My cancer story was actually quite simple but nonetheless, shocking. You see, I have been fundraising voluntarily since 1976 because I believe we should take care of each other. I am a full-time Blues vocalist and my shamelessbegging style to spread awareness worked magic during performances.
No, it did not run in my family, no I never drank, used drugs or smoked, no I didn’t eat sugar, yes I took care of my body…yet it showed up anyway. Oh boy. Since I have been telling people for centuries to be informed and NOT live in fear, I was now in a position to walk my talk. And I did. I HAD to!
After a “concerning spot” appeared on my MRI, I had a biopsy on Thursday, April 28, 2011 and I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 4:11pm on Friday, April 29, 2001 in Scottsdale, Arizona while visiting two great friends. Since my hubby was in Las Vegas where we lived, I called and told him the news. Then I called all my friends to make sure they, too, were aware. Then I went to an art party with my two great friends. On Saturday, April 30th, I went shopping all day, and on Sunday, May 1st, I laid by their pool in their gorgeous sanctuary backyard; and Monday, May 2nd, at 7 am, I was looking at my doctor and her scroll of things I needed to do before a lumpectomy. I didn’t live in Arizona, but I got out my GPS, went to every place on her list for blood work, tests, oncology, etc., finished it up on Tuesday, May 3rd and on the morning of Wednesday, May 4th, I was on her surgery table getting that lumpectomy. Oh yeah…Thursday, May 5th, I was heavily bandaged and out running my 2-mile trek like usual.
With my lumpectomy surgery complete (and with help from the biopsy bruising), I now had a greenish-black breast that I affectionately named My Franken-Booby! I was now on track for 45 rounds of radiation, no chemo, lots of scans and, after 6 weeks of radiation, watching the flesh decompose under my right armpit. I just have to say that it was bizarre, unbelievable and a little funny in a sick sort of way. It smelled like rotting raw chicken meat, funky gym shorts, and stinky armpit, and made it impossible to wear a bra. So I didn’t. And I cut the right side out of every shirt, went places and told them I was “an Imhotep mummy (LOL!) so please forgive my rotting, stinky armpit and my open to the public boob!”.
Most people looked really concerned once they heard the word cancer but laughed once they realized I had a pretty good sense of humor about my status. Yep…got the chance to use my heal your heart through laughter & prunes inspirational message on myself!
So, there you have it. It’s not really a giant story compared to so many others I have read, heard or seen but, it keeps reminding me why I will always continue to fight for breast cancer awareness, inspiring others at all times and the strength of positive thoughts and humor.
GRYT is remembering that breast cancer does NOT discriminate when it comes to race, age or sex! GRYT is turning the BEST medical team into lifelong friends because they really do care! GRYT is not letting cancer, or ANY illness, define who you are!! GRYT is having a husband who stands in any and every storm with you to get the job done! GRYT is knowing that the absolute worst cancer is the one of the mind! GRYT is knowing that my voice is a God gift to always be used as a blessing to myself and others.
“You don’t think it’s cancer, do you?”, I said to my parents as I rolled backward and extended my legs into an L shape on their bedroom floor.
“Of course not”, they replied almost in unison. The only people I knew who had cancer died. I was basically asking if they thought I was dying. They said no, but I found out later, that they weren’t sure.
It had been a few months of a lingering cough, that just keeps making its presence known, fatigue that hovered over my body like a dark cloud that increased over the year, matched with an innocent mindset that wondered why I couldn’t keep up with my high school teammates. Of course, it wasn’t cancer, I was only 14.
A day or two later, my dad came home early from work, (he never came home early), it was then I knew it was cancer. The sounds of the car in the driveway in the sunny afternoon told me all I needed to know.
I learned about a new kind of cancer that day, Hodgkins’ Disease, Stage 4 C, the answer to why I couldn’t keep up with my friends and why I was a teenager in bed, in the middle of the day.
Chemo started within a couple of days, I traded school for the hospital, teachers for nurses, and it was then my life changed forever. Over the next two years, my family and I were challenged and tested and we fought every day. We fought through chemo, transfusions, fever spikes, infections, long hospitals stays, the unknown, awaiting test results, a double stem cell transplant, radiation, we continued to fight until it was gone and I will continue to fight now that it is gone.
