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It all started with a Beyonce concert… By guest blogger, Channte K.

It was one of the best nights of my life. After having front row seats to the Beyonce Formation concert, I was on an ultimate high. I crashed in the bed at 1:00 am, anxiously looking to recap the night. I scrolled through picture after picture on my phone, grinning at how remarkable the night had been. As I rested my phone near my chest to brace for a better view, I could see a raised lump. The site of the lump was not too frightening at the time, but I immediately knew that whatever the knot was, it didn’t belong there.

One month later; after an OBGYN visit, a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 3, 2016 at 36 years old. This was the start of my cancer journey.

After the initial shock, to me it was simple. If it were up to me, my treatment plan would be to have the tumor surgically removed and then continue on with my life after a few weeks. But it’s far more complicated than that.

I was diagnosed with Stage 2, estrogen positive invasive ductal carcinoma. When you’re diagnosed, it seems as if the process moves very swiftly at first. A plethora of hard decisions that impact the rest of your life have to be made in a matter of days. Having said that, in three weeks post diagnosis, I removed both breast. I thought that having a double mastectomy was enough. The doctors thought otherwise.

My surgical oncologist insisted that I do radiation. It was my plastic surgeon that rebutted that course of treatment. I did a second surgery to remove additional skin against my surgical oncologist wishes but with my plastic surgeons persistence. My plastic surgeon secured clear margins during my second surgery. But to my surprise and horror there were still 1 cm of cancer cells left in my right breast. Although I avoided radiation because of my second procedure. I still had to do chemotherapy.

No one tells you how much you lose when you have cancer. Since I had surgery and chemotherapy, I lost my breast, my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and the possibility for more children. There were mornings when I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself.

But the beautiful thing about my journey is that I gained so much more than I lost. A year later, most of what cancer took has been replaced with something much better. I have hair and my eyebrows and eyelashes back. I also have new breast thanks to reconstructive surgery.

But that’s not what’s most important. I have met some incredible people along this journey. I have found strength and companionship among other survivors. My faith in God has quadrupled. I am more passionate, more loving and more grateful for each day.

I could say that having cancer was some of the worst days of my life. But I won’t. Instead I will say that overcoming cancer gave me a new outlook on life. It was a beautiful experience that was painful at its worst (physically and emotionally), humbling at its core and rewarding in the end.

Now when I look in the mirror I still don’t recognize myself. I’m different. I’m a better version of the old me. I’ve been elevated to a warrior with immense strength and a clear purpose. I certainly have the battle scars to prove it.  I will continue to raise awareness, educate and help others in being their own health advocate and their best selves. ~ Channte

 

Cancer treatment breaks you down … physically and emotionally. By Robin G.


For me the hardest part about having cancer is not ever understanding why or how it happened. You scroll through your Rolodex over and over in your head and nothing makes sense. Every new research report I see only makes me angry. Fact is … when it comes to prevention we just don’t know. By all research accounts I did everything right. I’ve never smoked. I rarely have a drink of alcohol. I #exercise. I eat right. I even breast-fed both of my children for a full year in part because the “research” said it would decrease your risk for getting breast cancer. And I don’t carry the gene.

Yet somehow the sniper got me! I was a sitting duck and I got hit. So then all your medical team can do is go on the defense. Sometimes they cut the cancer out. Sometimes they poison you and put drugs in your body that kill cancer and everything else. Some people don’t survive the treatment. They literally get killed by the treatments. And sometimes they burn you. They literally burn your body in an effort to kill cancer. Chemo, surgery, and #Radiation. The cancer treatment trifecta.

Cancer treatment breaks you down … physically and emotionally.

When they can’t find any more #cancer they say “you won!” Won what?!? A battle I never asked to fight?!? And you’re left laying on the ground picking up the pieces and trying to find a sense of normal again. You’re supposed to be happy because you’re still breathing. You’re supposed to be grateful that you have a second chance at life. You’re not supposed to focus on what you’ve lost, or the moments that were stolen from you, or your risk of recurrence.
Well forgive me if I struggle with that sometimes. Every now and then that positive outlook bursts and the flood of emotions just come pouring out. Anger. Frustration. Bitterness.

Today is one of those days. Today I am human. I will allow a moment of weakness and vulnerability.
And tomorrow I will put my rose-colored glasses back on and move forward. ~ Robin G.

Here we go again! by Guest Blogger, Shanicka.

