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2009 Calendar

2009 Calendar

On behalf of myself and the entire Sisters’ Journey family we welcome you!

Whether you placed an ad, bought a ticket to the Pink Tea, purchased a calendar, or just spoke some kind words of support on our behalf, we the Sisters of Sisters’ Journey send expressions of our sincere thanks and appreciation for your ongoing support.

In 1999, my mother – the late Linda White-Epps, a breast cancer survivor – had a vision of creating a support group for women like herself who were surviving cancer diagnosis and treatment. In the following years she was joined in her effort by many, who also saw an enormous need for sharing their unique experiences and histories regarding their personal fight to maintain a positive medical, emotional and spiritual status. These efforts resulted in the birth and early successes, of Sisters’ Journey, a Breast Cancer Support and Advocacy Organization.

This is our 10th calendar, and I don’t know if my mother could have ever imagined the amount of support her vision and the efforts of the survivors of this organization have received.

I miss my mother terribly, as many of you miss the loved ones you have lost to cancer. My grief is what drives my passion to educate myself as well as others on how to live healthier and to aspire towards life extension.

As you look at the faces in this calendar, of breast cancer survivors and read their stories, feel free to cry with us, pray with us and even at times laugh with us as we celebrate lives extended. And as we celebrate, know that my Mom’s Spirit is in the midst on each and every page, and she too is celebrating with us and rejoicing in the legacy of her vision.

Early detection is the key to saving lives, get screened… and as my mother has taught me – “BE AN ADVOCATE OF YOUR OWN BODY!”

Again, I thank-you, the Sister’s Journey family thanks you and may the Almighty Bless You.

Respectfully yours,
Dawn White-Bracey

Survivor Stories

Tanesha Hunter, January View My Story »

Tanesha Hunter

In October of 2006, I discovered a lump in my right breast. I remembered thinking, “What is this?” To be honest, I probably would have ignored it, brushing it off as nothing to worry about as many women mistakenly do. But I knew better than to take that chance and I immediately made an

appointment to get it checked out. During my examination, my doctor told me I had very dense breast tissue and even though she could feel what I was referring to, she wasn’t really

concerned and felt I didn’t have anything to worry about. However, as a precaution, she recommended getting a mammogram and an ultrasound.

After reviewing the results, the radiologist said because it was a solid mass that he would like me to have a biopsy. However, he was also not concerned since I was only 32 years old and it was common for women my age to develop benign tumors. He assured me that I had nothing

to worry about. I visited with a surgeon, who opted not to do the biopsy based on the feel and free movement of my tumor. He assured me it was benign because cancerous tumors typically did not feel or move the way mine did. But he still wanted to take it out. We set up the appointment for the surgery and I left the office with my only anxiety being the anticipation of having surgery for the first time.
I didn’t think for one moment that I had cancer.

On November 27, 2006 I went in for one day surgery. Little did I know that during the procedure, the tumor did not easily pop out as the surgeon had expected. As a result, he took it to the pathologist who informed him that it didn’t look good. My surgeon went back in and cut out more tissue around the area where the tumor was removed. I remember learning all this after requesting to see the surgeon, because I vaguely recalled him standing next to my bed during recovery, saying something that sounded very apologetic. It didn’t quite sink in until my husband called to set up my Thursday follow-up appointment, and the surgeon requested to see us the very next day instead.

When he said the words, “It’s Cancer”, I was in total shock and could think of nothing else except how this news would ultimately affect my family. I remember tears running down my face as we drove home in complete silence. My world had been changed and turned upside down. I knew from that moment on I was in God’s hands and I needed to depend on him to get me through. No matter what the doctors said from here on, I knew God would have the last say.

Breast Cancer did not run in my family and after further testing, no genetic connection was found either. So how in the world did I end up with cancer?

Later that week, the pathologist test results confirmed that the tumor was grade III cancer and even though the extra margin of tissue that my surgeon removed was cancer free, given my age and the very aggressiveness of grade III cancer, I was a very high risk for reoccurrence. My heart sank when my doctor told me that I needed to consider starting aggressive treatment as soon as possible to decrease my risks. In one single week my life as I knew it came to a crashing halt. I was immediately overwhelmed by all the decisions I would have to make in such a short period of time. Everything was happening so fast and I was bombarded with so much information all at once. I had to do everything from informing family members and my employer to scheduling more surgery as well as prepare for chemotherapy.

