THANK YOU for everyone that sent in their stories about courage and their fight against breast cancer. When you are having a hard day or think that your overload of work is too much, take a minute to read one of these amazing woman’s stories. They are true inspiration and an example of courage!
If you know of anyone fighting against breast cancer or you have just found out you have cancer, please take a minute to read these stories. It is always good to feel like you are not alone. It’s always nice to hear other stories of inspiration. I am honored to share a few of those stories.
Ericka Pendleton’s Story:
To say that breast cancer has changed me is an understatement. Let me count the ways. My name is Ericka Pendleton and I am a forty three year old mother of two, a son and a daughter. I got the call on New Year’s Eve of 2012. I had been told I had breast cyst three months prior after my first mammogram. I then developed a large swelling under my arm. After completing the ultrasound of my arm, I told a different Radiologist I also had cyst in my breast. She began to look at my breast and encouraged me to return for a biopsy. Apprehensive as can be, I did and as they say the rest is history.
I was currently enrolled in my last semester of Radiology Technology at South Suburban College when I was diagnosed. I was so excited to be almost finished, because it was a tough program. I had returned to college because I needed more stability. I also wanted to be an example for my children. I maintained a 3.5 GPA for most of my time in school and made the Dean’s List each semester. I pushed myself when I had no energy. I was running on my reserve tank, but was determined to finally complete something and be proud of myself. My academic interests were altered because I had to withdraw from school, because chemotherapy proved to be very taxing on me physically. I would remain sick for at least five days following chemotherapy. This program requires intense study and that I am present for clinical time three days a week for eight hours.
I behold the changes in me and am astonished. I still deal with unbelief, then at the same time, understanding how this has happened to me. The physical changes are overwhelming to behold: The loss of hair, darkening of skin and nails, the fact that I only have one breast now and losing a portion of my femininity. Everyone who has been through chemotherapy knows the toll it takes on you physically and mentally. It’s the psychological things that are hardest. The questions: Why me? Am I ever going to be the same? Will I have a recurrence? Why do I have to endure this with a bare minimum support system? Haven’t things been difficult enough? The questions go on and on sometimes. Sometimes I feel at a standstill.
This scholarship will help me finish my last semester of school because I have reached my lifetime eligibility for the Pell Grant. This law came about and was implemented in a very short amount of time. I had been depending on the Pell Grant for school as I was only able to bartend on weekends, due to having a full time school schedule including clinical hours.
My principle academic interests include completing this Associates program for Radiology. I would then like to obtain a specialty degree in MRI or Ultrasound. Finally, my goal is to obtain my Masters’ so that I can teach Radiology. This scholarship will help me complete what I started and what breast cancer interrupted. I can continue with my plans and be an inspiration for my children, family, and many others. I guess when the smoke clears, that’s what it’s all about. HOPE.
Charity Perkin’s Story:
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a down home country girl. I am very family oriented, very active and a people person. I was born in 1972 and raised Charity Lukinic, by my parents Luke and Kathy. Most of my raising was done in a small Southern Maryland town called Bryans Road, Maryland.
I became Charity Perkins and have been with my husband Scott for over 18 years now, married over 16 years. We have 2 sons, Gage 17 and Christian 9 and still reside in Southern Maryland.
On April 3rd, it felt as if my life had just ended. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
I’ve been an accountant at a small firm since 2000, FT since 2003. Once I received my diagnosis I decided it best to utilize Georgetown Hospital for treatment. They were moving so quickly with tests and decisions there really wasn’t much time to fit work in. I had a double mastectomy Thursday, May 9th and was advised after that I could no longer work during the remainder of my treatment.
Our first 2 months of diagnosis and treatment exhausted the 3 weeks of paid leave I had been given for 2013. Unfortunately, through my position the only benefit I had left was a 50/50 paid health insurance plan which I really needed. My Company has decided to continue to make those payments while I’m out. However, I am no longer receiving a paycheck. My checks have been minimal since April and ended at the end of May. My salary made up half our living expenses which have now increased due to medical bills and transportation. Due to all these unforeseen circumstances I felt it was now necessary to reach out for help. I’m a very giving person and have always helped others any way I can. I thought now maybe others could help me.
— My Cancer Story —
I had my annual Well Women’s Visit Jan 19th, with all negative results. By the end of January I found a small mass in my right breast. April 1st I had a mammogram, I put it off because I kept saying it’s nothing. It went from stage 3a to 3c, just in April. It spread from a knot in my right breast, to my whole right breast, all the lymph nodes in my right underarm, then to my left breast.
