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2004 Calendar

2004 Calendar

There is power in stories. For 2004, Sisters’ Journey presents in this our fifth calendar the stories of 13 more phenomenal women – 13 because, for the first time, our survivors include a set of twins. They join others, spreading assurance to women all over that you can survive breast cancer. Our journeys might be just a bit different, but we walk together down life’s highway together.

Sisters’ Journey is proud to celebrate five years of accomplishment. Members from this group have participated in many activities sponsored by the American Cancer Society. There have been moments of advocacy in Washington. The trips to conferences provided information about recent research and growing relations with people across the country.

The organization known as Sisters’ Journey has distributed more than 5,000 calendars across the country. The annual Pink Teas attracted audiences of nearly 400 on the last Sunday in October over the years. Through Sisters’ Journey’s work, women of color have relaxed a boundary and joined support groups throughout the region. Our own support group not only meets monthly, but also provides the collective energy that pushes us all forward. A history of five years is a celebration of survival.And the journey continues.

In addition to all of this, Sisters’ Journey is now looking forward to sharing more through a newsletter and a telephone line. Materials in a multi-media library are being gathered to lend one more educational mechanism. Increased activity with several national groups will provide continuing education and better understanding. Adding a family event to the list of annual events will allow attention to caregivers and family who are so important to recovery.

As we move along, turn the pages of this calendar. Think about the words from the 13 women featured in this year’s issue. Examine the similarities and differences of their journeys. Turn to this calendar and the work of Sisters’ Journey for guidance on unknown routes. Understand that you are not alone. Look to others to find strength.

Linda White Epps– Founder

Survivor Stories

Gloria Hammie & Rosemarie Watson Frambo, January View My Story »

Gloria Hammie & Rosemarie Watson Frambo

My name is Gloria Watson Hammie. I am a native of New Haven Connecticut. I am the wife of Charles L. Hammie for 42 years, a mother of two children and a proud grandmother to three grandchildren, Shanalee Hammie, age 13, and twins, Serena and Selena, ages seven. I work for Yale
University Medical School.

In 1980, during a self-examination, I felt a lump in my breast. My first reaction was shock, anger, and fear. I thought this was the end because I lost my mother to cancer. I am very thankful to a friend and co-worker whom I told and she immediately called her surgeon and made an appointment for me. He told me it was a cyst. The cyst was malignant and
had to be removed. A year later, another cyst was found and
I underwent surgery for a second time.

During my hospitalization and recovery, I gave thanks to God, my wonderful family, and devoted friends, who were by my side day and night and offered their prayers, love and
support. This was a source of comfort. My husband has endured and always helped me to have a positive out look on life. I did not need chemotherapy or radiation treatment. I am now a 24-year cancer free survivor!

My name is Rosemarie Watson Frambro. Everyone calls me “Rosie.” I also am a proud native of the great city of New Haven. I moved to New York City after high school, but before moving to New York, I was employed by the Southern New England Telephone Company. From there, I moved to
Trenton, New Jersey after my marriage to William Frambro. I have been a widower for 23 years.

In December of 1995, I went for my annual mammogram. After the results of the first biopsy, the findings showed a malignancy. My sister, Vickie of New York City, suggested a second opinion at Sloane-Kettering Cancer Hospital or the Mount Siani Hospital’s Breast Center for Women. After all, I chose Mount Siani Hospital and that is where I had my surgery. I did not have to go through chemotherapy or radiation therapy. With wonderful family and friends and faith in God, I am a nine year survivor.

No words can ever express my feelings for my sister, Gloria. She was able to advise and comfort me. She told me, “True, a fighting spirit does not guarantee a cure, but it you are trying to overcome your anger, channel it into your fight for survival.”

As a nine year cancer survivor, I recommend that one self examines themselves and have a yearly mammogram. I thank God and I thank all of you who prayed for me and all the acts of kindness extended to me during my illness. I especially thank my husband, Clarence, my children, Janiqua, Jamar, and Jaquanna, my mother, sisters, brothers and church family for their unconditional love and prayers. My father instilled in us at an early age that “A family that prays together, stays together.” Thanks to all the doctors, nurses and receptionists who would not let me give up on myself, but continue to encourage me to think positively. I thank God for healing me. It is through His healing that I am able to walk among cancer survivors. To God be the glory for all that He has done.