Well it was the second week in September 2016, almost 6 years after my initial Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis. I was scheduled to see my plastic surgeon for my annual exam. I wasn’t going to go because my implant felt fine. I’d already had five surgeries and I didn’t want to endure another, so I had made my mind up and decided I wasn’t going. The day of something just told me to call the plastic surgeon’s office and that’s what I did. After briefly speaking with the receptionist I decided I’d leave work and make my way downtown to Mercy Medical Ctr from Middle River. After a little wait, I saw Dr Chang. He examined my right breast which was my natural breast, the breast I paid more attention to because I always felt like if cancer reared its hideous self in my body again, it would be there. I had some sagging, but I was OK with that. My husband is fine with it , I’m fine with it and most importantly I didn’t want a sixth surgery. So he gets to the left (my January 2011 mastectomy side). He says “you have something here under the skin that doesn’t feel right; you need to get in with your breast surgeon”.

I’ve had a few scares in the past, so I was hoping it was just like the others- just some scar tissue or something of that nature. So on the way home from my plastic surgeon visit, I made a call to my breast surgeon whom I hadn’t seen in close to four years. That next week my husband and I went to see him. He told me, there is something there so let’s just get you in for ultrasound. So when I got home from the appointment, I called advanced radiology. They had an appointment a few weeks out and it didn’t seem urgent, so I took that date. I had the ultrasound which showed suspicion. The radiologist told me to get in touch with my doctor, then schedule the biopsy. I told her “no, I’m scheduling today”. So that’s what I did, and had it the next week. On 11/14, I got a phone call. The young lady on the other end of the phone said your breast surgeon wants to know when you’d like to come in. I replied “come in for what?” She says to discuss treatment options. I had just walked through the security gate at my job, planning to do a full days work. I was able to do almost that , but around 1:30, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Over the following few weeks the devastation started to consume me.

I couldn’t believe this was happening to me again- 37 years old with BC twice. I did everything as the doctors instructed and was even on Tamoxifen, and not only did it return in the removed breast but it had spread to my lymph nodes. I had just celebrated my five year cancerversary of my last chemo on June 2. I went through so much emotional turmoil. I felt like I was not going to be here much longer. I also had thoughts of not doing treatment and just riding it out until God wanted to call me home by traveling to places I’ve never been, doing things I’ve never done and just living life to the absolute fullest with no worries, no treatment until it was my time to leave earth. But here I am now. Had extensive surgery in December, today had my six of sixteen round of chemotherapy. I have another surgery ahead of me to redo my 2011 mastectomy that left too much breast tissue, reconstruction to my right mastectomy and port removal, then after I heal 30 rounds of radiation. After all of that is done, I also have to go on hormone therapy which will also change my life and not for the better.

However, as long as I am here to share love and laughter with my loved ones, travel the world, truly feel good mentally, spiritually and emotionally and look good while doing it, then I’m good with that! ~ Shanicka

Beyond The Shock and Beneath The Scars: Who Walked the NYFW Breast Cancer Show? *Borrowed from ihadcancer.com

By now you’ve probably seen the articles and photos of the sixteen models who bore everything at New York Fashion Week’s first-ever “Exposed” event, a show by AnaOno for #Cancerland. But what you probably didn’t realize was that they weren’t models at all – they were survivors, fighters and previvors who risked it all to raise awareness for metastatic breast cancer. So we wanted to know, who were these non-models, and why does the world need to start caring about their stories?

“We live in a world of conformity,” Mira Sorvino opened the show saying. Co-creator Champagne Joy expanded in a private interview with IHadCancer to say, “There is an arbiter of what people should look like and then we all follow suit, and what sets this apart is that we’re going in the other direction. We’re becoming the arbiters of what should be considered true beauty, which is your own individuality.”

AnaOno Intimates, the company behind the runway lingerie line, takes on the challenge of designing garments for more than just the traditional breast cancer patient we’re used to associating with Pink October advertisements. Their clientele are people of all shapes and sizes, all varieties of treatment choices, for anyone who hasn’t had breast cancer, for those who don’t need a specific gender identity. Their line is about restoring identity and community through lingerie, full stop. This show was the perfect extension of that mission to show how breast cancer is ugly, beautiful, liberating, isolating, and unifying by using bodies that visually demonstrate that multifaceted reality.

We asked a few of those who walked in the show what their journey of self-love has been and how they would answer to why their bodies belonged on the runway now more than ever. Each one of them has a story that cannot be heard just by looking at a photo, no matter how viral it may go – and want to share, celebrate and honestly listen to those stories.