By the next week, I was in surgery to have a port inserted for chemotherapy and to have my sentinel node removed to determine if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. It was discovered that breast cancer spreads to the sentinel node first. If the node is cancer free, then the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. In this case, no additional nodes would need to be removed beyond the sentinel node.

I went into surgery knowing I was in God’s hands. I knew he was looking out for me even though cancer had abruptly invaded my life. While removing my sentinel node, my surgeon discovered that the next
two nodes were swollen and decided to remove them as well. My sentinel node tested cancer free, but the second lymph node did not. As a woman of faith, I have to believe that God was responsible for the discovery and the ultimate removal of those two swollen lymph nodes. For that I am so grateful.

Finally, in January 2007 after recovering from three surgeries, I began a treatment plan which included six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and a year of hormone therapy. During treatment, I discovered how wicked cancer could really be. It drained every aspect of my life – physically, emotionally and financially. I remember beginning to cry as the nurse began reciting the list of drugs I would have to take during chemo. I hardly like to take Tylenol for a headache! I also remember the stress I felt during the last week in February, when I discovered that I had already exhausted my prescription drug coverage for the year. One of my anti-nausea medications cost more than $300.00 alone which I had to have refilled before every chemotherapy. Without it, I would have been violently ill. I had a favor of God, who provided a way for me.

Throughout this process, God has blessed me with the most amazing support. So many people have reached out to me through their prayers, encouraging words and many acts of kindness. I don’t know how I would have survived without the love and support from my family and friends.

I am so thankful for all those who have been there for me throughout every stage of this journey. Most of all, I thank God for his faithfulness and the strength he has given me to continue to fight this fight.

Cittie Thigpen Beck, February View My Story »

Cittie Thigpen Beck

My name is Cittie Thigpen Beck. I was born February 9, 1940 in New Haven, Connecticut. My parents were Charles and Louvenia Thigpen. My parents moved to New Haven with my uncle Willie

Blount from Greenville, N.C. to start a church. This church was where the old St. Mathews Church used to be on Webster Street.

Everyone hears the word cancer one time or another. One doesn’t realize how this disease can affect your life. An excruciating pain in my right breast began in April of 2006. This pain caused me to stop talking on the phone and make an appointment with Dr. R. Cassin. At this appointment I had an ultrasound. A week later, Dr. Cassin made an appointment for me with Dr. Kay Zuckmen, a breast cancer specialist. After a biopsy, I was given the news. I told her if my breast had to be removed, that was fine with me. The biopsy report revealed cancer cells were in my lymph nodes. We decided on chemotherapy and radiation for treatment instead of a mastectomy.

Before treatment began, I was uncertain. I felt like giving up. My husband convinced me to follow the path the doctors had laid out for me because I was very sick. I prayed the prayer of faith. My good friends did not forget me. Rev. Helena Tyson from Texas called me twice a day for months. Sometimes I felt so bad I could not talk much but I continued to pray and ask God to give me more time.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatment has made me cancer free for the last two years. I have found that the old saying, “You have to go through it to get through it” to be so true. I know it was God, the doctors and nurses, my family and friends who helped me through this troubled time. Because of the treatment, my breast was not removed.

I love to volunteer to work with the children in my church and the elderly.

Michelle Bragg, March View My Story »

Michelle Bragg

I was born and raised in New Haven. I love this city. I have always been in pretty good health and very athletic. I was a cheerleader in high school and have been a member of the Dee

Dee’s Dance Family since the day she opened her doors 28 years ago – first as a student and then as a teacher for the last 22 years. I have seen half of New Haven come through those doors. I have a great family, two beautiful daughters and a wonderful man in my life.

I was participating in a “Biggest Loser” contest with some of the parents from the dance studio and was in second place when one day, I noticed that the

more weight I lost, the more this “lump” got bigger in my left breast. I had first noticed something abnormal when I was breast feeding my daughter a couple of

years earlier. I saw my mid-wife and was told that it was most likely a clogged milk duct and should go away. It never did.