 

Shelia Farley Best, February View My Story »

Shelia Farley Best

I was born and raised in the City of New Haven and I have lived in Hamden for twenty-seven years. I am also a former employee of twenty years at the Yale Center for British Art. I was the first born with three male siblings and the first in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

In June of 1994, I had a benign lumpectomy performed on my right breast. During my annual mammogram in October 2000, I knew something was wrong. The technicians repeatedly took X rays of my left breast and I had to wait for them to do an ultra sound. Also, the doctor never came out
to tell me everything was o.k. and “see you next year.”

On November 10, 2000, after having many biopsies, my surgeon phoned to tell me that I had breast cancer. That day is forever etched in my memory because it was the day before I was to travel to London, England, for business, with my husband. At that point when I was told I had cancer, my entire life changed forever.

While in London, I absorbed myself in my work and literally did not think about the journey that I was about to face. On November 20, 2000, my surgeon performed a partial mastectomy, a lumpectomy, and removed lymph nodes from my left breast.

Once I healed from the surgery, I needed six months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation treatments. Although the chemo treatments were most difficult for me to tolerate, I was blessed to be surrounded by supportive family and friends, especially my husband, John and my daughters, Margo and Charliah. I have been a breast cancer survivor for three years. Every day that I am still standing is a blessing from God. He has given me a second chance in life, and I truly intend to enjoy every moment. I have learned to appreciate life and how much my family and friends mean to me.

In September 2001, my oncologist put me on Arimedex for five years after I developed severe side effects from taking Tamoxifin. There were many times I would think “why me?” If I can take this burden so that my two daughters will never have to experience what I went through, then I say “why not me?”

 

Maria Torres, March View My Story »

Maria Torres

I was born in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. I am 58 years old. I have two children and three grandchildren. I was 56 years old when I found out that I had breast cancer.

Cancer was detected on my left breast in 2001. I never felt any pain. One day, I felt a small ball. Having a ultra sound and a mammogram, the doctors did not find anything. I insisted on having the calcium lump removed. It was sent to the lab and that is how they found out I had breast cancer.
They gave me ten days to have my left breast removed. The doctors had to remove my whole left breast.

Then, I had surgery and they implanted a breast on my left side. My body started to reject the implanted breast. So, after 11 months, they had to remove the implanted breast.

Now, I don’t have anything on my left side. But, I prefer to stay the way I am now. I do not want to have surgery. Now, I am using a prostheses with a special bra. But I do not feel comfortable because it weighs too much and it gives me lots of pain on my left arm and back. I am still in treatment at the cancer clinic.

The doctors that saw me they told me that they were calcium balls. Every time I see the doctor that originally diagnosed me, I stop and tell them – “Look how the calcium balls got me now!

My advice to all women is that when doctors tell you those lumps are just calcium balls: get a second opinion!

 

Elizabeth Ann Reddish, April View My Story »

Elizabeth Ann Reddish

I am a 15 year breast cancer survivor. I reside in North Haven, Connecticut and have been married to my husband, Bill, for 41 years. We have two children, Darcy and Keenan and we are the proud grandparents of two, 8 year old Jonet and 6 month old Loren. I am a recent retiree of Computer Science Corporation in Meriden, Connecticut, as a member of technology Staff A. I am also a retiree of the former Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET), which is now SBC.

As a result of self examination, I discovered a lump in my left breast. I called my physician and he scheduled a mammogram. The lump was not seen by the mammogram, so he immediately made an appointment for me to see a
surgeon. The surgeon said it was a cyst, he recommended that I come back in six months because he did not think it was cancerous. I left his office smiling and very much relieved, but as I walked to my car I said to myself: “This is my life! I am not waiting. I’m going to get a second opinion.”