Aniela McGuinness | Co-Founder, Cancer Grad
Bilateral Reconstruction, diagnosed stage I days before a preventative mastectomy due to BRCA+ mutation

“Interestingly enough, I became more comfortable with my body during and after cancer than before. My career prior to cancer was as an actress/model, which valued my looks over anything else and people had NO problem telling me I wasn’t “enough” in every way (not pretty enough, tall enough, young enough, old enough, good enough, etc.). I thought that if I ever truly felt that I was ENOUGH it meant I was narcissistic. Cancer helped free me from that. I was able to witness how valuable and beautiful I really was without all of the things society and the industry put value in: hair, nails, health, breasts. My body loved me and showed it by healing over and over again. But don’t get me wrong, I still have moments where I catch my reflection and have to reassure myself that, “Yes, even with scars and no nipples, I am enough.”

There is a huge difference with the performance of confidence on the runway and in real life. Normally, I am not covered in gold glitter strutting around in three-inch heels and topless with crowds of people cheering me on. As I write this, I am in baggy sweatpants, a yellow Cancer Grad t-shirt and Toms shoes. I love who I am, but I don’t normally feel sexy. That night, I felt beyond sexy. I felt powerful.”

Candice Smith | Competitive Fitness Athlete, HR Professional
Bilateral Reconstruction, diagnosed DCIS

“At first, breast cancer affected my confidence because I’ve always had low self esteem despite performing on stages since age five. After my mastectomy I tried to stay optimistic, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do all the fitness modeling and competitions that made up my career. After seven surgeries with a top-notch surgeon I felt I looked as normal as I possibly could — I mean, they looked as perfect as they once were when I had breast implants. Something more important happened through that surgery, though. I started to move past being defined by my breasts and started being grateful for simply being alive. Now I like to say that every morning I open up two gifts: my eyes.

On that runway, Dana made me feel like a Victoria’s Secret model. I felt beautiful for the first time in a long time, and there was so much empowerment with so many amazing people… I felt happier than I had in a very long time. I still do competitions and fitness photo shoots– in fact, I have a big one coming up next month. Am I nervous? Yes. Will I look the part? Will I be ready or feel confident? Who knows. I just know I’m blessed and try to always practice self love because God has me here for a reason. He helped me catch my cancer early, so I know I am here for a reason, and I believe it is to talk about early detection and to be a light and voice for others.”

Chiara D’Agostino | Blogger, Model
Reconstruction to Explant – Bilateral Flat, stage IV metastatic triple negative breast cancer

“I felt very comfortable in my skin before I had a mastectomy; my hair was the length and color I longed for, I was eating healthy and I was working out five times a week – I loved my body and felt sexy. Then I got cancer and had a single mastectomy – when I looked at my reflection in the mirror I fell to the ground and cried for a while, devastated by my mangled body. Six months later my other breast was removed and I had reconstructive breast surgery. I was convinced I needed round mounds protruding from my chest to feel feminine, but I hated the look and feel of my implants. Those gummy bears caused several infections and further complications and only after I had them both removed do I finally feel comfortable in my body again. I miss my girls, but now that the silicone is off my chest, I feel less invaded and like my natural self again.

When diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer in 2014 I became very depressed and anxious; antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication made a big difference. While NED, I was off the meds, but when the cancer spread, I immediately started taking them again. I still experience bouts of depression and when I do, I’ll journal, connect with friends, share in support groups, meditate, walk in nature, play with children, help someone, pray and/or treat myself to a pedicure/movie/meal. If I can afford it, I’ll spring for Reiki, energy healing or massage – good vibes and healing touch are therapeutic to me.”

Maggie Kudirka | Advocate, Dancer
Bilateral Mastectomy Without Reconstruction, de novo stage IV metastatic breast cancer

“Before I was diagnosed, I was a large-breasted ballet dancer. It was hard to find ways to keep my breasts inside the costumes designed for small-breasted women, to keep them from bouncing and distracting the audience. I also had constant back pain and shoulder bruising from their weight. After my de novo stage IV terminal breast cancer diagnosis, I saw the mastectomy as my silver lining: I finally had an opportunity to get the body I always wanted.

I chose a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. Every time I saw my surgeon, he asked about reconstruction and pointed out that I was only 23 and that my decision could impact future relationships. I replied that I didn’t want to be with anyone who valued my breasts more than me. My surgeon said he wished all his patients had my maturity.

When the sunlight came through my hospital room window, I woke up and couldn’t stop smiling. When my surgeon came in he said I was the happiest patient he had ever seen after surgery. And why not? The source of my cancer and my back pain was gone! No more worries about costumes or leotards! Now I love my body even more than I ever had before.

