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Archive for the ‘Survivor Spotlight’ Category

PBCC Grassroots Partner Shelly Mix Reflects on Breast Cancer Journey

Posted By on April 15th, 2014 at 8:32 am | 0 comments.
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.

Young PA Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Strengths, Struggles and Spirit

Posted By on January 15th, 2014 at 8:39 am | 0 comments.

Amanda-Musser-and-Daughter-rounded-corners-for-webAmanda Musser, Lebanon County

Photo credit: Taylor Sanger Photography

The day after my grandfather’s funeral I woke up with a lot of pain in my breast. He had battled bladder cancer for about six months and passed away in February. I always do breast self-exam and hadn’t found anything but I feel like this was my grandfather showing me where to look for it. I went for an exam the same day. It was the day before my birthday. I spent my birthday having an ultrasound and mammogram. You never think it’s going to be cancer, especially at age 30.

On February 19, 2013, five days after my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I had a lumpectomy and since I had cancer in three of my lymph nodes, started on chemotherapy. I had a very tough time with it, got very sick and ended up having a pulmonary embolism and was hospitalized. I changed to taxol and again got very sick and my white blood cell count dropped drastically. After another pulmonary embolism the doctor said that my body was not handling the chemo and I stopped.

When I was diagnosed I was working on my master’s degree in social work and was in school through surgery and chemo. I took the summer semester off and started school again in September at the same time that I started the first of 37 radiation treatments. I finished the semester in December with a 4.0 while going through radiation!

I feel like my husband was a single parent from the time I had surgery until about a month ago. He did everything, cooking, cleaning, taking care of me and our three-year old daughter Sophie. My parents, grandparents, and my husband’s parents were all awesome. We had someone coming over every day to help.

I went into social work because I worked in a psychiatric hospital for eight years but wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take when I graduated. Now I want to go into the field of oncology, counseling newly diagnosed patients. It’s strange how something like this can give you direction in life.  It’s terrible to go through but you definitely learn a lot from the experience.

Feeling Blessed: Support of Friends, Family Boost Survivor’s Journey

Posted By on December 16th, 2013 at 8:29 am | 0 comments.

Susan-Posoff-Image-2-for-webSurvivor Stories: Susan Posoff, Delaware County

I was 60 years old in January and I decided that this is the year I start taking care of myself. I found a lump in my breast in March and made an appointment to see a gynecologist. The doctor thought maybe it was a cyst … test after test, doctor after doctor. I was stoic and moving forward…

I have three daughters between the ages of 21 and 26 and I needed to be a role model for them. I was that brave warrior until after the surgery when I had time to stop and think about what had just happened. That’s when everything starting sinking in.  I work full-time doing accounts payable and payroll for the 300 employees at Waverly Heights, a senior living community. I decided I should tell them what was going on and talked with the head of human resources to put the information in my file. And then something truly amazing happened. Every morning when I came in to work, something would be at my desk. Some days it would be an inspirational message with a pink bow attached, or a flower or a plant. Whenever I turned the corner to get to my desk, I’d see the newest thing and it would just take my breath away.

Aside from work, I’m part of a new neighborhood ladies’ group. We celebrate birthdays and have “getting to know you” events. One of the ladies sent out an email to everyone in the group asking who might like to make me dinner or dessert during my treatment. At the end of the day I come home and ten women, some of whom I’ve never known before, have come to my home and made me dinner. Here I am at the end of the workday and I’m feeling wrapped in blessings. The people at work who I’ve known only a few years and the people in the neighborhood who I’ve known only a few months make this a wonderful journey.

I love being with my husband and my daughters, gardening, watching movies, and going to the beach. I love to float. I think of myself floating and I feel relaxed.

Survivor Stories: “Life Goes On. It Does.” – Elaine Shuey, Monroe County

Posted By on September 16th, 2013 at 8:56 am | 0 comments.

Elaine Shuey pic for PLI recently celebrated the 20th anniversary since my breast cancer diagnosis. At each five year mark, I’ve had a party, but this was the biggest, held at a restaurant with a band playing music.

Guests to the party had to bring either a donation to the PBCC or an item from the wish list from the Awsom Animal Welfare Society of Monroe. We filled an SUV with gifts for the shelter, raised $170 for them and $1,200 for the PBCC.

I was 36 years old when I was diagnosed in 1993. My treatment was complete with a mastectomy.

I didn’t know about the PBCC until recently when I accidentally turned around in a parking lot on a shopping trip and pulled in front of the office. The breast cancer license plates were the first things that attracted my attention. Since then I’ve ordered several Friends Like Me care packages for friends.

I try to help women who’ve just been diagnosed understand that at some point it’s not the first thing you think of every day. For a while it is. For example, I was writing down my medical history for a new doctor. I listed foot surgery, tonsils, and I thought “I’m forgetting something. What is it?” It takes a while for that to happen to you, but it will. Also, you need to realize that many people survive cancer and survive for a long time with a good quality of life.
Life goes on. It does.

Survivor Stories: Randi Rentz – Montgomery County

Posted By on August 15th, 2013 at 8:24 am | 0 comments.

Randi Rentz for PL

In 2008, I was packing up mementos in my father’s attic after he had passed away when I felt a sharp pain below my left breast into my rib cage. I thought I had dislocated a rib and made an appointment with my chiropractor. I was out of alignment but afterwards it still hurt. I decided to move up my regular mammogram appointment. Nothing showed on the mammogram. The radiologist said I was good to go home. I said “No, I’m not. I want an ultrasound and I want an ultrasound now.” I was 42 years old, had no immediate family history of breast cancer, but my gut was telling me that something was wrong. I insisted.

After the ultrasound showed that something was there after all, she suggested I see a surgeon to have it aspirated. I met with a surgeon who had previously removed cysts I had. When the pathology report came back, he called to tell me the cells were conducive to DCIS and that I had breast cancer but that I’d be fine.

I always tell other women to get second opinions … the more information, the better. I got five opinions! I chose to have a lumpectomy and had to have chemo and radiation. My friends gave me strength. They came to my treatments, cooked for me, did my laundry and just kept me company. My co-workers were my cheerleaders. My doctors were incredibly supportive. I also saw an amazing therapist who specializes in treating cancer patients. Speaking to other survivors in my age range was helpful to me too. That’s why I wrote my book, to be there for other women. “Why Buy A Wig … When You Can Buy Diamonds” is a memoir about my breast cancer experience. I’m hoping it will be published in the fall of 2014. I have a blog at www.randirentz.com. It keeps me motivated and warms my heart when a newly-diagnosed woman says that reading the blog helped her to create her own “diamond moment.”

 

 

Survivor Stories – Lananh Rissmiller, Lehigh County

Posted By on July 15th, 2013 at 8:22 am | 0 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.