I met with Oncologist Dr. Martin Katz and the first thing he asked was if my hair was my own. If so, he said, I was going to loose it. I also met with a plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Flagg to discuss the procedure for breast reconstruction. And on March 11, I had surgery for removal of my left breast
and, as a precaution, numerous lymph nodes were removed from under my arm. They were negative.

I felt as if I had a disease that no one else had. So, at the time, I only told my immediate family and my supervisor. I did not want to discuss it with anyone, but somehow the news traveled and the phone started to ring. Everyone was very supportive, but I couldn’t talk about it. I had chemotherapy once a month for eight months. It was successful and I did
not loose my hair.

I thank God for watching over me. Thanks to my family,
especially my husband, Bill, who has been beside me all the way and to my dear friends, and to the persons I did not know who came up to me and said that they were praying for me. I thank you all.

In April of 1996, cancer struck again. I informed Dr. Engina Vinning, an ENT specialist that my voice sounded hoarse and sometimes just a whisper. I did not have a cold, cough, or any discomfort. A Laryngoscopy was performed and a nodule was discovered on my thyroid. A biopsy was
performed and I immediately had surgery. I had two Radiation Iodine treatments that required my being quarantined in the hospital for up to two and a half days. In April of 1999, the cancer returned again in my throat. After surgery, it was necessary to have seven weeks of radiation therapy, five days a week. I thank God that my doctors were all knowledgeable and reliable, that they were able to save my voice. And thanks to them, Doctors Paul Alberti, John Fredico, Barr Forman and Robert Sinha all of St. Raphael’s, my cancer is now in remission. I thank God every day when I
awake.

 

Ruby McKnight Brunson, May View My Story »

Ruby McKnight Brunson

My name is Ruby McKnight Brunson and I am a native of South Carolina. I am the eighth of 11 brothers and sisters. I moved to Connecticut in 1974.

In August of 2001, I surprisingly noticed a lump in my breast, while I was visiting my mother. After returning home, I instantly called my doctor. He quickly made an appointment for a mammogram. The results of this mammogram showed the lump. After the results came in, I was scheduled for a biopsy. The results of the biopsy showed that the lump was
malignant.

After the suspicions of my condition were confirmed, my doctor then scheduled me for surgery. After surgery came the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The road to recovery seemed to be a long, strenuous, and tiring journey.

With the support of my lovely husband, Solomon Brunson, my beautiful daughter, Rachel Brunson, and my loving family, I was able to pull through these trying times with my head held high. I also would like to thank my pastor, Rev. Donald R.A. Toussaint, and my church family for all the continued support and prayers. I would also like to send my most
sincere thanks to all the doctors and nurses at the UCONN Medical Center and the Midstate Medical Center.

With the help of the Lord, this experience granted me a renewed faith in Christ Jesus. For this I give God all the praise and will continue to give God all the praises.

 

Geraldine Cotton, June View My Story »

Geraldine Cotton

My name is Geraldine Cotton. I have lived in New Haven for 39 years. I am the mother of two daughters and a granddaughter. My mother died of lung cancer at the age of 58 and my maternal grandmother died of stomach cancer at the age of 63.

In August of 2000, I went for a routine mammogram and was shocked to learn that a lump had been detected in my right breast. I remember saying to myself that this was nothing, but when the radiologist suggested that I see a surgeon, I cried. In September, I had a lumpectomy and three lymph
nodes removed.

My daughters and my best friend went with me to the surgeon’s office to go over the biopsy results. We were told that the lump was malignant, but the lymph nodes were negative. The surgeon said that I needed to see an
oncologist. Having worked with Dr. Arthur Levy years ago and remembering how hard he worked with cancer patients, he was my choice. Dr. Levy explained that the type of cancer I had required chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However before I could begin chemotherapy, I had to
undergo tests to be sure that my heart could withstand the chemotherapy It never occurred to me that I would not conquer the cancer. I had faith in God that He would see me through it. I thank God for surrounding me with people that helped me to stay strong. There is my co-worker, Betsy, who
was diagnosed with breast cancer and started chemotherapy two weeks before me. We went through radiation therapy at the same time. Betsy and I became each others support system. My daughter, Rsheemah, and
my girl friend, Marilyn, rearranged their schedules to accompany me to all of my chemotherapy treatments. Finally, my church family that gave me spiritual support.

