In It to End It: Stories of Breast Cancer Survival and Awareness
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By Valis Vicenty October 29, 2011
Breast Cancer has had a huge impact on my life in several way, having known many women affected by breast cancer. If I could offer any encouragement to women and men going through this it would be to let them know they are not alone. There are many support groups and out there and to not give up. We have made many strides to find a cure and there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
For all the families struggling with breast cancer, I would say we’ve got your back! We’re doing everything we can to raise money and awareness in an effort to stop this disease and the ugliness linked to it. We’re not going away either. All who support the Avon Foundation are as dedicated today as any other time.
To those who are in the midst of treatment right now I’d offer these words: Keep the faith, hold on to hope, live in the moment. You’re going through an extremely difficult time, but try your best to remain positive – go out of your way to find the silver lining. Envelop yourself in the support of friends, family and your faith community. Keep in mind that there are many breast cancer survivors just waiting to help you through it all. Be kind to yourself, and never underestimate the power of humor. Above all, trust in God, whatever you perceive him to be. You will get through this. Promise.
My advice to those undergoing treatment is: stay positive, take one day at a time, and if it doesn't sound right get another opinion! I also suggest taking someone with you to your doctor's appointments to listen and ask questions on your behalf if it gets too overwhelming. I’d tell all loved ones and caregivers one thing: don't lose hope.
May 13th 2003, my sister Lynne says the words I prayed I wouldn’t hear, “It’s cancer.” She’s only 41! There’s some family history of other cancers, but not breast cancer! They caught it early; the next steps were surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and more surgery. Of course a second opinion at Dana Farber! “I know you don’t want to lose your hair Lynne, and I don’t want you to lose your hair, or part of your breast but, more importantly, I don’t want you to lose your life!” That New Year’s Eve, Lynne had her last treatment and is cancer free. Seventeen months later, our mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she survived her treatments, she lost her battle to stomach cancer in 2009.
Having breast cancer was not fun, but many good things came out of it. I learned so much about myself and what I'm capable of. I learned a lot about my friends and family and was astounded by their support, love, and incredible kindness. It helped me open up to others and learn how to accept help. It reminded me of what is important in life.
The Avon Walks for Breast Cancer are held around the country to raise awareness and lifesaving funds against the disease. Every day this month we’ll be highlighting the stories of survivors, supporters and those in treatment. Glam readers can register for the walks at a discount when they enter 'WALK2’ at checkout and buy pink products that benefit the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
When I was diagnosed with Stage IIIC breast cancer, I was 34, had no family history and was six months pregnant with my second child. This past year I’ve had 2 rounds of Chemotherapy, had a healthy baby, a mastectomy, reconstruction and 6 weeks of radiation. It’s been a tough journey but I can honestly say that I feel lucky.
Breast cancer changed my life in every way possible. Despite casting a shadow over my engagement (I was diagnosed the day after), my wedding (I wore a wig) and my future fertility options, it strengthened me. I've grown to appreciate and value my loved ones in a way I didn’t know was possible, and I take time to enjoy the little things.
Breast cancer has not affected me directly – no one in my immediate family has had breast cancer, but the hundreds of survivors I have met since I began walking and raising money for breast cancer have profoundly touched me. The openness they have shown in sharing their stories with me has been and continues to be a gift that affects me daily.
Breast cancer took my mother the day before my high school graduation. I was 17 and I spent my time driving my mom to radiation and chemo. I didn’t mind, but I missed out on the senior trip, prom, and graduation. She died June 23, 1974. I miss her very much and I hope she and my dad are looking down from above and are proud of me.
After you have completed your treatment, you will realize how lucky you are to be a part of an amazing “club” of women and men who had persevered through this uniquely life-changing experience.
The most important thing I can tell someone who has been newly diagnosed is not to let this diagnosis consume you. Move forward. Your breasts don’t define you as a woman any more than your arm or leg does. Don't worry about death, think and drive toward life. Don't wallow in self-pity, embrace and taste life every moment of every day!
Not to sound like a commercial, but you too can beat cancer. Chemo and radiation are only a part of your healing. Your emotional wellbeing is the other part. Cry when you feel like crying; laugh until you can’t breathe, love you like no one else can.
My grandmother had breast cancer when I was a child and won. I didn’t hear much else of it until my two friends, mothers in their early thirties, were diagnosed. I saw Reese Witherspoon talk about the Avon walk and knew this was how I could help my friends. Crossing the finish line with so many strong women was an experience I'll never forget.
We’re known as “Team KA-POW” (Kathleen Annie Powers) in honor of my two sisters, Kathleen Cecil and Annie Gruber. We’re dedicated to these two brave women and all the others who are fighting this disease. We walk as a way to pay it forward; we walk because we can't walk away. I’M IN IT TO END IT.
Believe in yourself and do what you have to do to get through it. The only people who get cancer are those strong enough to withstand the struggle. Cancer may be the biggest part of your life but it doesn’t define you. You define your cancer experience. Own it and remember the most important part in survival is support. Lean on the people who love you and let them share your burden. It’ll be over before you know it.
Breast Cancer is scary but never give up hope! It will be beaten, and many do survive. Men, it’s not a woman’s disease. It’s OUR disease! When you’re at the walk, you realize you’re truly not alone; you see thousands working together, walking together, and fighting together. When you hear you or your loved one has breast cancer, you feel like the only person in the whole world. We’ve walked in your shoes, and no one walks alone. We walk so one day no one else will have to.
My message to anyone going through treatment right now is: let your friends and family be there. Don’t say you don’t need anything. Don’t worry you are inconveniencing them. Trust me – you are giving more than you are taking. Your fight is inspiring and game-changing. Your lives are never the same again. You will all come out stronger, more grateful and closer than ever.
Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, I lived the perfect life. I was 35, married to a wonderful man and have a beautiful son. I was diagnosed in February 2011, which shocked me, since I had no family history of breast cancer. It’s been a humbling journey for me, but breast cancer hasn’t changed my life entirely. I didn’t allow it to dominate my life and mind. It was a long and tough road but I never lost sight of the finish line. Breast cancer instilled a sense of self-awareness and made me an even stronger woman than ever before.
Breast cancer has made a huge impact on my life because it made me a stronger more compassionate person. It changed how I look at life and cherish every day I have with family and friends. I realized there is life after cancer and I had to learn how not to let it take over my life and my everyday thoughts. I try to live every day to the fullest. Yes, I have bad days that I just cry, but I fight and have to have hope and faith in God.
I wish I could personally meet everyone going through treatment for breast cancer. Our world has made it possible for people to be ‘cured’ of breast cancer…AMAZING! I would tell each and every one of them to stay physically strong, to maintain their spirituality, and keep smiling. I truly believe that my attitude toward breast cancer (which was to kick its butt) helped me do just that!
When I meet people going through treatment I tell them they have to listen to their body, this is the one time in life where they need to be 100% focused on them. It’s good to rest, it’s ok to ask for help, and being strong means always remembering how much you are loved and using that as motivation, especially during those tough moments. I also remind them to celebrate little victories; every treatment is one treatment closer to remission. It’s true that you really don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have!
Why am I so involved with the breast cancer cause? I had a lump. After a mammogram, a sonogram, a needle biopsy, and a lump removal, I was one of the lucky ones. No cancer. But it was a wakeup call. It could have been me – one in eight women don’t get good news. I had to do something. This is my 13th Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – and $167,000 later, I walk for 115 survivors and in memory of 82 lost ones. Breast cancer has become a part of my life, and I have to do what I can to change these numbers.
In 1996 I dated a woman during college, Doreen, but decided in our senior year that we wanted different things and went our separate ways. Seven years later when I was in the Navy, I discovered during a leave that she was dying from breast cancer. I ran to her side and when I finally saw her, I asked if she had any regrets. She told me she regretted the fact that we had never married, so I dropped to a knee and proposed. She thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t going to allow her to die with any regrets. Ironically, we were married on the 11th anniversary of our first date. I kept that to myself for many years as I was in the Navy with a top-secret clearance at the time and didn’t have the right to just get married without a proper background investigation. I suffered in silence for 13 years, but now I proudly tell this story. I miss Doreen every day, but I’ve learned to live again.
Breast cancer affected my life in many ways but I prefer to focus on the good changes. My life as a survivor is a lot like life before I had cancer, but in other ways, it’s very different. There are daily reminders so it continues to put things into perspective for me. Having a bilateral mastectomy may have changed me physically but it also made me a stronger and more determined person. I am very fortunate to be doing so well and join my grandmother and sister as a survivor. The hardest thing for me is listening to my daughter tell me she is so proud of me knowing deep down she’s afraid that someday she’ll have breast cancer, too.
Looking back, breast cancer seems like a dream to me. When I was first diagnosed I felt I had joined a club. I'd walk on the street and think, “Do all these people really understand their life can change in a nanosecond?” Today I'm a different person and I can honestly say that I'm a better person. Never do I take a moment for granted. I'm truly grateful to be blessed with wonderful family and friends and I try never to find reasons why I can’t do things. I've met so many amazing and caring people on this journey and I'm a stronger woman physically and spiritually.
My mom is Ruth Kaminsky and when I was eleven years old she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. I would tell everyone going through breast cancer to not take life for granted. It’s borrowed time. Try to find joy and happiness in each and every day. Be with people that you love and do the things that you love to do. All we have for sure is the moment and each other.
For those going through treatment keep smiling. Maintain your sense of humor when the going gets rough. Eat whatever sounds good – you can always diet later. Remember you are stronger than cancer. Get involved. I started participating in the Avon Walks for Breast Cancer and through them I’ve reconnected with high school classmates who I hadn’t seen in 30 years. I’ve made new friends and experienced the generosity of folks through my fundraising efforts. These walks have become my passion mixed with a little vacation time built in as a reward. Helping others is the best medicine.
I think about my being a breast cancer survivor every day and that’s okay. My message? Make an educated and informed decision about your treatment. Gladly take the love, help and support from everyone during such a scary and challenging time. One day you can pay it forward.
To those going through this, I would say, you need to be positive. Breast cancer is a reality check but not a death sentence! In 2008, with 5 years cancer free, I got my first and only tattoo – a pink ribbon with a red rose on my back. Breast cancer is behind me.
2003 was a difficult year for my family. My younger sister Lynne was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. The most difficult part of her ordeal ended on December 31, 2003 with her last successful treatment. However, like a growing number of others, she'll live the rest of her life as a breast cancer survivor. Inspired by her strength, courage and attitude as she fought through this devastating phase of her life, I embraced 2004 with a new appreciation for life and a commitment to do all I could to fight this horrible disease.
I encourage women and men to keep hope. We're making progress in breast cancer research, and programs like our Love/Avon Army of Women–a partnership with the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation–are accelerating the pace of breast cancer research more quickly than at any point in history. Those women and men facing breast cancer without insurance or without the means to pay should also be hopeful. Thanks to support from the Avon Foundation, hospitals around the country have new equipment and staff in place to help you get the treatment you deserve. Learn more and find out about Avon-supported programs in your state by visiting AvonBHOP.org or AvonFoundation.org.
The Avon Walks for Breast Cancer are held around the country to raise awareness and lifesaving funds against the disease. Every day this month we’ll be highlighting the stories of survivors, supporters and those in treatment. Glam readers can register for the walks at a discount when they enter ‘WALK2’ at checkout and buy pink products that benefit the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.Read More ↓