As a ballet dancer, I am very much at home on stage and accustomed to dancing various roles and wearing all sorts of costumes. I am far more confident on-stage than off because everything is choreographed or scripted; there are no surprises (like cancer) lurking around the corner.

I walked in the AnaOno Exposed show in pointe shoes to show that cancer does not discriminate; that even a very fit 23-year-old ballerina with no risk factors or genetic involvement can get metastatic breast cancer. I walked for all very young metastatic women whose voices and concerns are too often ignored when research grants are awarded and innovative treatments are denied by insurance. Our needs are very different from the typical breast cancer patient. I believe it is important for every woman to have the right to choose a mastectomy with or without reconstruction and for the people in her life to respect her choice.”

Vonn Jensen | Founder, Flattopper® Pride and Queer Cancer, Trans/Non-Binary Cancer Advocate
Bilateral Mastectomy without reconstruction, identifies as a trans/non-binary. Specific breast cancer diagnosis unknown

“In speaking about confidence, I must speak to my roots, both in the sense of where I come from, and in the sense of what grounds me. I come from the Pacific Northwest and because of that, there’s a certain attitude toward the world that is imbedded in me. We drink organic coffee. We talk to trees. We don’t have elective surgery.

Cancer gave me permission to alter my body surgically; it forced me to decide that I wanted to live more than I wanted to refuse Western medicine. However strange it may sound, cancer afforded me opportunities to grow into myself and to access a level of comfort and confidence that I never could have otherwise. With every bodily loss, I become more whole.

My flat chest suits me. Every cut, every shot, every slice taken out of me gave me more room to grow into myself. I had freedom to let go of the performance of femaleness because that outward marker of femininity was removed. I felt more at home than I ever had before. The suppression of my ovaries only intensified this sense. When I no longer produced ‘female’ hormones, I felt my body becoming mine. Only then did I begin to realize that it hadn’t been mine before. Although my mastectomy wasn’t intended as gender confirmation, it has become that.

After coming back from NYC and New York Fashion Week, I drove directly into the forest until I was lost. I sat by a river until the sun rose and until I had room only for the sensation of my passion, my heart and my values being aligned. I do this often – this calling to alignment – because in every way, cancer made me aware of how disjointed I had been.

My confidence is not a performance. Everything I emote is true to me because I have had to scrutinize the alignment of my body and my values until there was no question. Whether it’s on a runway, with my friends, or cradled in moss, I am within authenticity always already. My confidence is not a performance; my confidence grew where body parts were cut off. I am the summary of my loss in that loss enables me to grow larger than my physical borders ever could.”

Shay Sharpe | Madame President, Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, Advocate
Bilateral Mastectomy with Reconstruction, Explant to Flat, Two-time breast cancer survivor

“​I was totally in love with my body prior to my mastectomy! However, everything changed during chemo before undergoing my mastectomy. I’m a hair girl, so losing my hair had to be one of the hardest obstacles to deal with during my cancer journey, followed by my very itchy skin turning really dark and my finger and toe nails darkening and falling off​. I began to feel really unpretty after breast cancer. No nipples. Horrible breast and belly scars. Dental issues and missing teeth. Unflattering clothes and devastating hot flashes. Gaining over 60 pounds in six months. I didn’t love any of these side effects.

I started a diet prior to the fashion show and lost over 20 pounds, although it didn’t matter because I still felt HUGE at the time of the show. At my heaviest I was 221 pounds, but on the day of the show, my 39th birthday, I was 190 pounds. ​Prior to my cancer returning, I was 160 pounds, so 190 still feels so heavy on me. I was excited about my weight loss and tried to bring that confidence with me to the show.

​I had ZERO confidence on the runway! Zip! As I walked, I kept telling myself to take off my wig and bra once I got to the end of the runway. But I didn’t.. I just totally owned the moment of being in the spotlight as a young African American woman strutting this lupron/steroid weight down the runway like a champ. Everyone in the venue started screaming, lights were flashing — it was an incredibly empowering moment for all facets of my identity.

However, that empowerment started to wilt once I saw the first pictures from the fashion show. I was blown away at how chunky I still looked. To be honest, it broke my heart a little. I felt as if all my exercising was in vain. On the flip side, I was talking to another survivor who walked the show who lost 25 pounds without trying, who thought she appeared way too skinny during the show and was unhappy with her appearance. Same issue. Different view. I guess we are all our own worst critics.