I have now been cancer free for three years, but I am still
followed closely every three months by Dr. Arthur Levy and Dr. Joyce Chung, radiation oncologist.

August 2000 was a wake up call for me, for it took me a year to go for that mammogram test. My gynecologist had given me the requisition a year prior and I didn’t get the test. I now feel that God has given me a second chance and I value this gift of life.

 

Deborah Stanley, July View My Story »

Deborah Stanley

My name is Deborah Stanley and I am 51 years old. I am a native of New Haven. I am also a proud mother of one daughter, Erica. I have worked in the New Haven School System for more than 30 years.

In September 1999. I went to my medical doctor for my yearly physical examination. During this exam, he discovered a small lump in my left breast. He referred me for a mammogram. While the technician was doing the mammogram, a white milky substance began to leak from my left breast. I was asked if this had happened in the past. I informed the technician that this had never happened before. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with fear. In October of 1999, I had my first biopsy and discovered I had Pappilomas which are cysts. I had the Pappilomas removed
in a one day surgery. My doctor informed me that she only dealt with a few women with the same condition. I was watched closely by my doctor and was evaluated every six months to monitor recurrences. Within a two year period, I began getting a burning sensation in my left breast. A mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy were unable to detect anything. I was persistent and told the doctor that something was truly wrong. I was not sleeping and having anxiety attacks and, additionally, the burning was continuing
in my breast. I requested to be put on hormonal medication. I was told that, before hormonal medications could be prescribed, a deep tissue biopsy was required.

In April of 2002, I had the deep tissue biopsy which found cancer. I was extremely lucky that the cancer was detected when it was. The cancer was so embedded that it would have grown inside of me for another year before it would have been discovered through a mammogram. It was also
very large in terms of centimeters. I decided that I would have a double mastectomy, although the cancer was only detected in my left breast. After surgery was completed, I went through six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.

My advice to women is to be in touch with your bodies, be persistent, and follow your gut feelings. Ultimately, schedule mammograms and do not put your health on the back burner. I want to thank God for blessing me and sparing my life. This journey has taken its toll on me emotionally and
physically. However, this journey has also made me appreciate life and grow more in faith than every before. I had an incredible support team of family and friends who I want to thank. I love them all so very much.

 

Ruth Fulcher Sutton, August View My Story »

Ruth Fulcher Sutton

My name is Ruth Fulcher Sutton. I am the proud mother of a daughter, Lori who is deceased. Lori would have been 40 years old last July 28th. Renard, my son, is 37 years old. I have two grandsons, Anthony 20 years old and Andre 10 years old. I am the youngest of 15 children. I am a native of
North Carolina and have lived and worked in Connecticut for 43 years.

December 23 1990, on my 50th birthday, I went to my Gynecologist, Dr. John Haley for my annual examination. I had not been performing self examinations of my breasts. A lump was discovered in my right breast. Dr. Haley requested that I go for mammogram. Next, I went for a biopsy. Results of the biopsy confirmed my fears of cancer of the right breast.

January 1991 I went to Yale-New Haven Hospital for surgery. I was blessed with the most knowledgeable group one could ask for. I will never forget the care, patience, and understanding I received during my stay in the hospital. Again, I wish to say thank you to God for being by my side all
my life, my healthcare providers, Dr. Zeno Chicarilli, Dr. Goodman, Dr. Shopick, my family, friends, and all my church friends.

After my surgery, I was blessed by not having to undergo chemotherapy. I did receive six weeks of radiation therapy.

I am now in my 13th year of recovery I would like to say to my beautiful daughter Lori who is watching me from Heaven, that God is not through with me yet. And to all women,
please go for your annual mammogram and perform your self examination.

To everyone:
The Power of Protection
The light of God surrounds me,
The love of God enfolds me,
The power of God protects me,
The presence of God watches over me,
Wherever I am God is.