I was scheduled for my yearly physical exam with my family doctor and was given a complete head to toe exam. When I left her office, I had appointments for a couple of specialists, including one for a mammogram and ultrasound.

On March 29th, 2007, I had the mammogram and ultrasound and after careful review by the technician and an MD, I had an appointment with a surgeon on the 30th. Being a Registered Nurse myself, I knew by the look on everyone’s face that something was wrong. On April 5th, I had a biopsy and on April 10th at 4:16 p.m., my life changed. I received the devastating news that I had cancer.

After several more biopsies and tests, I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I went home from the hospital with drains coming out of both sides of me and very limited use of my arms. I was in a whole lot of pain and just miserable, but with the loving care of my family, friends and co-workers, I made it through. After four surgeries in a four- month period, I was on the road to recovery. I am still going to physical therapy and don’t know if I will ever have 100% of the strength back in my left arm but I am a SURVIVOR!

Special thanks and blessings to Regina, Vanessa, Nikki, and my Dee Dee’s Family for everything that you all have done. But an EXTRA special thank you to Shaylice, India and Reggie. Shay, I don’t know what I would do without you. You are such a special person. You have made me so very proud to be your mother. Continue to always be you and never change. India, you were my little Nurse and you wouldn’t let anyone hurt Mommy. God knows that he put you in my life for a reason. You are such a joy and you bring happiness to all that you touch. Reggie, I thank God everyday for Him bringing you into my life. I love you very much. You were there for me everyday throughout this journey and I thank you for that. I may not say it often but I appreciate everything that you have done.

Last, but definitely not least, I thank God for giving me the Privilege of waking up each morning because I know through him, all things are possible.

Rhonda Austin, April View My Story »

Rhonda Austin

Hello, my name is Rhonda Austin and this is my journey with breast cancer.

In July of 2006 I went to my OB-GYN doctor for a follow-up visit, and there in the front of my chart were the results of my mammogram and biopsy studies which were conducted in June of 2006. As a nurse, I felt compelled to look at my results

when the technician left the office for a brief period. I was in shock as I read the words, “Mucinous Carcinoma.” I remembered the conversation I had with the nurse at Temple Radiology and her words, “The area in question is most likely benign,” came to my mind as I read that I have breast cancer.

I cried in the arms of my OB-GYN doctor. He then had me call a family member to come to get me. From this point, I met with the surgeon for a consultation that afternoon and planned out the treatment course. The recommended treatment consisted of having a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation therapy and a five-year course of the medication Tamoxifen.

The worst part was telling my kids, especially since they knew I had lost my mom to breast cancer in 1991.

Through prayer, my supportive family, good friends and the staff at the Father McGivney Center, I was able to withstand this journey. My message to any woman going through breast cancer would be to remember all of your support systems and embrace them.

Toni Dunston, May View My Story »

Toni Dunston

My name is Antoinette H. (Toni) Dunston. I was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1937 and have lived here all of my life. I attended Winchester Elementary, Bassett Street Jr. High and Hillhouse High Schools – all in New Haven. I am the daughter of William Raymond Horner and Esther Ann Green Horner. I am one of seven children, the proud mother of four children and grandmother of six. I lost my daughter, Jennifer, in 1996, at the age of 34. My grandson, William, was 9 1/2 years old at the time. He is now 21 years of age and thanks to the help of his family is doing well.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 when a routine mammogram showed a lump in my left breast. Although it caught me by surprise, I don’t remember getting too upset. Maybe it was because I never experienced it with family or friends as far as breast cancer.

After talking with my doctor, he gave me the name of a surgeon. I talked to my daughters, Joy, Julia and my son James about everything and they were so saddened by my diagnosis that it made me very sad. There were so many thoughts going on inside my head at once.

We went to the doctor’s together to talk about my options of having a lumpectomy and my lymph nodes removed in my left breast, or a mastectomy. After the surgery came and six months of chemotherapy and radiation. I recovered well. I don’t recall being too depressed during that time. Nor do I understand why I wasn’t. Maybe because I realized that I had a second chance at life, by the grace of God.

I had more life to live with my family, even though my family’s concern caused them to be over protective, which made me angry at times. Because up to that point I thought I could deal with anything, after losing my daughter in 1996.

