told me just what I wanted to hear: It's a cyst caused by hormones during your cycle and nothing to worry about. No follow up or mammogram was ordered.
Six months later I knew it was getting larger and I went in to a specialist after work one night in April. I was immediately sent to an Oncology Surgeon “just in case” and he did a needle biopsy. It was breast cancer.
He told me to schedule surgery and meet with a plastic surgeon if I was thinking about reconstruction. I was numb and unable to even think. I don't know how I found my way the 35 miles home.
Ten days later I had a radical mastectomy and the reconstruction was cancelled because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and the tumor was wrapped around my rib. I started chemotherapy as soon as they thought I was strong enough. I went back to work before starting radiation treatments. I received those every Monday through Friday for six and a half weeks on my lunch break from work, then came home the 40 miles to my two young children, age six and nine.
The thing that comforted me the most in the hospital was when an RN came in to the room to check on me and found me crying. She dropped everything, asked what she could do and ended up washing my hair. It was such a simple but gentle gesture.
Of course my children were what comforted me most at home. I hid my cancer from everyone for about twenty years, so I guess it took that long to consider myself a survivor. Now I am so happy to be alive.
Fast forward 36 years (?!), that makes me 72 years old. For all of those years, I followed all the rules of breast self-exams and annual mammograms, without any significant changes until this year.
After my typical 3D exam, I got a call back for more imaging followed by an ultrasound. Before the technician completed my ultrasound, she left the room to discuss with the radiologist. They both came back in and the radiologist did some ultrasound imaging, then let me know that two biopsies would be needed. The next day I had two breast core biopsies done. They came back as ADH bordering on low grade DCIS. Now I await my appointment with the surgeon.
Story to be continued . . .
The Founder of The Pink Social, Kara Schmitz, lost her mother to Breast Cancer when she was just 9 years old. Her mama was in her mid 30s with 3 children, and in the middle of finalizing her divorce, when she found a lump, and was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
She had a double mastectomy. Later they found the cancer had spread to multiple organs. After rounds of both Chemo & Radiation, she was given 2 years to live. She made the most of her time, traveling to Europe, helping others, writing about her life, fighting to stay alive while planning for her death, and most importantly spending time with her loved ones.
Her story began September 2008 when she felt a lump in her right breast. She had a mammogram and needle biopsy. Waiting those following 5 days for the results was extremely tough.
The breast clinic called, it was cancerous. The next 2 weeks went very fast…an appointment with a surgeon, a physical exam and visit with a plastic surgeon. But that wasn’t as bad as having to tell her family.
The surgeon was willing to do a lumpectomy, but she decided on a total mastectomy. Luckily no lymph nodes were involved.
She had a chemo treatment, a combo of 3 meds for the next 5 months, going back to work about half way through. She lost all her hair, and the chemo actually started her periods back up! It was decided she’d have a total hysterectomy to help prevent Cancer.
She is a survivor.
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