We received this recently, but had difficulty posting to our blog due to some difficulties with Word Press. Our thanks to Melanie and Katie for their patience and their sharing…
“My name is Melanie Bryant and I am a breast cancer survivor. Yesterday my daughter (age 14) wrote a poem about my battle. I have attached it as it is the theme of your website and I think that it could be inspiring to others. Please give her credit if you use it. Thanks”
Like a Girl
By: Katie Staff
March 12, 2008,
Was the day the doctors determined my mothers fate.
I will never forget the day when I was sitting in class,
And my teacher walked over and gave me a pass.
It said to go see the counselor immediately,
I had never done anything wrong, what could it be?
When I opened the door I saw my mom and step dad,
They told me to sit down, they had news, and it was bad.
I knew she was sick but I wasn’t to sure,
I just knew it made her weak and there wasn’t a cure.
The Chemo made her sick and down went her curls,
But what can I say she fights like a girl.
For the next year there was nothing she could do,
Just sit there and wonder when her time would be through.
She knew the doctors had the date set,
But there was no way she was leaving the world yet.
One day in December she finally pulled through,
There was no more tumor or chemo to do.
She taught me to cherish every day,
Because you never know when it will be taken away.
I knew she was sick but I wasn’t to sure,
I just knew it made her weak and there wasn’t a cure.
The chemo made her sick an down went her curls,
But what can I say she fought like a girl.
I would like to tell you about my mother in law. Her name is Linda Carson. She lives in Carnesville and is the wife of Leon Carson. Leon is the pastor of Compassion Baptist Church in Carnesville. She is the strongest person I know.
She battled breast cancer in 2001 and won that battle. During that time she was always smiling and she would just make your day being around her. All her hair fell out and during our Fall Festival that year she let us paint a big smiley face on her bald head. My father in law jokes with her and tells her she has the perfect bald head with no knots or bumps anywhere! It didn’t bother her to go bald. She said a wig was too hot!
She liked to have died during the reconstruction of her breast due to complications. Through all that she still gave God the glory. She has always said that if it took her going through this to see someone saved then it was well worth it. She showed her light to many people during this time in her life.
Now in May of 2008 her breast cancer came back. This time it returned in her other breast. She had the biopsy on May 14th. We left for vacation that same day. We were heading to Waycross Georgia to see our daughter’s Honors Day. At the time she wasn’t for sure if it was cancer, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She was in pain the whole time, but she was not willing to miss her granddaughter’s big day. We had such a great time that weekend. On May 29th they had to remove her other breast. The surgery went great & she came out looking better than she went in. Praise the Lord she is doing well as of today.
She takes it day by day. The first chemo treatment really took a toll on her. So far the second treatment is doing ok. Her hair was being to fall out so Leon got tired of her pulling it out so he cut if off for her. The results was the perfect bald head that we mentioned before.
Linda has a hobby she devotes most of her time to. Saying a hobby is putting it mildly. She is a scrapper…by that I mean a scrap-booker. She has a bedroom that is covered in scrapbooking supplies. We joke and tell her it is a store!! If anyone needs scrapbooking supplies call Linda Carson. Scrapbooking helps her get her mind off of things that she is going through in her life. Ya’ll should stop by sometime…it’s a sight to see! So to scrapbook you have to have pictures right? She takes pictures galore!! Another bedroom is full of pictures that she has taken. Those hadn’t made it to a scrapbook yet. If you seen Linda you see the camera. Watch out! You might wind up in one of Linda’s scrapbooks if she meets you.
Above everything Linda puts the Lord first in her life and her church. She loves her church family and is always praying for other people more than herself. She keeps our family going. She is the glue that holds us all together. She is such a blessing. She is Leon’s help mate. He loves that woman dearly. Linda we love you and couldn’t imagine our live without you!
By Monique Jessen | Thursday, July 15, 2010 5:30 AM ET from www.tonic.com
Fed up with “drab” hospital gowns while undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Brenda Jones learned how to sew and created her own. Now, her “Hug Wraps” bring joy to patients all over the world.
Brenda Jones felt as if her world had ended when she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in October 2008. Being forced to put on a drab, generic, embarrassing traditional hospital gown every time she went in for treatment only made the experience worse. So with a flash of inspiration — and a crash-course in sewing — she decided to do something about it. Much to her surprise, the kimono-style wrap she designed to give herself some dignity in the waiting room started garnering requests from other patients. Today? She’s not only recovered, but she can hardly keep up with the demand for her homemade Hug Wraps from cancer patients all over the world.