And yet, a couple days later as the runway show pictures went viral, I started receiving messages from other survivors stating how happy they were to see a woman who represented them on the runway. African American women, who are 43 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts, increasing the visibility for women of color in the cancer space, being on that runway as an icon to redefining beauty for both myself and everyone participating has helped me restructure how I think about beauty and my body.”

Kiku Collins | Musician
Unilateral Reconstruction, Infiltrative Ductal Carcinoma, current staging unknown

“One month after my wedding, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I was finally getting my life together– or so I thought. I felt like a failure. I had lived a very clean and healthy life to make good on my vowed to prevent the disease that stole my mother, her sister, and others in our family at a very young age from taking me, too.

Oddly, what helped me get through that was being private about the cancer. It was important for me to be quiet until I knew I could and would go on. I’m not good with being the “poor thing.” I don’t need people to say their “thoughts and prayers” are with me. I needed to persist. And if I stopped to think about what my life had become, I would simply see my mother. She died from metastatic breast cancer when I was 18 years old. I wanted to continue working, traveling, playing and making others happy through music. My husband and I didn’t exit the “cancer closet” for about 6 months. I’m still struggling with my health, my body and body image, the realities of everything going on, inside and out.

Confidence on and off the runway – it’s interesting. As a performer, I take on an alter ego. She’s confident in every way. She never worries about her hair or makeup, her chops, her dance steps or backup vocals parts, her outfit, her body. She’s confident and flawless. She only exists when the lights are up and I’m “on.” The second the show is over and the eyelashes are peeled off, the dress is crumpled in a corner, what’s left is me: incredibly flawed, scars that hurt, lymphedema that throbs, bones that ache.

In everyday life, I’m definitely aware that my breast cancer affects how people perceive me. In the gym, I can see people look at my one jumping “breast” whenever I use my left pec. People look at my lymphedema sleeve and don’t seem to understand what it is, if it’s cool, or if I’m trying to get away with fake tattoos. That’s all not to mention my “second” menopause – my hot flashes, my cravings, my crankiness, my loss of metabolism – contributes to who I am now. And she’s very different than the woman I was five years ago. I’m learning to embrace all that I have now, but sometimes I can see my mom in the mirror looking back at me and there isn’t much to do other than wonder where I went. Other times, I look in the mirror and I see myself and know exactly where my mom went.”

Breast cancer is one of the most visible cancers in American society, but we hardly ever hear stories like the ones of those who walked the runway that night. Not everyone who walked was a breast cancer survivor; in fact, half are living with metastatic breast cancer, for which there is no cure and for which the mortality rate has stagnated for the last 40 years despite increased funds toward cancer research generally. Additionally, one walked as a “pre-vivor,” meaning she tested positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene and was greatly predisposed to develop breast and ovarian cancer, and committed to a double-mastectomy as the single most effective means of cancer prevention.

While much of the work on the runway was about witnessing the breadth of human experience with breast cancer from a variety of body shapes, parts, and colors, the deeper ambitions of the show seek to lift the carpet on lame-duck policies that force anyone diagnosed with breast cancer to remain in limbo.

“With metastatic breast cancer, we are seeing a mirror of AIDS just before its tipping point,” Champagne Joy says. “As we bury people every single day — [people] that should have had a life ahead of them — we’re finally at a point where, if we can remove the impediments to further research and access to current cancer treatments, we can at least see this become a chronic disease and during that time, if research is put toward a cure, we could do it all.”

*Photos by Carey Kirkella

Happy Valentine’s Day from Madame President, Shay Sharpe.

❤️ Self love.

We can so easily fall out of love with ourselves after cancer treatment. Weight gain, weight loss, darker skin, black nails, low libido, dental issues, no nails, lymphedema, scars, ports, radiation burns, hair loss, belly scar, 1 breast, no breasts, etc.

Society will offer you a million reasons to hate yourself and feel incomplete. DONT!! So on this international day of love, I remind you to love yourself.

❤️ PS… Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes and I love you too! ~ Madame President

I HATE CANCER! Our friend, Rachell, has been placed in home hospice.

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Our beautiful Rachell, is resting, pain free, in home hospice. I hate cancer! Here is the latest update, I found it on the Prayers for Rachell page.  Please keep her friends and family in prayer.  Thank you! ~ Madame President

Our beautiful girl has given an amazing, powerful, and most of all, inspirational fight against this hell-ish cancer. She has faced every obstacle with positivity. Pushing through unimaginable pain with a smile. She showed us what a true warrior looks like. She’s hid her pain and suffering so well behind that beautiful smile, I honestly don’t think any of us can comprehend the actual amount of pain that she has endored. Our warrior is exhausted from this tireless fight…her beautiful soul deserves to rest….