Now, nearly 10 years later I see my oncologist, radiologist and surgeon once a year for my annual checkups. And when I hear them say “I’ll see you in a year,” it feels really good!

August of this year will mark 10 years that I’ve been cancer free. It’s a blessing!

Rev. Dr. Yolanda Smith, June View My Story »

Rev. Dr. Yolanda Smith

It has been three years since I heard the devastating words “it’s cancer, breast cancer.” Stunned by the news, I sat motionless in my chair with my best friend Bonita by my side. I wanted desperately to hear

everything the doctor was saying, but my mind began to race, and I found myself imagining what my life would be like from that day forward. “I have cancer,” I thought, “and I am entering into a world

of uncertainty, of doctors, nurses, hospitals, needles, tests, and surgery.” I also imagined, to my dismay, that my life would be consumed with fatigue, discomfort, despair, sickness, pain, and

emotion, lots and lots of emotion. This scenario felt foreign to me because it had never been my reality. The prospect of it all seemed inconceivable – absolutely unbelievable! For I had

always been a vibrant and energetic person, full of life. But as I sat in the doctor’s office, I wondered: “What does life hold for me now?”

My journey with breast cancer began on Wednesday, March 9, 2005, when I discovered a lump under my right arm. I was not overly alarmed at the time because I had a history of swollen glands and lymph nodes, which were generally benign. This lump, however, felt unusual;

it was smooth, hard, and stationary compared to the rolling, grainy, lumps and bumps I remembered from the past. I decided to wait a couple of days to see if it would go away.

A few days later, I went in for a mammogram and ultrasound, which soon revealed a mass, about the size of a pea, deep insight my right breast. The mass was undetectable through the physical exam. But it showed up clearly on both tests. Although I had had regular mammograms over the years, in that moment, I truly understood the value of mammograms in conjunction with self-examinations. In addition to the diagnosis of cancer, these and other tests confirmed that the cancer had spread from the original location in the breast to the lymph node under my right arm. The next few days and weeks were consumed by a flurry of doctor’s appointments, exams, tests and consultations. When all was said and done, I was facing 16 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery (a lumpectomy and the removal of about 27 lymph nodes), and six and a half weeks of radiation. The first two weeks after the diagnosis, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster with my emotions ranging from numbness to disbelief, from sadness to uncertainty, and from anxiety to hope.

Once the initial shock wore off, however, I decided to fight the cancer with every ounce of my being. This meant that I had to rely heavily on the grace of God, my family, friends, colleagues, and the medical professionals attending to my care. As the weeks and months passed by, my support system became a critical part of my journey. I soon discovered how much their love, prayers, encouragement, and acts of kindness bolstered my faith and gave me the courage to fight this disease no matter how difficult or unpleasant. I was particularly inspired by the words of the nurse practitioner, Molly Meyer, who encouraged me, during my initial consultation, to live my life as fully and completely as possible during this time. “You are not an invalid,” she said, and from that point on, I refused to think of myself as an invalid or as a person without hope. I was about to engage in the fight of my life and I was determined more than ever to live!

It was fortuitous that my diagnosis came at the beginning of Holy Week, leading up to Easter. For me, as an ordained Baptist minister, this has always been a time of deep reflection and prayer. However, with the diagnosis of cancer, I entered the week keenly aware of God’s love and healing presence in my life. Consequently, I never felt angry nor afraid. And although it was difficult at times, I was determined to go through my treatment with a positive outlook, standing firm on my faith. As I reflected on the death and resurrection of Christ, I was inspired by the hymn “Because He Lives.” It soon became my theme song, my affirmation for living. I wanted to learn whatever God wanted to teach me during this time. I wanted to hear and receive God’s word deeply into my spirit, and when it was all over, I wanted God to use me as a source of encouragement for others going through similar challenges in their lives.

I completed my treatment on December 15, 2005, and while I was cancer free for two and a half years,

I am undergoing treatment once again due to a recurrence of the cancer. Despite this new challenge, my doctors and I are optimistic that the cancer will be in remission soon. As I continue my journey toward healing and wholeness, I thank God for the beauty of everyday and I take comfort in the prayers of my family, friends, and loved ones. As a survivor, I am committed to supporting other women (especially African-American women) with breast cancer. To this end, I conduct workshops on spirituality and healing, and I make myself available to speak with individual women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Moreover, I have developed an online cultural resource on cancer awareness (encompassing multiple forms of cancer) for the African-American Lectionary (http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/calendar.asp), a resource tool for pastors, worship leaders, and teachers.