“As any cancer patient knows, you can’t imagine getting that diagnosis,” Jones tells Tonic from her home in Southampton, N.J. “I remember my face just draining and going white and numb — the rollercoaster of emotions was unbelievable.” After what felt like an eternity of tests, scans, mammograms, biopsies and two surgical procedures, Jones began radiation treatment in January last year. By that point, she had simply had enough and like many cancer patients, she felt angry. “I remember walking in and the staff pointed to a dressing room and said ‘go on in there and put on a hospital gown.’” When she saw the dreary, flimsy gowns in huge piles, she broke down. “It was just another smack in the face to say ‘you are a cancer patient and you are sick,’” she recalls, emotionally.
Tears streaming down her face, she put on two of the gowns (to cover her modesty), put her coat on top and sat feeling miserable in the cold waiting room. It was during this low point that she had a brainwave. “I thought, I’ll make my own gown, a cozy, fun alternative,” and right there in that hospital waiting room, she began to imagine her perfect hospital attire. “I wanted it warm, with an open front like a kimono wrap and I wanted it to be colorful and fun, not this drab, hideous thing.”
Even though she had no idea how to sew, with a friend’s help, she soon learned the ropes and in three days, she had the perfect cover-up for her hospital visits, which were scheduled five times a week for seven weeks. “We made the first one out of an old bed sheet,” Jones says laughing. But the end result was exactly as she had imagined — bright pink, adorned with yellow hearts and super cozy. “I tried it on and the first thing I said was that it felt like a nice warm hug and that’s where I got the name from.” Wearing her Hug Wrap into the hospital the following day, she says: “Everyone’s heads turned!” Stunned as she was, more importantly, Jones had experienced her own turning point. “It gave me back my dignity, I wasn’t just a patient, with a file — I was a person.” After offering to make a similar style wrap for another woman at the hospital, the requests kept coming in.
It wasn’t long before Jones was wearing a new Hug Wrap every day for her radiation sessions. She soon realized that not only did wearing them make her feel good, but making them lifted her spirits too. “The more I made … especially now that I was on a mission to make them for other patients, the more my anger reduced,” Jones says, adding: “It gave my hands and my mind something to do.” Unable to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time, she would often get up and sew in the middle of the night. “I would put my country music on, switch the sewing machine on and just keep on sewing until I was too tired to sew anymore.”
Back then, with her second-hand machine, it took Jones up to nine hours to make each wrap. “It really took my mind off what I was going through.” On her last day of treatment, she left her doctor with all of her spare wraps, to donate to other patients. “I said ‘if nobody wants them, just throw them out.’ But I was so thrilled when people got in touch and asked for more.”
Since that day, Jones had made hundreds of wraps and has even sent them as far as Poland, England and Canada. Although she started making them for free, she admits her resources have become stretched and now she has to ask for a donation. “If people can’t afford it, I try to send them one for free but I’m going broke,” she says, adding: “I’ve made over 350 now and a lot of them I have given away for free.” To solve the problem, she’s in the process of setting up a nonprofit corporation so she can get sponsorship to continue making her much-needed gown-alternatives. “My ultimate goal is to get these to everyone for free -— there’s nothing else I would like more.”
The amazing feedback she gets from her customers, who are either suffering from cancer or have a loved one who is, just inspires her to keep sewing. “Some people don’t have the loving family I had when I was diagnosed,” she explains. “I think for some people, the wrap is an extension of someone caring and so I put a personal note in with every parcel, saying ‘every time you put on this hug wrap I am right there with you.’”
Jones makes the wraps to order, in soft flannel material, to accommodate any form of cancer (i.e. special inside pockets are added for mastectomy patients, longer wraps are made for ovarian cancer patients) for women, men and children and adds a matching pillow and blanket for children. My motto is ‘be the answer to someone else’s prayers’ and that’s what I hope for with my Hug Wraps. I never dreamed that something I made for myself could give others so much comfort but I am so happy they do.”
My name is Amy and in April 2008 I was diagnosed & survived breast cancer.
My family history is fluent in cancer and when my mother’s sister was diagnosed in 2004, it made me want to get a mammogram.
I had no warning signs but just felt compelled to have this test. My family doctor at that time didn’t feel the “research” substantiated women having mammograms before the age of 40. So, I looked for a new primary physician.
