Thankfulness - From My Mom
Many people think of cancer as a death sentence, but for me it has been a fuller life sentence. Sure, it was quite a blow to hear "You have stage 2 or 3 breast cancer.". It took some time to come to grips with the diagnosis; followed by the news that I would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation after surgery. As the news of what I was facing began to sink in, so did the realization that this was something totally out of my control. I had been a Christian for many years, but at the age of 50, I learned I still had much faith growing to do. When I began my regimen of medical treatment, I also began a journey of faith. Obviously, I prayed for God to heal me, as well as the courage and strength to endure. In a very short time, I got an answer to these prayers. God would heal me, in one way or another. If the cancer could be cured, I would enjoy more time with my family and friends; if not, then I would get to spend eternity free from suffering and pain with Jesus.
During the whole ordeal, things began to happen which I never expected. Through the prayers of Christian friends, God was holding me in a positive bubble. The worry, the what ifs, and the doubts were no longer an issue. Family and friends became much more valuable and precious. I enjoyed a deeper, fuller relationship with my Savior. Consequently, I learned to love and appreciate my husband, who was my rock, in new ways. My gratitude for everyday ordinary blessings reached new heights, things which had seemed so important were now trivial. Stresses from the past were now insignificant. I began to learn to live in the moment and to know what that means. God did heal me in more ways than I could ever have imagined, and looking back 14 years later, I realize how much fuller and richer my life is than it has ever been. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
No, I can't exactly give thanks for cancer. But i am grateful to God for the lessons living through this time in my life taught me.
My Friend Shares Her Experience
"You Must Always Have Hope and Trust God"
My name is Donna Mathews. I am a breast cancer survivor. I want to share just a little bit with you about my journey with cancer. I was diagnosed on October 1, 2012 with Aggressive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 2. The tumor was located in my left breast and was 2.5 centimeters when found and within one week it measured 4.5 centimeters. I would strongly encourage every woman I know to do self-exams because this is how I found mine and I know that early detection was everything in my case. I quickly began seeing Surgeons, Oncologist, and Plastic Surgeons for reviews and recommendations. It was all moving so fast and I felt like I was in a dream that was going to end soon. I had many scans, tests and biopsies done and found that it was contained to the area of location and was not found in any of the test done on the lymph nodes. The sentinel node under my left arm was removed and tested just as a precaution but came back negative. My medic port was installed and upon completion of all procedures chemotherapy was started and I took treatments for 4 and a half months. The chemo really is tough I must admit, but I was determined and had the faith not to let it get me. I would take my treatments either in the mornings or afternoons and would work prior to or after each treatment. Some days I had to really push myself to keep going but God kept me strong. The chemo also took my hair as we began round 2. I tried a couple of wigs and then just went to hats and caps because it was more comfortable. The “Feel Good Look Good” Foundation provided me with a wig and a gift bag of make-ups that made me feel so special when I was at one of my lowest points. Once I completed my chemo treatments I was scheduled for a single mastectomy. I talked with my doctors and made the decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I prayed about it, talked with other survivors and just felt led to go in this direction.
I am now cancer free for four (4) years and only have to see my oncologist every 6 months. I praise God and thank him every day of my life for letting me survive. I am also very grateful for my husband, my son, and his wife, for being such wonderful caregivers and who were there for me every step of the way. These people carried me and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Support is very important when you are going through these types of things. I was so blessed with family and good friends.
The one thing I learned early on with this battle was that I had to be positive no matter what. Being positive and praising God daily for his blessings carried me through one of the most trying times of my life. Did my life change? Yes, and somethings will never be the same again, but I am a “better me” because God showed me so much, and made me much stronger. I do not share this story to point out the bad of this horrible experience but to let you know there is hope and I am living proof today that you must be positive and you must “fight like a girl.”
I am now very involved in fundraising events for cancer patients and American Cancer Society. I have had several chances to speak to church groups and to various groups of women and just tell my story and to let people know that you must always have hope and trust in God. I will never pass of the opportunity to share my story and what God did for me.
My husband and I have a great life and we are now enjoying spending every minute we can with our two wonderful grandsons, Jaxson and Jarrett, who are truly blessings from God.
Breast Cancer Survivor Finds the ‘Can’ in Cancer
"What finding the 'can' in cancer means to me is there's something good even around all of the terrible things."
By Stacy Simon
More than 10 years ago while Pam Matthews was going through breast cancer treatment, she adopted a personal mantra, one she still embraces today.
“What finding the ‘can’ in cancer means to me is there’s something good even around all of the terrible things,” said Matthews. “Everything is happening for a reason. We may not understand it now, but we will.”
The American Cancer Society originally told Matthews’ breast cancer story in the Stories of Hope section in 2005. At the time of her diagnosis, Matthews’ husband and 2 sons were dealing with their own health problems. And since then, the family has faced additional challenges including job losses. Today, Matthews and her husband are employed, her husband and sons (now ages 21 and 16) are doing well, and her breast cancer has not come back. Matthews says the tough times have made her the person she is today.
“When you’ve gone through lots of bad things you get really good at dealing with them,” said Matthews. “The ‘can’ in cancer also represents our philosophy as a family. We ask not, ‘What do we do?’ but ‘What are we going to do right now?’ It forces you to do something instead of letting something happen to you. It means living, taking jobs I wouldn’t have had the guts to do previously, experiencing things, being fierce, and taking the time to enjoy the little things.”