Despite its challenges, my journey through breast cancer has been a time of profound growth and deepened understanding. I have gained many lessons that will sustain me for a lifetime. I am grateful for what this experience has taught me and for every person who has supported me throughout my journey toward healing. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to the doctors, nurses, and health care professionals who participated in my care; my students, colleagues, and administrators at Yale Divinity School; my First Institutional Baptist Church family and pastor, Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr.; my friends and neighbors; and my sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. I also want to thank my family and close friends especially, Louis, Vera, and Angela Smith; Valencia, Maceo Sr., Maceo Jr., Michael, and Matthew Ward; April, Alijah, and Isaiah Black; Cathy Glenn, Moses N. Moore Jr., Bonita Grubbs, and Sarah Alexander. I could not have done it without you!

Valerie Lee, July View My Story »

Valerie Lee

My name is Valerie Lee and I was diagnosed with breast cancer on December 28, 1998 at the age of 36. I had surgery on January 4,

1999 to remove my tumor followed by six months of chemotherapy and radiation. July 2008 marked nine years since my last treatment of chemo. While some women moan and groan about turning 40

years old, I was not one of them! I now look forward to each and every birthday!

In my teens I had been diagnosed with Fibrocystic Breast Disease, which is described as common, benign

changes in the breast. At the ages of 15 and 19 I had benign tumors removed and was cautioned to watch any new growths.

At 26 I discovered another lump and had a mammogram, which determined the lump was non-cancerous so I opted not to have it removed. Having had two surgeries by the age of 19 I was not eager to go under the knife again.

At the age of 36 my lump changed and I went to a surgeon and had a biopsy performed. The doctor called me early in the morning and told me I had breast cancer. I can truthfully say I was not shaken to the core. In January 1999 I had the tumor removed along with a handful of lymph nodes which turned out to have cancer in them. The day of my surgery, January 4, 1999 became my Re-birthday, so lucky for me,

I now have two birthday celebrations.

I was blessed with a great healing team, which consisted of my Oncologist Isidore Tepler, the nursing staff and Radiology department of The Bennett Cancer Center of Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, along with my family, friends and co-workers who offered support and prayers during my treatment. I made everyone a part of the process by requesting positive words from each person that I put in a 3-ring binder and took to each treatment. I would read the words and prayers and feel energized by them. I referred to my treatment as a Healing; it was and continues to be to this day.

I take Arimidex every day and feel blessed to live in a time when a pill is all I need. Life is good and getting better each day. I take my pill, do monthly self-exams, and get a yearly mammogram and sonogram on both breasts. I also share my story whenever I can.

Live, Love and Laugh! It is all Good!

Phyllis J. Beaty, August View My Story »

Phyllis J. Beaty

My name is Phyllis J. Beaty. I have resided in New Haven for 44 years, hailing originally from Providence, Rhode Island. I’m married to my best friend and greatest support, William.

My journey began on Memorial Day weekend in 2006 while on a camping trip. I had gone for my annual mammogram two weeks prior.

The mammogram identified a suspicious area in my left breast. An ultrasound was done and checked by two doctors at Yale New Haven Hospital. One said it looked okay but the other, Dr. Carol Lee, insisted that I undergo a Stereotactic biopsy, which to everyone’s surprise revealed cancer. I feel very lucky and thank Dr. Lee for the early detection.

When I received the news from my doctor, I sat at the picnic table just listening and said “thank you for calling.” I guess that was my way of responding to more bad news. In May of 1997 the worst news came to us that our youngest son, Roderick, had been fatally injured in an automobile accident. This news of cancer was nothing compared to hearing that. I knew what had to be done and went along with the treatment plan without hesitation. The only thing I did not do was tell my son Russell, and daughter Alyssa until after my surgery was over. I just couldn’t find the words at the time of diagnosis, but they understood and were very supportive. The worse thing for me wasn’t hearing the word cancer, but the fear of receiving chemotherapy and radiation.