Rachell is ready to be free from the pain and suffering that this cancer has caused her…ready to let go. She hasn’t received chemo in over a month, it’s no longer an option as her body is too weak to handle it. She’s been put on In Home Hospice, which is end of life care in the comfort of her home. No more doctors appointments, scans, or testing. Her mom and hospice nurse are making sure that she is comfortable and feels as little pain as possible. She is and will continue to be surrounded by people who love her dearly. She will not be alone. Things are happening fast, if she continues on this path she should be letting go very soon. Send your prayers and positive energy to Rachell for her new journey.

Rachell has always informed her friends on social media of her battle, it’s important that we continue her story now that she can’t. I will do my best to keep yall updated and answer questions. Please keep our family in your prayers, this is obviously a difficult time for everyone.

Rachell’s mom asked me to update everyone on Rachell…so of course I wrote something. What I didn’t expect was how difficult it would be to post it here. I’ve held onto this for hours and hours…thinking how pissed off she’s going to be with me for making everyone think that she’s leaving us. My brain can’t wrap around the facts. It hurts so bad. It’s such a strange thing…watching someone so young, someone that you love and care about so deeply go through what she has…wanting her to let go and be free of the pain, while still wanting her to stay and not leave you. Rachell has touched so many people in her young life, I know this is painful for so many. Let’s try as hard as we can to fight that feeling of hurt and sadness. I know it sounds cliché but I know she really wouldn’t want us to feel that way. I’m sending my love out to everyone. ~ Rachell’s family

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My Life After Cancer. By Guest Blogger, Tameka J

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Often times, people believe that when the surgeries are complete and the chemo is over the fight ends for people who were diagnosed with cancer. Well unfortunately that’s a myth. The fight continues and honestly, I think I’ll be fighting for the rest of my life. Every ache, every pain, every abnormal occurrence leads you back to the oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, or emergency room. Chatting with my pink sisters I’m realizing that everyday is a fight. Each one of has has had something different going on with us in the last few months. Lumps are being found, can’t hold down food, not eating, losing weight, gaining weight, and the pain is unmanageable. Hospital visits, scans, and new meds. We do everything to maintain good health, eating better, exercise, and living differently but we still have to fight. When will it end? When does it stop? When can we get a break? That’s how I feel. Those are the questions that go through my mind. The questions I ask God in my prayers.

The last time I saw my oncologist he said “Ok Tameka you’re nice and healthy, see you in 6 months”. That was the best news. I was on a 6 month plan, which meant I was closer to the once a year visit. Well, I had to go see him two weeks ago because I was having chest pains that woke me up out of my sleep and had me crying uncontrollably. His first reaction is you have to get a scan to make sure there are no mass. I honestly wasn’t worried that there was, I think it just procedural on his part. So, last week I had a PET scan without the CT. I saw my doctor yesterday to review the results and thank God everything came back clear but I knew that! Unfortunately, we still are unsure as to why I was having the chest pain, so I have to follow up in 3 months. Thought I could get a break for 6 months but my body fooled me. I’m scheduled for another scan this time it’s a CT scan. I dread it, why? Cause that means I have to get that horrible injection that makes me nauseous and vomit. Definitely not looking forward to but it’s what has to be done, so I WON’T COMPLAIN. I thank God for my life, for healing a 2nd time from this horrible disease, and for loving me ENOUGH!

I am so sure that these little battles are a test of my faith. How are you going to handle things this time Tameka? Are you going to trust God or are you going to break? The answer to these questions are…I’m going to trust God because I was not built to break! I fight for someone more important than myself and that’s my 8 year old daughter. I continue to fight remembering that God has my back no matter what I have to face! So to my Pink sisters that are going through, remember you were not built to break! Keep fighting! Keep pushing! Keep believing!
My life after cancer!… ~ Tameka

Cancer was the easy part, the side effects of treatment have proved to be most difficult. By Madame President, Shay Sharpe.

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Three broken ribs! What else is new? It’s always something! ALWAYS!! But that also serves as a reminder that I’m alive! I AM ALIVE! Even in the midst of all my mess, I am alive.