My treatment plan included a double mastectomy with expanders along with lymph node removal. Then chemo, radiation and hormone therapy along with breast reconstruction. It’s going to be like a yearlong process.
It’s a very aggressive estrogen and progesterone driven cancer. My body produces 100% estrogen and 58% progesterone. I’ll have to be on hormone therapy for at least 5 years.
During surgery they removed all my breast tissue, 13 right lymph nodes (12 had cancer) and 3 left lymph nodes (all were ok). They also inserted these things called spacers to stretch the breast muscle to the size I want. I have to go up there once a week to have fluid injected in them. Once completed they will do reconstructive surgery. In between injections, I will be undergoing chemo and radiation. They don’t do the implants prior because all the treatment could damage them.
There is no guarantee the cancer is gone, so that is what radiation and chemo are for. 😦 I have been tested negative for the cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). My cancer nurse said she has never heard of a woman my age, without the genes that had it in one and it spread to the other.
I debated no treatment, and was given 3-6 months without but decided my boys needed me more than anything else! So I’m FIGHTING!!
Jenn Hart’s Story…
The weeks leading up to my birthday (November 13th) was filled with anxiety because I was now going to be out of my 30’s and….. well 40. I had no idea just how scary for me 40 would be. I have always gone to my doctor’ appts. right away. I never put anything off- ever! In October I was given my first order for a mammogram, this made me feel suddenly “old”. Just a few short days later (November 5th) I was in the office for my first baseline mammogram. The very sweet lady told me right of the bat that 99% of first time baseline women will get a call back. Sure enough two days later (November 7th) I got the call that my right breast looked “dense” and we needed more testing. The next round of tests were scheduled at Lake Forest Women’s Health Center for Monday November 26th. I went in for my detailed Mammogram of the right breast and at this time I asked, “what is it exactly are you looking at?” The lady explained that the doctor’s saw a mass and lymph node they thought looked suspicious. I was told during this mammogram that if they still didn’t like what they saw I would be told I needed test #2. I was escorted to the waiting room in my lovely crop top 😉 What felt like 5 minutes later, I was informed that I was needed for test #2, an ultrasound. By the way, I wasn’t worried at all. I know lots of people who have gotten to this point and were fine. While on the table getting the ultrasound the mood began to shift. I had a strange unsettling feeling that something wasn’t right. It was nothing the lady said or didn’t say- it was her measuring out the “suspicious” mass. For whatever reason, I knew- this wasn’t going to turn out okay. The ultrasound tech had me wait in the room for the doctor to review. Again, what felt like 5 minutes later the doctor came in and said- we need to biopsy both a mass and a lymph node. The mass didn’t scare me but the talk of the lymph node did. I scheduled the biopsy for that Friday November 30th. The week leading up to this appt I spoke with my mother- no history on her side at all. I don’t really know my father well or his side but after some digging I was able to reach an aunt. The news wasn’t good. The aunt I spoke to was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, she was 51 yrs old. As well as my Great Grandmother and her sisters, all 40ish! It was this moment I knew. The day came for my biopsy, I was put in an ultrasound room, the mass was located, local was injected and 3 samples were taken. I was in a silly mood for some reason and asked the doctor,”I know in some situations size matters, how about in this one”. The doctor proceeds to tell me that yes, size does matter and told me why they are concerned. The mass was long, dense, had blood flow and live tissue in it, apparently ALL signs that point towards cancer. The doctor put the samples under a microscope and announced, ” I can tell already, this is breast cancer”. What, Hello!?!?! I wasn’t quite expecting that news right then and there. She then said she needed 3 more samples and we were done. I’m still processing what she said. I think I already knew going into the appt. but to hear the words, a moment I can’t even begin to describe. After the biopsy was completed the doctor came around and asked me if I had any questions about what she just discovered. My reaction was, “I’m sure I do but I am still processing what you just said”. An appt was set up for the “official” results for Tuesday Dec 4th.
What has happened since then…
Double Mastectomy- December 24th, yes Christmas Eve! I do have 3 small kids so this wasn’t ideal but needed.
16 weeks of chemotherapy
25 rounds of radiation
Reconstruction- September 13th- YAY!!!
View Jenn’s journey is at- http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jennhart1/mystory
· All of these stories we’re inspiring and show the true meaning of courage! I want to thank these women for sharing their stories with us! Since each of them have touched our hearts so, we are sending each of them a little special something! The winner of the Breast Cancer Awareness Basket is Charity Perkins!