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2018 Calendar

2018 Calendar

Welcome to the 19th Annual Sisters’ Journey Calendar unveiling.
Thank you to all who have been on this journey with us advocating early detection
as a means to saving lives. It was so important to my mother that her community be
educated and aware about the horrific disease of breast cancer. And it has been
through our dedication and commitment to her vision that we continue to seek new
developments and ideas.

This year we are excited to share stories with you not only of 11 courageous
women, but also, for the first time, a breast cancer survivor’s story from a male
perspective. Over the years we have learned that men can also get breast cancer.
However, not until now have we found a man brave enough to tell his story – a
journey undertaken in tandem with that of his daughter’s.

The stories of Arnaldo and Vanessa Silva (Below) appear in the calendar months of
November and December. They also will be guest speakers at our 2017 Pink Tea. Their story is both touching and inspiring!

Vanessa And Arnoldo Silva 2018

Thank you to all our courageous 2018 breast cancer survivors for sharing their stories of hope.
Be Well,

Peace and Blessings
Dawn White-Bracey

Survivor Stories

Rachael Leftridge, January View My Story »

Rachael Leftridge

“Blessed beyond my comprehension!”

My name is Rachael Leftridge and I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer
at the age of 47. Triple “negative,” surely that couldn’t be bad. The word “negative” is a good thing, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, my theory was wrong. To my surprise, triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer in which there is no targeted or standard treatment. My only options were a combination of surgery, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Telling my children, my dad and my brothers about my breast cancer was the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. The first hardest thing I had to do was to bury my mother. She too had breast cancer. For years it had been in the back of my mind that I would not be able to escape this ugly disease – that someday I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. When my diagnosis was confirmed I was in total disbelief and became numb. However, after my pity party and quite a few tears, I went into survival mode. My faith grew bigger than my fear.

The night before my surgery, the beginning of my journey, I announced it on social media. I shared not for sympathy but for prayers of strength for my family, Team Rachael, and the surgeons; and also to encourage anyone else experiencing a life-changing situation.

My sister-girlfriend for over 40 years came from Maryland the day of my surgery. She spent every night with me at the hospital and accompanied me home. I can remember her asking me (which I think was in a sarcastic way), “Is there anything I can do for you?” It’s hard to allow someone to care for you when you are used to being the caregiver, and also used to being the rock.

My sisters near and far showed up and showed out in their own special way; I love them very much for all the love, support, and concern shown for my children and me. I had an amazingly kind and professional photographer who helped me to document my journey. The pictures he took not only captured faces but also captured the moment. I may have lost my hair and a little weight but I never loss my faith or my smile.

In so many ways my journey has been a blessing. My relationship with God has grown; I found me, I found peace and I’m living. I have a second chance at life and I’m making everyday count.

I didn’t escape breast cancer but I am a survivor!

Lynn Sistruck, February View My Story »

Lynn Sistruck

Greetings, my name is Lynn Sistruck and I am a two-time Breast Cancer Survivor. At age 38 I
watched a “bump” directly under my collarbone grow for approximately one year until it became
the size of a peach pit. There was no pain, no redness and no concern, as I thought it was a cyst.

One day while visiting my father (Mr. Willie Sistruck), he said to me, “Lynn, your money is falling
out of your bra.” I said, “Dad I do not have any money in my bra.” The lump was protruding
through my blouse! He called my mother (Mrs. Pamela Fewell of Marietta, GA) and she contacted
me, stating that I needed to have a mammogram performed ASAP. My immediate thoughts were:
No, impossible! The lump is too high and it can’t be! I then made an appointment at Yale-New
Haven Hospital to have a mammogram. It was 2007 and I was 39. I received a call informing me
that the mammogram revealed I had a tumor that could be malignant, and I needed to follow up
with a biopsy. After I received the biopsy results, I was told I had Stage 2 Invasive
Adenocarcinoma of the left breast with Her2+ present. I ended up having a left breast
lumpectomy, 33 treatments of radiation, and six different chemotherapy drugs. My treatment was
the very best of care that I could have ever received; I participated in a clinical trial spearheaded
by Dr. Kenneth Miller.

My mother rallied the troops! Although everyone within my immediate family lived in different
states, they all were assigned different tasks regarding my at-home care and attendance to all
appointments. I had the very best of family support that a woman “going through” could have
asked for. My friends were also on board in providing assistance and all the support needed
during treatment. This was when I was first introduced to Sisters’ Journey. God’s blessings!

In December 2012 I was watching TV and for no particular reason I felt my left breast and
realized there was a small lump the size of a green pea. By this time I had moved to Fayetteville,
NC. I called my mother and told her that I was going to schedule an appointment at Duke
University Hospital in Durham, NC. I learned my lesson that early detection is key! I also had
learned, with my mother’s help, how to pick the perfect team of doctors by checking their
credentials and listening to all the options that provide a positive outcome. This time I had a left
breast mastectomy and was diagnosed with two forms of breast cancer – Ductal Carcinoma In
Situ and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Following the mastectomy, I also underwent a year of

In January 2017, I had a left breast reconstruction procedure called Diep Tram Flap, which
involved using the fat from my stomach, the skin, and arteries to recreate the breast. My
procedure had taken place at Smilow Cancer Hospital by Dr. James Grant Thompson.
Unfortunately, during the first 24 hours, my reconstructed breast “failed” and was immediately
removed. I am currently still healing from that procedure. And so my journey continues.