 

Edna Y. Mercado, September View My Story »

Edna Y. Mercado

I am a 39 year old mother of two teenagers. I live in West Haven Connecticut. One night, I went to shower before going to bed. I remember seeing a show that spoke about breast examinations. How long had it been since I had checked myself?

I showered and checked myself. Was that a lump I felt? It seemed different from the rest of my breast, but I thought maybe it was just me. I checked myself as I laid down in bed, became concerned and made a mental note to speak to my doctor about it.

I had an examination with my primary physician. She did not seem too concerned about it. However, she suggested that I make an appointment with a gynecologist, and speak to her about having a mammogram. My appointment was sometime in late December of 2002. The doctor felt the
lump and made an appointment for me to have my first mammogram. I went for my mammogram and they then did a sonogram. As they did the sonogram, The radiologist told me that I would need to make an appointment with a surgeon so that I could have a biopsy to determine whether or not the lump was malignant. My GYN doctor referred me
to a surgeon. I made the appointment and prayed with all my heart that it would be o.k. I knew I had to tell my family. I never keep important things from my kids. I explained the procedure to them and, of course, they were extremely concerned.

I had my biopsy on the 28th of January 2003. I was instructed to see my doctor the very next day. I guess I was naive, at that moment, not to realize that was not a good sign. I went to the doctors and he told me that he did not have good news. He told me that the tumor was malignant.
He proceeded to tell me my options, which I barely heard as all I could hear were the horrible sobs coming from my mouth. It took me a whole day to stop crying and, then, I pulled myself together.

I realized that I had to do what I had to do and I knew that God was going to help me through it. I had a mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time. This is a very long and lengthy procedure. Recovery takes about six weeks. My father and his wife came down and helped me for the first
few weeks, With their support, the support of my children, David and Shaina, and my dear friends Zelphia, Marlene, Kathy, Carol, Pat, Isabel, to name just a few, I made it through the roughest of times. Chemo has been very hard on me. It has given me a terrible pain in my bones. I am almost
through with a regimen of chemo. Now, I have to have radiation treatments for six weeks, but I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. If it were not for the peace that God has given me and the support from my family and friends, I do not believe I would have made it through this far.

I encourage all those who know of someone with cancer, or any illness, to be a support for them. At times such as these, a card or a call will make a world of difference.

 

Rose Teresa Santos, October View My Story »

Rose Teresa Santos

I am a Survivor! My name is Rose Teresa Santos. I am the oldest of 10 children born to Daniel and Teresa Santos. I am a native of New Haven, Connecticut. I retired from St Raphael Hospital after working for 30 years as nurse’s assistant in the Operating Room.

My journey began in July 1995 when I went for my yearly physical and mammogram. A lump was discovered in my right breast. I was devastated when I first learned of my diagnosis. My thoughts immediately went to my sister Frances Jackson who lost her battle to cancer in 1993. I know that God hasn’t given me the spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind. However, when faced with your own mortality, you have to fight not to let fear overwhelm you.

I had a lumpectomy on August 2, 1995. I received seven
weeks of radiation treatments and took Tamoxifen for five years. I have been cancer free for eight years and to God be the glory.

I thank God for Dr. Ponn and my family and friends who helped, loved, and supported me during my journey. I especially want to thank my sister Betty Lewis for her love and support and my dear friend, June Pierce, a cancer
survivor herself.

After going through my journey, I was able to encourage and support my baby sister, Joan Kelley, who recently went through her own battle with breast cancer.

I want to encourage all my “sisters” to make sure you have
your yearly exams and mammograms. It was a lifesaver for me and it can be for you, too!

 

Jacqueline Randolph, November View My Story »

Jacqueline Randolph

Dear God, where does this fit in Your plan for me? That was my question. I never asked “Why me?” But, I wonder just how God was planning to use me on this journey.

It was October, 2000. I had just returned to work after a left total hip replacement and anticipating having to do the same with my right hip in the not to distant future, when after an abnormal mammogram and subsequent biopsy, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.