I have no idea how I fractured my ribs or when it happened. I’ve been in pain for awhile and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. I had lots of pain on my left side in October 2014, but I had just had my left breast removed again, so needless to say, that’s why they said I was in pain. I was in pain again in February 2015, but was immediately told my pain came from just completing radiation again. There were 2 hospital stays for chest pain over the next year. The hospital still couldn’t figure out what was going on and I kept being sent home with no answers. Fast forward to January 2016. Still in pain. Dr performed a chest X-ray and still didn’t see anything. I called my oncology team at another hospital and voiced my concerns. They sent me to nuclear medicine to ensure that cancer hadn’t spread to my bones. During that test, they noticed that I had 3 broken/fractured ribs. Wtf? I can’t believe I’ve been complaining about chest pain all this time and it took over an year to get to the bottom of it. I can’t stress enough, how important it is to be your own advocate. Keep going to the Drs until you get answers! Nobody knows your body better than you! Don’t be scared or discouraged to seek a second opinion.

Unfortunately, there is nothing they can do about my fractured ribs, except control my extreme lingering pain. No cast. No bandages. Ribs takes months to heal, so I have to take it easy for awhile… Easier said than done! It’s a struggle trying pull a shirt over my head or to lift myself out of the tub. {I can’t even count how many times I’ve been stuck in a shirt!} Feels as if I’ve been shot, every time I attempt to sneeze or cough. I honestly have NEVER felt pain on this level. No laying on my stomach or left side, no missionary, no upper body exercise and no heavy lifting. You never fully appreciate a body part until you can’t use it. Drs said the number of radiation treatments I received could’ve been the culprit for the broken ribs. COULD’VE!

My life after breast cancer.. ~ Madame President

Young women CAN and DO get breast cancer! Guest blogger, Micha, shares her story.

 

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Being diagnosed with anything is always a tough pill to swallow and considering I can’t really swallow pills, hearing I had stage 2 cancer at the age of 31 was unbearable. I was having issues with my period so I was going back and forth to the doctor and it just so happened to be around my annual. I went in like regular, but when the nurse practitioner was doing her check she asked me when was the last time I did a self breast examination. I had no answer. I was like “umm” , before I left I was scheduled to go in for a mammogram the next day. I really didn’t think too much of it. I went to the appointment and from there my life changed. A week later I was told I had stage 2 breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma). How could this be? Isn’t this disease just for older women? I was devastated! There wasn’t anything I could do when I heard the news but get off the phone and call my pastor. He encouraged me to call my family. I did and I informed my boss. He gave me the week off to decide what I wanted and needed to do. My aunt and grandma went with me to talk to my doctor to try to get further understanding but to be honest I didn’t hear a thing she said. My aunt and grandma took notes and asked all the questions. My doctor was in tears cause she couldn’t understand either. Was I about to die? No, I can’t. I’m not ready!

Over the next several weeks, I can say I had never been to that many doctors appointments in my life! When they told me I would have to go through chemotherapy I was really scared. How am I going to be a public figure and go through all this? I’m a midday radio personality for the local hip hop and r&b station and though people don’t see me much I still couldn’t figure out how I was going to be and be me going through all this. I was super depressed and sad, but what I didn’t do was stop living. I went to work every day! I never took that week off my boss gave me. Being at home for that one drove me crazy. I needed a distraction and work was that. I started chemo June 6, 2013. It was a 3 hours process I had to endure once every 3 weeks for 18 weeks. After the first round I started loosing my hair. I was like what? Already? So I once again called Pastor AD and he was like ” that just means the chemo is working 6″. I was like really? Is that what it means? Ugh! He was right tho. I called my parents and my dad was like “hit that barber shop baby girl” I did just that. My boy Mike Lowe, met me up there and it happened. I was a baldie! It was weird, but I embraced it and I’ve been rocking it ever since. This journey has been interesting. A year ago I asked God to increase my faith in Him, make me more active in the community and use me for His will. Well I didn’t realize it at first but He definitely answered my prayer… Not like I thought but He answered. God will sometimes answer your prayers but not in the way in which you thought or expected. I have never been closer to God in my life and I’m extremely grateful for this experience.

