October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One of the greatest challenges for those who have been newly diagnosed is finding sources of support. Patients are eager for information on everything from enduring surgery and chemotherapy to how to deal with hair loss.
While there are many local resources and support groups available in the Southland, women can also find comfort in a sisterhood of survivors who have already been in their shoes.
Best selling author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Delinsky has gathered the wisdom of hundreds of breast cancer survivors who are eager to inspire those who are new to the “breast cancer sisterhood.” She shares all of the stories and tidbits she found in her book "Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors."
To tap into a similar vein of local wisdom, we asked Southland residents to share stories—either their own, or those of the people they honor by wearing pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Here's what they shared:
My journey started with a annual visit with my gynie. He did the breast exam but felt nothing (as did I). He sent for a mammo just like every since my aunt died. Than less than a week later the hospital called an didn't like what they saw so they had me come back for an ultrasound. The gyne want a biopsy and when they we're doing the procedure I knew deep in my heart that it wasn't good they had trouble getting a sample. It took less than a week to hear the scary results! My world as I knew it than has forever changed! First I had a lumpectomy with complications. Than after the whole summer of 2010 to recover I started chemo at the end of Aug. My hair fell out right away my parents cried but never in front of me.My husband who is my rock! Changed his work hours to take me to chemo. Staying with every step of the way. I thank God he was with on my second round because I had an allergic reaction. Just when I'm at the end of chemo my dad passes away. With God and my husband (and all my family) we got through this! —Roni Quintanilla-Sawicki, Oak Forest Patch Facebook
I wear pink for my mom who we lost to this awful killer one and a half years ago, for my cousin's wife who we lost at 52 after fighting since she was 25, and for my dear friend Leda Smaga who thank God is still with us, and for everybody fighting this fight! —Ellyn Holbrook Blauser, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook
I wear pink for my mom who died when she was 36 in 1988. Her birthday is in Oct & her favorite color was pink! There was no awareness month back then, so I really appreciate all of the attention brought to this terrible disease! —Amy Benik Pinkston, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook
...I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I was 39 years old and a single mom. I was given the choice to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Being 39 years old I opted for the lumpectomy. I went in on a Monday morning for surgery and they removed tissue a little larger than a golf ball. It was sent off to the pathologist and after surgery I returned home. I returned to the surgeon’s office on Thursday for a follow-up only to learn that the tumor and surrounding tissue still had dirty margins (meaning there were still cancer cells present). He scheduled me for surgery the very next day. This time he removed a section of the breast tissue that would be equivalent to a baseball in size. Again, I was sent home with instructions to see him the following week. ... He recommended Chemotherapy followed by radiation for me, specifically because of being diagnosed at a young age. A few weeks after my scar was healed I started chemotherapy. Wow ... how do you describe chemotherapy? I remember walking in, sitting down in the chair and feeling HEALTHY, wondering why I was even there? They started me off with an IV and then slowly added in the Chemo meds that were designed to best fight breast cancer. ... Each chemo session took a little more out of me, and each Neulasta shot left me feeling more pain in the bones of my body. I found myself weak, tired, present and yet not quite there. ... You can’t help but to think to yourself, “I went into that building feeling healthy, strong, and full of life. Now I feel sick all the time! How in the H*LL is Chemo helping me? ... Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were NOT fun; being truthfully hones ... they sucked! BUT they helped to save my life and I am grateful! —
... after all of it was said and done, it was time for me to return to work. I had a dusting of hair on my head, but opted to wear the head scarf for self-conscious reasons. When I walked into my department, I noticed that one by one each guy I worked with had either a buzzed head or a very short haircut compared to how they normally wore their hair. I joked and asked if they all lost a bet or something, and they replied, "No, we did this for you." I took off my head scarf and proudly displayed my 5 o'clock shadow hair line. I looked like a Momentos candy that rolled around on a dirty floor, but I didn't care—they loved and accepted me just the way I was. —Leda L Smaga, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook
My mom fights like a girl! She just got the "all clear" from her oncologist last month after a year long battle! Chemo, surgery, radiation...through it all she was and is a true inspiration! Even on days where she felt terrible she put a smile on her face and upheld a positive attitude. She never lost hope! — Mandy Raimondi, on New Lenox Patch Facebook
Breast Cancer found me in 2009. I was diagnosed in January and went through Chemo and Radiation all through the year till September. I am alive today because of Research. So I raise money all year long for research and to help others so they don't have to go through what I did. — Sharon Bostik, on Orland Park Patch Facebook
TELL US: Do you have an experience with breast cancer that you would like to share? Honor the sisterhood of survivors in the Southland by uploading a photo to the gallery above or sharing your story in the comment section below.