While working as a Registered Nurse at The Hospital of Saint Raphael, I had observed many patients become very ill during their treatments, but due to many new medications now available, some that were administered to me, I never experienced any adverse effects.

I am now feeling well and have a very positive outlook. I thank Dr. Kaye Zuckerman, my surgeon, and Dr. Jeremy Kortmansky and the nursing staff at Medical Oncology & Hematology for their excellent care. Most of all, I thank God each and every day that I may continue to enjoy life with my wonderful family and friends.

Annette Madlock, September View My Story »

Annette Madlock

The colors started to fade long before I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in late spring of 2003.

Several life changing events happened in the few years prior to my diagnosis. My age and the type of cancer warranted an aggressive treatment plan that included surgery, a full course of chemotherapy, and radiation.

Yes, it was more than I could bear, but “HE” promised never to leave me nor forsake me – for if I could bear it, I would not need “HIM”.

I can only say that I was carried through the darkness and the colors of life have slowly returned.

Dolores Jones, October View My Story »

Dolores Jones

Every day women hear the words, “You have breast cancer”. These four words will change your life forever. I was diagnosed with cancer on August 14, 2007. It was the day I entered the world of breast cancer. I cried and my head began to spin. I thought about my parents who both died of cancer. You ask yourself “Why did this happen to me? Was there something I could have done or should have done to prevent it?” I remembered all the sad stories I heard about chemotherapy and radiation.

My journey may have begun in November 1996, when I went for my yearly mammogram. At that time, I was told that my breast had calcifications in them. I wasn’t familiar with that term. All of the medical professional people I talked to told me not to worry. They told me calcifications never cause breast cancer. Every woman has them at some point in their life. When I had my biopsy I wasn’t worried. The results could be benign or malignant. But when I was told that I had breast cancer, I began to worry. I wasn’t prepared to hear the results.

I had waited four long days when the doctor called with the results. She told me very coldly and without compassion that I had breast cancer and what was I going to do about it. Needless to say, I changed doctors and hospitals immediately. Although I was the one who had breast cancer I was never alone. It quickly became a family affair. By the grace of God they helped me through this walk and they were with me every step of the way.

After the initial shock wore off I began to fight the toughest fight of my life. I researched and read everything I could get my hands on about this disease. My sisters said I became obsessed. I began to realize that breast cancer has its own dictionary. You add new words to your vocabulary; words you thought you would never use. They become familiar and creep into your everyday conversations. Saying the words “breast cancer” out loud, would always bring me to tears.

So now my new journey began. All of the doctors’ appointments, MRI’s, biopsy, ultrasounds and other tests were a real challenge for me. Before my diagnosis I never went to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. As many cancer patients know, time is not on your side because you have to make major decisions in a short amount of time.

I would like to mention the competent and professional staff at the Bryn Mawr Hospital Comprehensive Breast Center, where I received my treatments. This center is on the cutting edge of the most recent treatments of this disease. Because my breast cancer was diagnosed at an early stage, I was a candidate for the MammoSite Radiation Therapy System, which is a form of radiation following a lumpectomy. You receive a treatment twice a day for five days. Even though the treatments were within a short timeframe, they still left me exhausted. My treatments were completed. It was a happy day when my doctor said I didn’t need chemotherapy.

During this very difficult period in my life there were angels who were with me every step of the way. They are Trudy and Michael Taylor, Shirley and Gregory Holt, Nora and Calvin Price, Carol Brown and Gail Hunter. I would like to say a special thank you to my cousin Nora Price, a six-year breast cancer survivor, for her support and inspiration. I have three sisters; my oldest sister, Catherine Cabell, is a nine-year breast cancer survivor. Close to my life are my three sisters and two nieces. My hope is that they will never be touched by breast cancer.

Vilma Nieves, November View My Story »

Vilma Nieves

In the year 2005 during my summer vacation I found a lump between my right breast and arm pit. I thought it was a cyst, being that I’m a diabetic and it is common to have cysts under your arm pit. I have seen it before in my family members.

As soon as I returned home I saw my doctor, he referred me to three surgeons. I selected the only female in the group which made me comfortable. She explained to me that there would be a possibility of a positive diagnosis she then proceeded to perform a biopsy. The day after she called me and told me I had breast cancer, stage three. At that moment my world stopped but I knew that even though the diagnosis was threatening, I was going to beat it I never had any doubt about it.