My friend Kyle told me to call his mom and let me tell you Ms. Rita, who is a cancer survivor, helped me so much! When I first cut my hair a lot of people thought It was a fashion statement. I thought that was funny. It took me awhile even after I cut my hair to share my story but once I did I felt free. Love came from everywhere and the prayers are definitely working. I was so busy with events and I met so many amazing people with and without cancer. My doctors and nurses at CCI were awesome! I spent majority of my time there. I never got a second opinion I was fully confident with my doctors and I saw the lump. All I could do when I saw the lump was say “wow I have stage 2 breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma. This can’t be life!” Thing is… It was! They found a 4 centimeter lump and it had to go! My process was chemotherapy, surgery, radiation everyday for 6 weeks, and then I have to take a pill for the next 5-10 years. The tumor shrunk to 1.5 centimeters half way through my chemo therapy treatments. See how God works! I managed to maintain my weight even though I didn’t eat much and all my test results came back great. I had a lumpectomy, which means I got to keep my breast.

You see, breast cancer doesn’t run in my family and all my genetic test came back negative so my doctors were confused as to why. I simply said this is beyond any of us. This is between God and I. Cancer does not discriminate. Go get checked! This is not our grandmothers or mothers illness anymore. It is happening to women younger and younger. Go get checked and do personal checks! Know your body. If you feel or see anything that makes you say hmm… Don’t ignore it. Knowing and going to the doctor can save your life. It’s not an easy pill to swallow when you first find out or when those physical side effects start happening. I suggest before you do anything take the time to process everything in your time in your way.

Everyone will try and come at you with all sorts of remedies and stories. I know I had to cut a lot of that off. It’s overwhelming and actually kind of scary. Stay close to God and find something that brings happiness to help you through. This illness, as with most has a lot to do with your metals. Stay positive and don’t be defeated or discouraged. You will get through this!

My surgery was October 22, 2013 and it was first surgery…ever!! I wasn’t scared because I knew all this is for my good. God had me going through that for a reason, so who was I to worry about it? I was declared cancer free October 25 2013, but it wasn’t over I still had 37 radiation treatments. I must admit that process was tough on me, emotionally more than anything. I was just tired of going to the hospital every day. It was finally all over in January of 2014!! This process is different for everyone. I was blessed to not have had a horrible one. Did I have bad days? Yes! I also had good days, more good days than bad. I was determined to live a great life throughout my process and I did! I had cancer it didn’t have me! ~ Micha

 

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Six young breast cancer survivors had the time of their lives in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Girl 6 Getaway 2015

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Reflecting on my trip to DR and my life up to this point. It’s been a rough road but I have never been happier in my life. I would not change or trade my walk with anyone…what God has for me is for me!! I will continue to walk this path with my head held high knowing that God is a lamp to my feet and light to my path! Being able to take this trip with my pink sisters was beyond amazing and I am forever grateful to everyone who donated and supported us! ~Tameka

 

 

 

 

 

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It is truly amazing how I went my entire life thus far not wanting to see the world. My breast cancer has changed me in ways that I never could have imagined. For cancer to bring these beautiful five ladies into my life has truly been a blessing. Six strangers with one thing in common, cancer, had the greatest time together. This trip has brought us closer together and now a new found sisterhood has been formed. All of our stories are different but fascinating.

This vacation made me appreciate my life even more. I have done things that I never would have imagined doing. I swam in the ocean with the fishes, I drove doom buggies exploring the DR’s native land, and my crazy butt jumped into water that was 25ft deep inside a beautiful cave. This trip has been a wonderful experience. Now I am ready for our next “Survivor’s Vacation.” ~ Glee

 

 

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This was the most amazing experience, the trip of a lifetime. I am so thankful and blessed to have been a part of this survivors getaway. I have a special bond with each of these ladies and I love them dearly. I have had conversations with them that well never grace the ears of another. We truly know and understand the meaning of #iammysisterskeeper. God bless those of you who donated and contributed to help make this possible. I understand my purpose now more than ever before. God’s grace and mercy forever be with you. Life is good and God is Great! ~Charlene

 

 

 

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They said we were too young for breast cancer… THEY LIED!

I am so proud of the beautiful young women in this picture! About a month ago, a couple of the young women mentioned that they needed to get away. We all had so much going on so it felt like a great idea. One problem, everyone didn’t have money to go. Three young women had their money in full, another young lady had most of her money, the other two women had no money at all. Instead of leaving the two young women behind, everyone raised funds to help pay for the other two women to attend, even the young women who paid their trip in full. Unfortunately, we didn’t raise the full amount, but one of the young women, voluntarily, put up a little extra to cover the gap. She didn’t ask to be repaid, she didn’t hold it over their head or mention it once during the trip. How cool was that? The unselfishness shown by these young women over this past week, in Punta Cana, was simply amazing. The true meaning of being my sister’s keeper. I truly enjoyed myself and I look forward to my next getaway with these beautiful women. xoxo ~ Madame President