For the past eighteen years, my profession had been in Clinical Cancer Research “I KNEW THE DEAL!” But, oh what a blessing it was to be surrounded by experts in the field. When I returned to work that October, I was assigned to a new director and was not particularly happy with the
change. But, who knew? Within a week, I knew. Who better to have but a female oncologist, experienced in the treatment of breast cancer!

My new medical director was very supportive, giving me her home phone number to call if needed, time off to make arrangements, and discussing various treatment options with me. Within two days, I had an appointment to see a surgeon and I accepted my director’s offer to go with me.
Having her accompany me during the first session was invaluable. We discussed everything from a lumpectomy to a bilateral mastectomy. My next steps toward making a treatment decision were to have consults with a radiologist specializing in breast cancer treatment, a plastic surgeon experienced in breast reconstruction, and an oncologist. These consults allowed me to gather facts and understand my options.

Again, I took someone with me on these visits and as before, it proved to be invaluable when it was time to weigh the pros and cons of my treatment options. As I reflect over the last three years, I still do not know that I am clear on God’s ultimate plan for me, but I do know it is in His hands. I do know that He has a plan for me. There is not enough space on this page to relate to you the numerous times someone has come into my life at the very moment that I needed them or at a time when they needed the support that I could give. These are not just coincidences; I prefer to call to call them “God Incidences.” I have met some of the most phenomenal women while on this journey. Breast cancer survivors are incredibly giving and supportive I appear in this calendar and tell my story for one reason only and that is to encourage women to pay attention to their bodies, get regular check ups, do monthly self breast exams. Early detection is very important in the
fight against breast cancer. And if you are diagnosed with breast cancer: know that you have options; know that you do not have to take this journey alone; be open to support that is offered; make the best decision you can with the information you have gathered; and move forward. There is life after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you
hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

 

Denise Smith-Jones, December View My Story »

Denise Smith-Jones

In 1992, I was faced with two threatening questions. “What option was I going to choose in regards to being diagnosed with breast cancer?” And, as a divorced single mother, “Was I going to be able to raise my daughter?” I was 37, scared and frightened. I knew that the decisions I had to make would be very important ones.

I chose to have a Modified Radical Mastectomy, which is surgery to remove the whole breast, some small chest muscles and some lymph nodes in the armpit. This was followed by reconstructive surgery (the rebuilding of the
breast after a Mastectomy), plus six months of chemotherapy. At this point, I thought I would be cancer free and had confidence to fully recover from breast cancer.

Six years later, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). It was there that I realized I was not alone in the fight to eradicate breast cancer. As a grassroots organization, which brings attention to the members of Congress and the Administration of
inadequate funding for breast cancer research. For the areas of public policy, science, industry, and advocacy, NBCC has changed the world of breast cancer.

As my involvement with NBCC reached the three and a half year mark, I had started to experience deep chest pains. After seeking medical attention and being totally frustrated in not knowing why I was experiencing this pain, it took a year and a half for the doctors to diagnose me in December of
2001 with Metastic Breast Cancer. This type of cancer occurs when the breast cancer has traveled to other parts of the body: it often spreads to the bones, lungs and liver. This type of cancer is also known as stage IV breast cancer. Once again, I was forced with making another decision on treatment options. This time, I elected to participate in a clinical trial. It is a research study where new treatment or other health intervention is tried out on people. Clinical trial tests how well and/or how safely a new treatment works.

This has been a true learning experience. I realized some important guidelines. For example, because I was a breast cancer survivor, a CT scan should have been given to me at the first mentioning of deep chest pain. I am very angered at the fact that it took so long for me to be properly diagnosed. Another important fact is, if you live in the United States, not all health care is correct for you. Even with good doctors and good insurance, some breast cancer patients receive very poor care. That is why it is important to have skilled doctors and nurses who give practiced breast cancer care in a respectful way and understand the latest medical evidence.
If you ever find yourself in this dilemma, please take your time to do the research. Your health is vital. I have been able to raise my daughter successfully. She is now a junior in college. It is through the support of my daughter, mother, father, sisters, close family and friends and my spiritual
connection with God that’s given me the strength to know I will recover from this experience.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance: perserverance, character, and character, hope.”– Romans 5:3-4

 

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