Although cancer might be gone, for now, my anxiety and worry have never left. Now I am faced with a new fight, this time, not physically but mentally to live to be my best, share positivity, and appreciate the days I have without cancer.
GRYT is running your first half marathon for my 20th anniversary off treatment, when many said I couldn’t and doctors always said, Beth, you should rest. GRYT is running my 4th half marathon, within a year, with a fractured foot, when most said I shouldn’t. GRYT is waking up every day and fighting thoughts about getting sick again with stating 3 things I’m grateful for. GRYT is sharing I am a survivor and ignoring the worry that it will come back and GRYT is knowing that if it does, I will fight and win again.
My name is Sandra Zori and I am a wife, mother of two girls, pharmacist and a Crossfitter. I discovered Crossfit a few years ago and absolutely love it and love lifting heavy weights, but hated running.
However, in Feb 2018 I decided to do sprints on the treadmill and felt that my right breast was heavy. The next day I had sharp shooting pains and discovered a lump. Within two days I had a mammogram and ultrasound and was scheduled for a biopsy.
On February 28th my doctor called me with the dreadful words, “I’m sorry, but it’s cancer.”.
My whole life changed. I couldn’t understand how I got this terrible disease. I was 34 years old, with no risk factors. I never smoked, never worked anywhere with radiation or exposed chemicals, I had no family history, and when I got genetic testing done, I tested negative for 34 oncogenes.
Yet here I was, a young woman with stage 2b triple negative breast cancer. In the following months, I had a total of seven surgeries, months of IV chemotherapy, weeks of radiation, and am currently on a maintenance oral chemo. I have returned to work as a pharmacist, and have continued to stay active doing mostly at home workouts. Life throws its challenges at me, but I do my best to maintain a positive attitude and a mindset of gratitude. Every day I find something to be grateful for.
GRYT is facing each day, no matter how difficult, and telling yourself, “I can do this.”. GRYT is doing whatever it takes to find something to be grateful for. “Gratitude is an attitude.” GRYT is keeping on keeping on and taking it one day at a time. GRYT is keeping up with Crossfit and modifying when needed.
Neurofibromatosis. Harder to say, harder to live with. But what is it? NF (for short) is a genetic condition that affects 1 in every 3000 births. It is more common than cystic fibrosis, hereditary muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease and Tay Sachs combined, and her it’s still a complete mystery to the medical field. Nf is the mutation of the 17th chromosome, and causes (mostly) benign tumors to grow along the nerves.
By the time I was 10, I’d already had 6 surgeries, one of which was to remove a tumor from my spinal cord, leaving me with two fancy rods in my back. NF has two types, type 1 and type 2. Both can cause things, such as physical disabilities, tumors along the nerves, scoliosis, vision and hearing problems, and learning disabilities, just to name a few. Although most tumors are benign, people with NF have a higher risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. I recently found out that I have an even more rare type of NF1, which hasn’t had much research done on it yet. This subtype basically makes it more easy for me to develop cancer.
Growing up with NF, lumps, and bumps on the skin were pretty normal. When I was 27, I noticed a lump on my breast, that was different than my NF lumps. This one was quite large and causing my breast to concave slightly. I knew that this was not normal for NF, so I decided to get it checked out. After calling probably 15 breast doctors and getting turned away by each one because I was “too young”, I was finally able to get into Planned Parenthood.
I was excited to finally be seen but unfortunately, this doctor just dismissed it as my condition and did not want to do any further testing. But I know my body and I knew this was something else. She sent me home with a follow up to return in 6 months.
Well, 5 months later I ended up in the ER, not being able to breathe with a 135 heart rate. I was told that I had bronchitis and sent home with some antibiotics. Again, I know my body and I knew that this was not bronchitis. I’ve had bronchitis before, so I knew what I was feeling was something else. I was getting frustrated, constantly getting turned away by doctor after doctor.
After I left this ER, I decided to drive to another ER, where they ran one test and told me I had fluid in my chest. Before I knew it, I was being rushed away into emergency surgery to remove 3 liters of fluid from my chest. I was later told I had a pericardial window, where they had to biopsy a small piece of my heart.