As she has for years, Matthews continues to write to family and friends about her experiences, and still receives return messages of support, encouragement, and appreciation. But while she once wrote journals and shared her entries through email, she now mostly relies on social media to tell her stories and share her insights. She considers herself a role model for other survivors, demonstrating that cancer is not the end.
In her mission to help others deal with the overwhelming experiences of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival, Matthews blends optimism with practical advice. She says:
1. Talk to your doctors: Matthews says it’s important to have a good relationship with your health care providers. Though she’s passed her 10-year anniversary as a cancer survivor, she still works hard to maintain her relationship with her oncologist while keeping her primary care doctor in the loop.
2. Stay healthy: While it’s important for everyone to stay healthy, Matthews says it’s especially important for survivors. She is currently trying to watch what she eats, exercise, lose weight, reduce stress, and get more sleep.
3. Ask for help: Matthews says this is something she had to learn. “Knowing how and when to punt, when to say, ‘uncle,’ and when to say, ‘I need a minute’ are all things you get better at as time goes on,” said Matthews.
5. Use your support system: Matthews says her family and friends got her through her diagnosis and treatment, but she realizes not everyone has that. She encourages survivors to find out who their local social workers are and what they do, and what other resources are available in their neighborhood, house of worship, and community.
6. Seek out credible sources: of information like the American Cancer Society. Matthews checks the American Cancer Society website once a month for the latest news and information about cancer. “I’m a huge fan of the American Cancer Society,” said Matthews. “I’m always trying to tell people how much great information is available and how many great people are manning the phones.”
7. Deal in the present: Balancing the challenges of a complicated medical condition like cancer on top of all the other demands of work and family life can become overwhelming. Matthews says she tries to keep things in perspective and take things as they come. “I deal in the present,” she said, “and try to be as successful as possible to the best of my knowledge.”
Survivor of Breast and Cervical Cancer Finds Positive Outlook
"I want women to know I am living proof there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope, and life will get back to normal. I do not let the thought of recurrence run my life; I live my life and thank God for every day."
Kari Martin has had her share of health scares over the years. She found her first breast lump at age 17, the first of 9 benign (non-cancerous) lumps she had removed from her breasts during the next 2 decades. One of those lumps, found in 2004 when Martin was 35, was so suspicious, her doctor advised her to begin getting yearly mammograms. (The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms begin at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer.)
Less than a year later, Martin had a scare that was more than just a scare. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was caught early through a Pap test, and she underwent a hysterectomy. She did not need chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatment. She said, “I felt so blessed!”
Then in 2008, after her regular yearly mammogram, Martin received a letter telling her she had a suspicious result and should come back in 6 months. Six months later, after the repeat mammogram, she received an identical letter. But instead of scheduling another repeat mammogram, Martin made an appointment with a breast surgeon. “My instinct just kicked in,” said Martin.
The surgeon ordered an ultrasound of Martin’s breast, and found nothing wrong. Martin got up to leave, but the surgeon insisted on examining her other breast. The doctor felt a mass, ordered an ultrasound, and saw something that worried her. The next day, Martin underwent a core needle biopsy and was told she had breast cancer.
Good news and bad news:
Martin was diagnosed with Stage II triple negative breast cancer. The good news was that it was found early, before it had spread, but the bad news was that this type of breast cancer tends to be very aggressive.
Martin’s first thoughts were about her sons, then ages 10 and 17. She worried, “Is my 10-year-old son going to lose his mother? Am I going to see my 17-year-old son graduate from high school?” She prepared to fight. She underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Martin said losing her hair as a side effect from treatment was very hard for her. “For all the people who say, ‘It’s just hair,’ they should only know what we go through. It’s ‘just hair’ for the people who have it; for us women who have to endure chemo, it’s a lot more than ‘just hair.’ I went through some dark, sad days and never felt so ugly and scared. I never thought I’d ever look normal or be pretty again.”
Martin found help through an American Cancer Society Look Good Feel Better workshop. This free, national public service program teaches cancer patients to manage the appearance side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Volunteers at the workshop – some of whom were breast cancer survivors themselves – gave her wigs and helped her with makeup and skincare.
“They know exactly what you’re going through,” said Martin. “Sisters and friends want to be there for you, but they don’t always know what to say. People at Look Good Feel Better know what you’re going through.”
New positive things:
Martin has had additional breast lumps as well as ovarian cysts, but all have turned out to be benign. She said that though she worries about her cancer coming back, she looks for ways to think positive.
After her breast cancer treatment, she began exercising with an interactive video program, and now uses it every day to practice yoga, aerobics, and weight training.
She also likes to go to the American Cancer Society website, cancer.org, to read inspiring stories, especially ones about women surviving triple negative breast cancer. She hopes to become a source of inspiration herself.
Martin said, “I’ve never felt or looked better in my life. I want women to know I am living proof there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope, and life will get back to normal. I do not let the thought of recurrence run my life; I live my life and thank God for every day.”
PinkTrailer.com is a charity division of Walker Lands & Cattle, LLC which is our way of giving back to the communities we serve by providing funds and donations to the Never Surrender Foundation which is dedicated to providing financial, emotional, and educational support services for uninsured and under-insured individuals with breast cancer. This was founded in support of many of our close friends we have who are currently fighting and surviving this disease.
We support women of all ages, in all stages of breast cancer, along with their caregivers, offering knowledge, encouragement and friendship.
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