When my new doctor learned of the family history she did not hesitate in letting me get a mammogram.
The first mammorgram showed an “abnormal growth which in August of 2008 was diagnosed as benign. Six months later I had a a follow and learned the abnormal growth looked “unusual”. So with a needle biopsy the outcome was still too vague. I then was referred to a breast surgeon who performed a surgical biopsy. The outcome malignant.
I felt so numb and in shock. I thought this couldn’t really be happening to me.
But I decided at that moment pitty was not an option. Giving up was not an option. Hope is all I had and I wasn’t going to let it go.
During this time I was married – a detail that will later cause more havoc and meaning to this adventure.
Back to the cancer relationship- my surgeries started in April 2008 with a surgical biopsy, resulting in my diagnosis of breast cancer. In May 2008 I had a lumpectomy with 3 lymphodes removed. The stage of my cancer was between a 1-2 as it didn’t spread to my lymphnodes. However, from further tests the cancer was spread throughout my breast. So, in June 2008 I had a mastectomy. I was prepared in not having any of my breast saved; however to my surprise my skin was saved and only had a partial mastectomy. I was already feeling like half a woman, but this news was a blessing in disguise. A week after this surgery I developed a DVT that moved into my lung (resulting in a pulmonary embolism). I recall feeling a charlie horse like pain in my left leg. Not giving it any thought, I walked a lot trying to loosen the muscles, taking hot showers and placing a heating pad on my leg. Not realizing the magnitude of the clots, my back started feeling tight and placing pressure was brutally painful. I was taken to the ER by my parents and now ex-husband. To learn I had the DVT and PE. I was given quite a few pain killers and 3 days after admitting in the hospital did I only realize what I was really dealing with. I knew of blood clots from my line of work (home care social worker). So I was quite freaked out to say the least. I was in the hospital for a week to break down the clots by thinning the blood. I remember the day being discharged and feeling incredibly lucky to be alive.
But my journey does not end there. …. I then had to sustain chemo. From speaking with other survivors and women going through cancer, I learned that my 4 rounds of chemo was insignificant to what others were having to endure. However going through chemo was difficult, as each session took about 8 hours; and the effects usually hit on the 3rd day and lasted for 2-3 days. Alas I kicked cancer’s ass. But after a week of finishing chemo, the now ex-husband tells me he has “not been happy for long time and wants a divorce.” I had no idea – but then again he was so disconnected from me during my journey with cancer. So with chemo-brain (yes it does exist) I had to gain the strength to endure another set-back. In hind site – the divorce was so insignificant to surviving 3 surgeries in less than a 3 month period & surviving 2 blood clots. I have my Mom & Aunt to really thank as if it wasn’t for them, I would have fought this nasty disease alone. My Mom was the true hero as she was by my side, at every doctors appointment, endured every emotion, and survived me.
Two years later after surviving cancer- I have learned that I never abandoned hope, I seize every day as if it were my last, I cherish every person that I inter-face, and most importantly I laugh like there is no tomorrow.
Life is beautiful and I’m lucky to be in it.
Fight Like A Girl! recently received this notice from a friend who vouches for its legitimacy.
CLEANING FOR A REASON
If you know any woman currently undergoing Chemo, please pass the word to her that there is a cleaning service that provides FREE housecleaning – 1 time per month for 4 months while she is in treatment. All she has to do is sign up and have her doctor fax a note confirming the treatment. Cleaning for a Reason will have a participating maid service in her zip code area arrange for the service.
Please pass this information on to bless a woman going through Breast Cancer treatment. This organization serves the entire USA and currently has 547 partners to help these women.
Although we realize this is only tangentially related to breast cancer, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pass along this excerpted version of an inspiring story that recently appeared in the New York Times…
November 25, 2009
Learning His Body, Learning to Dance
By NEIL GENZLINGER
Gregg Mozgala, a 31-year-old actor with cerebral palsy, had 12 years of physical therapy while he was growing up. But in the last eight months, a determined choreographer with an unconventional résumé has done what all those therapists could not: She has dramatically changed the way Mr. Mozgala walks.
In the process, she has changed his view of himself and of his possibilities.
Mr. Mozgala and the choreographer, Tamar Rogoff, have been working since last winter on a dance piece called “Diagnosis of a Faun.” It is to have its premiere on Dec. 3 at La MaMa Annex in the East Village, but the more important work of art may be what Ms. Rogoff has done to transform Mr. Mozgala’s body.