Everything had happened so fast, I barely had time to call my family to let them know what was going on. I woke up from surgery later, in ICU with a pretty big tube in my chest to drain the remaining fluid my body was giving off. I couldn’t talk due to the breathing tube I had in my throat during surgery, which had caused some bruising. I had an oxygen mask on, pumping 13 liters of oxygen into my lungs because I was unable to breathe on my own. I honestly couldn’t tell you how long I was in surgery, or how long it took me to wake up. The day and weeks following it are honestly a blur. I was told that the fluid they took out during my surgery was being sent off for testing. I wasn’t sure what they were testing for and didn’t think much of it when they said cancer was one of the things being tested. I was 27, ran every morning, went to the gym, just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. I was applying to grad school, had no family history of cancer, and I was not worried about that.
February 23 is one of the dates that will always stick with me. That is the day I was rushed into emergency surgery. The day that everything changed. It was just a few days later when I thought everything was getting better. I was still in the hospital, I was being taken out of ICU and moved to a less emergent wing of the hospital. I no longer had a tube in my chest, and I was able to breathe on my own. I was now in MICU, and I still have not received my results from the fluid and heart biopsy. I wasn’t worried though. No news is good news, right?
After being in MICU for just a day, on March 1, my hospital doctor had come into my room and told me I was able to go home. I still wanted my test results, so I asked him if I could see them. What he said next, I’ll never forget…
“Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”
He forgot… He left the room and came back 20 minutes later. I’m sure you can guess what he said next.
“Well you can’t go home, you have cancer.”
He wasn’t sure where the cancer was when I had asked him. He said itwas probably colon cancer because “that’s a common cancer”. So I lifted up my gown and pointed to the lump on my breast. The lump I had spent the last 6 months trying to get looked at. The lump I knew wasn’t just a lump.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. It’s probably breast cancer.”
The next day I had a biopsy done, and I’m sure you can guess the rest. Three days later an oncologist entered my room and told me that I had breast cancer that had spread to the liver and spine. Before I knew it, I had about 10 doctor appointments and was being scheduled for chemo. My oncologist told me I would be cured of cancer after 6 rounds of chemo. After meeting with my oncology nurse, she had told me it was stage 4 and metastatic. I was not sure what stage 4 meant. I went home and did a lot of research on what that meant. After learning what metastatic and what a treatment plan meant for that, I knew I did not want to stay with this oncologist. I knew that 6 treatments would not cure me. There is not a cure for me.
It is important to be your own advocate. If you are not comfortable with your doctors, then you need to get a second opinion, even a third and fourth until you are happy with your decision. I decided that it would be best for me to take time off work, and move in with family. I chose to live with my sister who lived in Louisiana.
I’m currently still receiving treatment. After 20 rounds of IV chemo, I’m now on a pill form of treatment, along with two monthly shots. I know that I will be in treatment for the rest of my life, but I know that you also should not listen to the outdated statistics. Everybody is different and everybody responds to medicine differently.
I keep a positive attitude. I think that’s important, especially after a diagnosis of cancer. You’re going to have your scary moments, but just know that you will get through those scary moments. Having cancer sucks, but you can’t dwell on the negatives, because that’s all you’re going to think about.
I have cancer, cancer does not have me.
That’s something I always tell myself. Cancer is just something I have, along with NF. This is not my whole life, just a small part of it. I’m much more than my conditions. I’m the same person I was before I was diagnosed, I just take a lot more naps now.
GRYT is being diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic breast cancer, 2 months after receiving your college degree. GRYT is leaving your dream job to focus on your health. GRYT is accepting you can’t control everything. GRYT is appreciating each day and living your life to the fullest.
I was 27 and had just moved to Toronto to pursue my legal career and finally live with my husband. We were married the year before and living long distance while I was in law school. On August 26, 2015, I had to put my career on hold to endure a year of treatments for triple positive, stage three breast cancer. I had five months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, 25 radiation treatments, a year of Herceptin treatments, three other surgeries to fix my reconstruction and am currently doing hormone therapy for the next seven years.
