At the risk of appearing philosophical, I believe that you must think of life as a journey – not a span of years, but a sojourn from the very first moments of birth. As we travel, various roads appear before us. Some head north and south, others east and west. We all make our way, fast or slow, on this journey.
The women on the pages of this calendar for 2002 tell about their journeys, describe their discoveries of breast cancer and discuss the various treatments that followed. You can sense their bravery. You can feel their emotions. You must applaud their courage. There have been 38 individuals highlighted in the calendars during the past three years.
Every year as we show Sisters’ Journeys, I stop and think about the number of women whose lives are altered by the discovery of breast cancer. Although, at the moment of diagnosis, some may think all is bleak, the roads are still there waiting for us to travel, to enjoy the passage, to move forward. I watch the numbers of relatives, friends, and acquaintances living each day cancer free. For me, it has been ten years, ten glorious years of living a full life.
My personal journey has revealed many things to me. First, I understand that I do not travel alone. As many of you know, a large, rambunctious family surrounds me. It was this group that stood by my bedside when I needed to see them and told me to “get up” as my body healed. “Get up,” they repeated over and over again. And with their encouragement and constant support, I did.
My journey now includes talking to women – as many as I can reach – about our obligation to take care of ourselves. Breast self-examinations should be a part of our routine every month. Our annual physical examination must include a mammogram. Most health insurance programs cover the cost and, if you do not have insurance, most communities offer free screenings and mammograms.
It was early detection that gave me life, that put me on another trek in my journey. As I travel, all kinds of people have joined me. I offer the camaraderie of a sisterhood, unlike others. We support each other and we remain open to all that wish to join in.
Linda White Epps- Founder
Although there is no history of breast cancer in my family, I often wondered if I would develop breast cancer. Yet, I was very shocked when I discovered that I had DCIS in my left breast.
This is my story to educate people like me who are not too keen on going to the doctor for regular check-ups.
In 1997 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mother’s teachings took on a whole new dimension. Now, I had to think about surviving in a new light.
My mother was a breast cancer survivor, too. Because of my family history, I had mammograms every year. Whenever I had a mammogram, I was told “everything is fine. You can leave.”
In August 26, 1997, I was hospitalized and my right breast was removed. For me, this situation was not easy. I began not to care, getting nervous and crying all day. I couldn’t believe what I was going through. I felt like the world was falling on me. I wanted to die.
I called my doctor. But, he said not to worry – sometimes women with large breasts develop soreness after a mammogram. He said to give it a few weeks and it should go away. However, it did not get better. It got worse.
Being told that I had cancer will ring in my mind forever. Cancer did not run in my family. So, I did not think I was a candidate. Boy, was I wrong! Family history did not matter. Self-examinations and mammograms are so important, no matter what your family history is.
It was the last week of November 1995. I was in New Delhi, Capitol of India. I noticed a lump on my right breast, which was found to be malignant.
First, you cry. Then, you wonder, “why me?” But, the type of person I am, I turned my negative feelings into positive thinking and this sustained me.
My life was sailing along at a roaring clip. I was just starting the job that I always wanted with the City of New Haven. My retail boutique in Clinton, CT was doing well and the world was my oyster. Maybe I was stress driven; call it what you will.
When I get home, I have a habit of relaxing in my recliner for a while, before doing anything. I have two cats who like to relax with me on the back of my recliner. This particular day in June, one of the kitties, Rockie, decided to run down my shoulder to my lap.
I did not have any of the commonly known risk factors, nor did I have a lump. I had faithfully gotten a mammogram every year. Had I missed this appointment the outcome may have been different.