“I have felt things that I felt were completely closed off to me for the last 30 years,” he said. “The amount of sensation that comes through the work has been totally unexpected and is really quite wonderful.”
Cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder in which the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles, affects gait and other movements. Those with severe cases use wheelchairs.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do for him,” she [Rogoff] said, “but I just knew he was inspiring to me.”
Originally, she envisioned a simple study, maybe 10 minutes long. Mr. Mozgala’s expectations when he agreed to the project were equally narrow: he said that he thought that she would either merely create a dance that made use of the physical abilities he already had or, after seeing his limitations, tell him, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Once they began working together, though, Ms. Rogoff realized that a broader approach was needed.
She introduced Mr. Mozgala to a tension-releasing shaking technique, and it was immediately revelatory.
“My body just really took to it,” Mr. Mozgala said. “I did that for about 20 or 30 minutes, and when I stood up, I was walking completely differently. My feet were flat on the ground.”
They knew they were onto something. They began doing intensive one-on-one sessions they call body work, Ms. Rogoff using her knowledge of the body and dance-training techniques to help Mr. Mozgala “find” individual bones, muscles and tendons that he had had no command of before.
They started at the top and worked down — sternum, sacrum, knees — with Mr. Mozgala’s body and brain opening paths of communication that had not existed.
“There’s a lot of howling, screaming, crying, sweating,” Ms. Rogoff said. But “we often have these huge eureka moments.”
Dr. Stephen A. Paget, chief of rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, who has been acting as a sort of sounding board for Ms. Rogoff during the project, said the changes being wrought in Mr. Mozgala support a relatively new way of thinking about neurological impairments.
“In the past, people thought that a neurological deficit was fixed and immutable,” Dr. Paget said. “Now there’s this whole concept of neuroplasticity: the neurological system has this ability to change itself and constantly grow.”
Apparently Mr. Mozgala’s has done just that. Before, his gait was extreme enough that it would draw stares on the street. (“The lurch,” he and Ms. Rogoff have come to call it.) Now, when he is fully concentrating, a passer-by might have to look twice to realize he has a disability at all.
Unlike his earlier physical therapists, he said, Ms. Rogoff has given him knowledge of his body and specific instructions that he can employ while going about his everyday life: “Sternum down, tailbone up,” and so on.
“I have the key now,” he said. “Before, I was always being manipulated by someone else.”
Ms. Rogoff, whose father was a doctor, said that she knew little about cerebral palsy when she and Mr. Mozgala began, and that she had made a point of not learning too much. “That way I didn’t have any ideas about what he could and couldn’t do,” she said.
As Mr. Mozgala changed, so did Ms. Rogoff’s concept for the dance. The 10-minute study she had envisioned is now a work of more than an hour, with a cast of four. The piece has antecedents in “Afternoon of a Faun,” the Nijinsky ballet. Mr. Mozgala plays a 5,000-year-old Faun who turns up in a modern-day hospital as the work explores the intersection of science and art.
Emily Pope-Blackman, an experienced dancer who has a very physical, sensuous duet with Mr. Mozgala in the piece, had the task of helping him translate the progress he was making in the body-work sessions onto the dance floor. It was, she said, a slow process of “finding out between the two of us how much force, as he got stronger, we could risk: how hard could I pull him toward me; how much could he push me over without falling over himself.”
The piece, which also features Lucie Baker and Dr. Don Kollisch (a real-life family physician), is financed with a grant from VSA Arts, a nonprofit group that supports arts by people with disabilities. After its New York run, it will be seen at the VSA International Arts Festival in June at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Ms. Rogoff calls Mr. Mozgala “the best student I’ve ever had.” Yet both of them are emphatic about what they have not achieved.
“This isn’t a cure,” Mr. Mozgala said. “I’m always going to have cerebral palsy.”
But now he doesn’t feel so enslaved by it.
“Everybody told me there was nothing I could do,” he said. “That’s just what you hear, from the time you’re 5 to adulthood. Tamar gave me an option.”
Whether the methods they have used can translate to others remains to be seen. But Dr. Paget said their progress held a message for anyone with a neurological impairment.
“It’s not over,” he said. “There’s always a chance to change. You should not — you dare not — give up.”
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (published online September 8, 2009) has found that obesity, alcohol use and smoking all significantly increase the risk for new occurrences of breast cancer among breast cancer survivors.