Today I am cancer-free and have been since 2014. I encourage all women to not diagnose
themselves when finding any abnormality in their bodies. There is no such thing as “I am too
young,” or “Breast cancer does not run in my family.” We need to understand that breast cancer
is not an automatic death sentence and when detected early the odds of survival are greater and

Nina Ratliff-Williams, March View My Story »

Nina Ratliff-Williams

My name is Nina Ratliff-Williams. I am 63-years young and a 3-time cancer survivor! I am a native of New Haven, CT via Chesterfield, SC – the 5th of James and Juanita Ratliff’s 12 children. I have nine sisters and two brothers. My two daughters, Antwan (Danny, Jr.) and Tenisha (Reggie), have given me five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren whom I love dearly. I also have a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

My journey with cancer began with a history of having dense breasts from an early age. I’ve had many surgeries on both breasts, which ultimately lead to a double-mastectomy. My breast walls had always shown masses of cysts and tumors. I regularly performed self-breast examinations and whenever I discovered a lump, I would have it removed and tested. The results were always negative.

However, in September 2011, one of my discoveries wasn’t so “routine.” After the usual tests, my doctor recommended a bilateral ultra-sound, which showed something was different. Inside a sack located within my left breast was a mass that had not been observed before. My doctor recommended a biopsy to determine whether the mass was benign or malignant, but I requested it be removed immediately. The biopsy was performed and I was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer known as Spindle Cell in my left breast. Since a mastectomy would be performed on my left breast, I requested a double-mastectomy. Given my history and due to the multiple biopsies performed on each of my breasts, I didn’t want to risk the cancer spreading to my right breast and having to re-live the process all over again.

On April 4, 2012, I underwent a double-mastectomy with silicone implants. Following the surgery, I was informed that I would need radiation therapy for 30 days. Little did I know the radiation would cause the silicone to leak, which resulted in an infection in my left breast. What an awful ordeal that was! During the summer of 2012, I had to use a pump to remove the infection from my system and in September 2012, I had the implants removed and a trans-flap procedure performed.

I was home for six months when depression seemed to get the best of me. At the time of my diagnosis I was married; however, my husband at the time could not handle my illness and the depression that came with it. We divorced in January 2014 after 17 years of marriage. Through it all, I thank God for sustaining me through that difficult time. What a long journey it was and still is! I have learned to lean and depend on Him. Looking back, I know it was God who kept me during that ordeal, as I prayed daily. He was my advocate. He was my rock, and I would call on Him because I knew He loved me unconditionally and would see me through it.

In January 2014, I had an emergency appendectomy. That was an extremely difficult time for me both physically and emotionally. It wasn’t just that I had to have another surgery, but it also brought back memories of losing my youngest grandson, Danny III “Dan Dan” after he had an appendectomy in April 2005. Following that nightmare, in July 2015, I underwent surgery for lung cancer. After a routine visit to my doctor, he ordered a CT Scan which identified yet another form of this horrible disease. I was fortunate not to require chemo or radiation therapy after that surgery. However, when which led to a diagnosis of Stage III Thyroid Cancer. Preparing for that surgery was the hardest thing I had to
do in my life. My family had just suffered the loss of my oldest sister, Margie, in September 2016, to pancreatic cancer and I was gearing up to have surgery just one week after we laid her to rest. While mourning such a devastating loss, we had to prepare for the unknown outcome of my impending surgery. The surgery to remove my thyroid was performed in October 2016. Following that surgery, my oncologist informed me that the radiation following the mastectomy had caused the subsequent lung and thyroid cancers.

I give thanks to God for my Job at Yale University where I will be employed 15 years on October 2017.
I appreciate the doctors and nurses who took very good care of me. I thank my manager, supervisor,
team leaders and coworkers for their support during my illnesses. I have returned to work and am
currently recuperating from the Thyroidectomy with lifelong treatment to stay alive.

While it has been an uphill journey, I know I do not battle alone. I am being used by God as a living testimony to share my story to anyone who faces any form of this terrible disease. I thank God for being Jehovah-Rophe, the God who heals, and Jehovah-Roi, the God who sees me. I am alive today to share what I have been through and I know my thanks is not in vain because He continues to keep, comfort and sustain me, even in my times of doubt and weakness, because He is the advocator for my life. He has been present in every operating room and guided every surgeon’s hand. He has made it possible for me to be here to act as a beacon of His light for anyone who stands in the need of encouragement.

I encourage anyone reading my story and going through a battle with cancer to fight, as well as pray, knowing that your faith is as strong as the work you put in to sustain your life. Stay strong, stay focused, continue to make healthy choices. Always seek to live and never let the illness dictate your actions. I am proof that you can survive!

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