My story is not unique. I hear the same story from so many other young women who have been diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told me I was too young for cancer and since I don’t have any history of breast cancer in my family the tumor in my breast must just be dense tissue. It took several months to get my breast cancer diagnosis after I had to advocate for myself and insist on a biopsy. At the time of my diagnosis, we knew it was already in my lymph nodes but luckily it hadn’t traveled beyond that.
Exactly one month after my last radiation treatment, I started articling at a law firm. The articling hiring process occurs the year before you actually start working, so before I was diagnosed I had this position lined up. This made my diagnosis easier to swallow because if there was a good time to get cancer, it was then. I had the whole year to focus on my health and getting better. My doctors had advised me against starting a full-time stressful career so soon but I was determined to be called to the Bar the following summer. It was tough to deal with incredible fatigue, chemo brain, and my many doctor appointments while working in a new profession but every week my brain fog would clear a little more and my stamina would improve. Mostly, it felt great to be using the skills I had worked so hard to develop over the last few years and to not be “just the sick patient” anymore.
A year later, I was called to the Bar, finally becoming a lawyer. Unfortunately, the firm I was working at was unable to hire any students that year, so I was back to the job search, but in the meantime I secured a contract position at Rethink Breast Cancer (an AYA organization supporting young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer), which has since turned into a full-time role. Pre-cancer, I chose a highly stressful and demanding profession because I thought it would be a stable industry that I could excel at. Post-cancer, this lifestyle is not realistic for me. Exercising, eating healthy and getting enough sleep is so important to my mental and physical health, including helping with the lasting symptoms of cancer treatments and hormone therapy.
Since getting the all-clear to resume regular activities from my doctors in July 2017, I have started a high intensity exercise program, have ran two half marathons and training for my third, coached running clinics at the Running Room and started working at Pink Pearl Canada (an AYA organization supporting women with any type of cancer). My work with both organizations has helped me find purpose in my awful diagnosis. If I can help a newly diagnosed women feel less alone or encourage someone to advocate for themselves, I know I’m doing something important.
To follow along with my life after a breast cancer diagnosis, please follow me @emilypiercell or read more of my personal blogs.
GRYT is advocating for myself even when doctors told me I was too young for breast cancer. GRYT is seeing the bright side even throughout the darkest days. GRYT is realizing I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
I am Jearlean Taylor, a Baltimore, MD native. I grew up in a loving family with both parents. I have three sisters and two brothers. I love to travel, model, watch TV, and spend time with family and friends.
I was diagnosed with a rare form of vaginal cancer (Rhabdomyosarcoma) at the early age of three. My childhood and most of my adolescent years would be at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NY getting treatments and care. Because of cancer, I was forced to have a permanent ostomy, which aides my bladder and bowel functions that cause me to have an ostomy (bags) for the rest of my life.
My life has proven to be a journey of unexpected challenges, especially being a double ostomate. My outward appearance is one of beauty, high fashion, grace, and charm. My inward existence was one of low self-esteem, depression, and chronic medical complications. I found it hard, embarrassing and painful to be considered “different”. How would I cope? How would I deal with what “life” has dealt me? I learned life happens.
Through my journey I discovered, I am not defined by my circumstances. It is now important for me to inspire, encourage and empower others, especially the ostomy community. I hope my story pushes others to come out of their comfort zone in sharing their story because everybody has a story to tell.
If I could change anything about my life I would not change anything, not even having ostomy bags. It has made me who I am today. I have endured a lot in my life. Who I was before and who I am now is a woman of strength. I am an author, motivational speaker, fashion model, cancer survivor, ostomy advocate, and mentor. I am doing well. I feel good, my health is great, and God is showering blessings beyond all I could have imagined. I will continue to travel sharing my story with cancer survivors, be an inspiration to the ostomy community, and give encouragement to those suffering from low self-esteem. I am still promoting my book “Pretty Girl Blues”.
In addition, at age 51 years old I still love gracing the runways and doing editorial modeling. Remember we are all different to make a difference. Live your life on purpose with a purpose and for a purpose.