The risk was especially high in women who were current smokers and who consumed one or more alcoholic drinks per day.
Other, previous research has suggested that maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer to begin with.
Reducing a second occurrence of breast cancer is particularly important because of data suggesting that breast cancer survivors are 2 to 6 times more likely to develop another case than women in the general, non-survivor population are to develop breast cancer to begin with.
What’s the take-home point? While healthy lifestyle choices are smart, they are particularly important for women to help prevent brest cancer, and even more so to help prevent second occurrences of the potential killer.
It was in October and the imaging center was giving away free pink HOPE t-shirt for annual mammograms. My mom had never had a mammo so I begged her to have a mammo so she could get me a free tshirt. She went in and they found a pea sized knot on her mammo, they then did a ultra sound guided biopsy that came back cancer. My mom had Breast cancer, no way, that was the hardest thing to hear and even harder having to tell her.
My mom is a nurse and had three children plus 6 grandchildren, she had always lived for others, if she heard of someone needing something she did what ever was needed to help them. She is a God fearing woman and from the moment she heard it was cancer we started praying. Mom underwent a lumpectomy only to have to go back for a complete mastecomy as the tumor had fibers coming from the circumfrance. She them underwent chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments. There were days she wanted to give up but no matter how sick she was, or how bad the radiation burned she Cowgirled up and keep fighting.
Today she is cancer free and I thank God every day that I have a tough mom who never stopped fighting.
FLAG Post Script: Fight Like A Girl! would like to apologize to Megan for taking so long to post this story, which she submitted to us on August 14th. Megan, we thank you again for sharing your lovely story with us.
I had known Jennifer since kindergarten. After high school we all went our separate ways and I lost track of her until a mutual friend told me that Jennifer was fighting breast cancer. Jennifer had married right away, but the marriage dissolved even before she had given birth to their son, Bruce. Jennifer never had a bad word to say about her ex-husband though, she always just said, “We were not ready for life.”
Who ever is, I wonder?
Jennifer never got a chance to get ready; before she had stopped breast-feeding Bruce, she complained to her doctor about some breast feeding issues and he quickly discovered that she had breast cancer. Jennifer lived in Canada where health care is free and she received excellent care: She had a radical mastectomy, followed by radiation therapy and strong chemotherapy. She was fighting for Bruce – so he would have a Mom. Whenever she was well enough to be with him, she would spend all her time with him. She started to homeschool Bruce and planned to homeschool him as far as she could, but Jennifer lost the fight for her life when her son was only 7 years old.
I attended Jennifer’s funeral on a hot July day just north of the Vermont / Canada border and I can tell you that there was not a dry eye in that packed little white church. One of my childhood buddies had had a crush on Jennifer all through school and he asked the pastor if he could ring the church bell as the casket left the sanctuary and was carried to the cemetary on a small rise behind the church. Robert rang the bell and we carried the casket in lockstep with the bell’s cadence. Robert rang the bell all through the graveside litergy and he continued to ring the bell even as we filed slowly away from the gravesite. Robert rang that bell for hours, finally stopping when the town constable, another school buddy of mine, asked him to stop at 8:30 that night.
I had hidden my own childhood crush on Jennifer. Perhaps quite a few of my male classmates had also been awakened to the mysteries of gender through interaction with Jennifer in grade school. The innocence of those early encounters were now jarringly abridged by the casket we had just carried and by the tolling bell. Robert’s unwillingness to stop pulling on the belfry rope echoed everyone’s great empty want that afternoon: for this to not be the abrupt end to her young and beautiful life.
Life is always woth fighting for. I wish Jennifer had won. I know… none of us are getting out of this alive and who really knows what awaits us after our last day? But there is all kind of beauty and grace on this side of the grave. The normal struggle that each of us encounters as we are introduced into our ordinary adult responsibilities; the “Burden of Normal”, provides dignity and excellence in surprising ways. Being a male, I do not have to schedule a mammogram, but I have my prostate checked regularly and I try to eat properly and exercise regularly. This life is special and I want to get all I can.
I support breast cancer research because I helped carry Jennifer’s casket up that green knoll in 1981. I purchased a Fight Like a Girl T-Shirt through this website and I know it makes a difference. If you’re a woman reading this, get a mammogram. If you’re a man, get your woman to schedule her mammogram and buy her a t-shirt when she does. Let her know that you love her; that she matters and that you want her to live a long and healthy life.