My surgeon an oncologist told me about a new treatment. In October of 2005 I started my first treatment. The chemotherapy took all day long from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.. My caretaker (Nurse Karen) explained to me every step of my treatment and possible side effects. I started investigating on my own. My caretaker was so compassionate and understanding with me and with all the other patients whom she cares for. Because of that, I started talking about my experiences and feelings freely. I felt scared and expressing my feeling was my way of conquering that fear.

On the first chemo treatment I had a reaction and I had to stay in the hospital for five days but I was optimistic. I always had the support of my family and friends. When I was able to work we had Circulo de Oración (Circle of Prayer) at the school where I worked. In March my chemo finished, I had a lumpectomy. Two days after my surgery, my father had surgery and was in the ICU and passed away. During my surgery I had a drainage tube inserted that I had to disconnect to be able to travel to Puerto Rico for my father’s wake.

In May I started my radiation and it was so severe that I wasn’t able to put clothes on. At that point I asked for a leave of absence until the end of the school year. I was weak and tired most of the time, but never depressed. Some people looked at me with pity and others were compassionate, but I grew strong – in body and spirit. “El Senor escribe derecho en líneas torcidas” (The Lord writes straight on twisted lines) just to remind us how much he loves us and that any suffering we endure is only one in a 1,000,000 of how he suffered for us.

I have been in remission for almost two healthy years and somewhere there is a fear that it will reoccur. But I know I will be prepared to fight it again. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. My name is Vilma E Nieves and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor!

Virginia M. Stevenson, December View My Story »

Virginia M. Stevenson

Lets’s travel back in time to see what the Lord has done. December of 1990 when I went for an annual routine gynecological exam and pap smear. The doctor scheduled a mammogram for me. The mammogram was taken a few days later and the technician requested an extra image of my right breast after returning to the room. I was told the doctor wanted to double check the right breast and if any thing were to show up on the film my doctor would get in touch.

Two months later, the middle of February just days before my 42nd birthday on February 20th, 1991, I was at work sitting at my desk and happened to put my left hand up high above my right breast and I felt a lump the size of a dime. Some lumps are located above the breast and often times it can be missed if you’re focusing on just within the breast. My mammogram didn’t pick up a clear image of the cancer in my ducts because that area couldn’t fit under the X-ray equipment.

During this time in history there was so much talk in the media about breast cancer.

Women were having so many problems with surgeries and reconstruction issues with silicone leaks. I panicked and immediately called my doctor for an appointment. Within minutes I arrived in his office. He felt the lump and told me because of my age, sometimes women develop cysts and that I had nothing to worry about as long as I felt the tingling. I was told that when you don’t feel any sensation is when you should be concerned. My biggest mistake was failing to get a second opinion.

Four months later I traveled to Virginia to pick up my daughter from school for the summer. I couldn’t get back to New Haven fast enough. While I was on the trip, the lump enlarged and my lymph nodes were swollen and I had a problem putting my arm down.

After returning home the very next day I went to see Dr. Amodeo. He was the second doctor that I was seen by, and he took a biopsy and scheduled an ultra sound A day later I received a call from the doctor to come for the test results. I continued to pray and trust GOD with every breath and every step that I took. I was so heavy burdened. Once I was seated in the doctor’s office he walked in and told me the biopsy was malignant and I have breast cancer. I was devastated and told Dr. Amodeo that “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” I was in such disbelief at the news. I was horrified. I left the office and as soon as I stepped into the hall way the spirit of GOD touched me and said: “Peace be still for I am with you, I will carry you.”

A week later I had a lumpectomy and after the surgery the test indicated that cancer cells were still in the extra tissue that was removed with the mass. I was diagnosed as stage 3 and the tumor was the size of a golf ball. Several weeks later in August my second surgery was performed to have a mastectomy and removal of four lymph nodes. I received six months of chemotherapy.

The LORD has healed my body. His power to do all things is what gives me life to continue living in faith and gratitude for all that he has done for over seventeen years of my life. GOD bless and thanks to all my family and friends who prayed and gave me their love and support.

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