GRYT is celebrating 49 years as a cancer survivor. GRYT is turning my dreams into reality. GRYT is being one of the top fashion models in my state in spite of having an ostomy (bags) GRYT is being an advocate and inspiration to the ostomy community.
After no longer nursing my child, still producing milk and thinking I had a clogged milk duct, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, primary angiosarcoma, in my left breast. This felt like a loss of power and control in my own journey. I was not going to let a disease take my power away.
Since being diagnosed in February of 2018, I have spent beautiful energy on not only finding the new me but also raising awareness by sharing love through my stages of strength, fear, healing, and grief.
I didn’t have breast cancer, I had an extremely rare cancer that was located in my breast. This set me aside from others that have had a mastectomy. Finding support from people with lived experience has been challenging; I have yet to find someone that has experienced the type and location of the disease I had.
I chose the route of a double mastectomy without reconstruction. Many surgeons do not speak of opting out of reconstruction. Several people have asked me, “There is no judgment, but why did you not get reconstruction? Don’t you want shape? Take this as a free reduction and get some beautiful ones built?”. Actually, I don’t prefer breasts. One of mine had disease, and I don’t need some built. I don’t need shape. I need to be alive and be ME. I have the power to choose what I do in my treatment. I get to choose what I do because it’s my body and my choice.
Through all of this, I have gained so much power. I have desired to be my strongest self more than ever. I have allowed myself to open my heart and mind to all people without fear of judgment. Before my diagnosis, I would have been reluctant to be this open.
Experiencing a disease that is incredibly rare and choosing the far less conventional path to avoid reconstruction, puts me in a space where sharing my personal story creates so much awareness, support, and love. We all live on Mother Earth. We all deserve to have power over our bodies, our choices, and our lives. Love your body. Love yourself. Be aware, feel the power, and bring light and love with it.
Also, flat is fabulous.
As of today, I’m still disease free. As of today, I’m thriving and being my best ME.
GRYT is when my husband and child help my heart smile every day.
GRYT is having a loving warrior crew by my side.
GRYT is when a group of powerful friends hold a healing ceremony for me.
GRYT is the strength to choose a double mastectomy without reconstruction and thrive with comfort and beauty.
GRYT is running a half marathon 7 weeks post-mastectomy.
GRYT is training for a full marathon.
GRYT is being at peace with screaming in fear to release emotions.
GRYT is loving my body always.
GRYT is honoring and voicing the truth of scanxiety.
No one can ever prepare for a cancer diagnosis. Certainly not a 23-year-old new mom who was about to celebrate 5 years of marriage to her high school sweetheart.
Fear, anxiety, heartbreak; these are just a few words to describe what I felt when I was told that cancer had been growing in my body without any warning. Just like any human would, I automatically thought the worst. I thought about being so sick I wouldn’t be around to watch my son grow. I thought about death and what my husband and child would do without me? I thought about my parents losing a child, which no parent should ever have to endure. What am I supposed to do now? How do I keep living my life normally?
Weeks went by and after I was poked and stabbed with every test the oncologist ordered, we had my full diagnosis; Stage IV Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. A rare but curable form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Keyword — curable. That word was my tiny ray of light at the end of this dark tunnel. I then chose no matter how tiny my light was, I was gonna let it shine.
I choose life. I’m going to fight to the very end to make sure I’m there for my son’s first birthday, his first steps, my wedding anniversary, my sister’s college graduation. Everything that I was planning before, is still going to be my reality later. I’m choosing to smile through my treatments in hopes to show others that if I can do it, so can you.
Cancer will not take over me. I will conquer as a wife, as a mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been given and I will live my life to its fullest extent.
GRYT is being diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma two months before your child’s first birthday. GRYT is enduring chemo during your child’s first Christmas. GRYT is still enjoying work because life doesn’t stop after cancer.
My name is Lourdes Camas, I am 35 years old and I live in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Since I was a child everyone has called me Lula. I was a normal person, with a normal life and I was having the best time of my life. I was married, with a good husband, and three amazing kids; Mariana, Santiago, and Sebastian. I had my house, a job, a car, and everything I wanted. I did CrossFit, so I was physically fine. I ate well and my life was perfect.
Until that day… April 28, 2015. I woke up with terrible dizziness. I couldn’t walk. I was feeling really terrible. I was confused because I was healthy, I had control of everything in my life, so I was afraid of what I was feeling. My husband took me to the emergency room, I couldn’t walk, I needed help. It was the longest drive of my life. It took an hour and a half to get to the emergency room. I felt that my head was growing and growing, and a terrible headache started, a big sound on my ears and my vision turned blurred. Finally, we came to the hospital and they had to take me in on a wheelchair because, at that time, I couldn’t stand up. I was really afraid, I was thinking of my kids, they were so young. I had to do a lot of things for them, and I couldn’t even walk by myself at that time.
The doctors did a lot of tests and everything was fine until they ordered an MRI and there it was, a tumor on my brain. They had to remove it immediately. My brain was swollen, so they had to treat it first and a couple of days later, I had surgery. My emotions came out, I felt so small. I was afraid of everything; money, for my kids and my mom. She was having a bad time at that moment (physically), and of course, for my husband, I didn’t know if he could do everything I did for our family and his responsibilities as well.
I had surgery on May 1st, 2015. My amazing Dr. Enrique Azmitia removed the complete tumor and I had a normal recovery. (Really hard for me). But everything was just starting when a couple of days later, the results of pathology came. I was diagnosed with Oligodendroglioma Stage 2. It was cancer. When I heard that word, I immediately thought of my kids. I wanted to be there when they graduated from high school, when they got married, for everything. I cried a lot. But the news got worse because the treatment was really expensive and I wanted to receive the best treatment. Because in my country, the public health is terrible. Many people die before they receive any medicine. So my family, friends, and a lot of people got together to help me. That was amazing. I was on TV shows, in magazines, newspapers and we made a lot of activities to collect the money I needed. We sold t-shirts, cookies, bracelets, and everything we could.
A couple of months later, I went to Miami, FL to receive the radiotherapy and then came back to my country to receive the chemotherapy. I was born again. It was like a new a beginning, it made me realize that I didn’t have the best life, I had to take care of myself first, to take care of my emotions, to learn how to be really happy, but from the inside out. To do whatever I dream, and to care about other people.
Right now it’s 2019, I am 3 years cancer free and I do a lot of things to help people who are on this beautiful road of evolution. I am a speaker now, I go to schools, universities, and companies to talk about my experience and everything I’ve learned. I teach them how to really live, and the key to being happy in life is to care, to have tolerance and acceptance. I also share on my social media, the tips of how to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. My life now is better and I live it, one minute at a time. Because I now have another opportunity to do it, just for me.
Life is beautiful and it needs just a second to change everything. We have to live one day at a time. Enjoy what you have, who is with you at that time and always be grateful for that.
GRYT is to accept with love what you’re going through. GRYT is to accept that sometimes you need help. GRYT is to use that fear as a strength to beat cancer. GRYT is to be thankful for your body for fighting with you. GRYT is to get in charge of your emotions. GRYT is to live one minute at a time.
How many times have people asked: where do you see yourself in ten years from now?? How many of us would have answered: Living with cancer?
One year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One year ago my whole world fell apart and broke into million pieces that I’m now trying to fix as best as I can.
One year ago, the fight began, and my mind was only focused on the treatment; the chemo, the surgery, and the radiotherapy. I have achieved all these goals and now I can say I am cancer free. It’s hard to believe though.
I’ve learned a lot during this year: how to love myself, how to heal, how to survive and how to take care of me. I’ve learned that it is very important to share our feelings and experiences in order to help those who need it. I know I have to stay strong for myself, enjoy every minute I can because life is worth it.
I can’t say the whole cancer process is only sadness and suffering; it is also meeting and getting to know a lot of people, stars who shine brightly up in the sky or here in the earth. Those people have helped me a lot and they’ve been able to make all the loneliness I felt as a cancer patient disappear.
Where do I see myself in ten years from now? I don’t know, but who cares? We have to live the present, the other things don’t exist yet. Never give up, no matter what.
GRYT is knowing that whatever it takes, I have my family beside me.
GRYT is thinking about the next time I can go to a new place in the world.
GRYT is helping other people by showing how I’ve managed some things, giving tricks to other fighters.