Pink Power

By Eliza Boulware

Colors can have powerful meanings. I never thought just how powerful pink would be. As you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is the color to represent breast cancer. I am a five-year survivor and my pink represents the power to fight against a disease that came to kill me.pink power photo

Cancer starts to form without any warnings or signs. It can grow slow or rapidly. It can start one place and then spread. Cancer is sneaky, so you must be aware of what can cause cancer, what treatments are available as well as how to fight. You must be aware the food you eat, how much sugar you intake and your weight. It is very important to know your body and to do self-examinations monthly. Early detection really does save lives, therefore the earlier you find it, the better chance you have of beating it. I found my tumor myself. I was diagnosed with stage 2 aggressive cancer. It had not spread so I was able to have surgery to have the tumor removed and then started treatment.

Now pink was not just a color any more but it now represents what I was fighting. There is power behind the color pink. It just not a color in October but an awareness to a disease and the people who had the power to fight it. It takes power to go outside with a bald head when once you had long beautiful hair. It takes power to not be ashamed when your body changes from losing weight or hands and feet turn black. Each person goes through a different experience but what is the same is the power within to fight cancer. So survivors, rock your pink. Family and friends wear pink not just to say breast cancer exists but as a testimony that we fight for a cure and honor the survivors. That pink is powerful not because breast cancer is powerful but because those who fought one round at a time had enough faith and power not to give up.

I gained power in sharing my story every chance I get. I cannot recall the author but it was a small book that said “Don’t waste your cancer”. I did not read the book but the title was enough for me. I had said from the beginning that God could heal me but if He allowed it to remain then what did He want me to do? Well, I was not going to waste it. I started a support group with the help of other survivors. I do all I can to help others as well as do a yearly celebration for any cancer survivors. I have my pink cape because I have pink power. The power lies within the person and it’s greater than the cancer. Don’t just wear pink, get the facts!

The Phone Call That Changed My Life

By Janet Prince

In 2003, Gary and I had it all.  A home on the Avenues in Cayce and the land in West Columbia where we were making plans to build our “forever” home, and our two precious daughters, Ashlan (age 5) and Genna, who was only four months old.  That’s when I received the phone call that changed my life forever.

I was 39 years old when we had Genna and Ashlan was in 5K.  I knew I was extremely tired but attributed that to those two factors plus keeping up with the normal household duties.  But that tiredness was not caused by my normal, happy life, but from a lump found in my right breast.  The night I found the lump I didn’t give it much thought because my Mother had a history of benign fibroid tumors over the years, but I did call my doctor’s office the next morning, April 16, 2003.  They worked me in and my doctor confirmed it was a lump so, he sent me and Gary right away for a mammogram which led to a core needle biopsy.  Thankfully they had had a cancellation that morning and could do the biopsy right then.  The doctor told me they would have the results the next day and someone would call me around 4:00 p.m.

The next day, I took Ashlan to kindergarten and Genna and I went out to do some shopping.  While we were out I saw the poem “What Cancer Cannot Do” in one of the stores.  I thought is this a sign?  No…it couldn’t be.  So, I went on about my day and got home to get Genna down for a nap before going to pick up Ashlan.  They had said the phone call would not come until 4:00 p.m. so I knew Gary would be home by then and I didn’t need to worry because he is my rock.

At 2:00 p.m., I was rocking Genna and the phone rang.  I thought, it can’t be them calling right now…Gary’s not home yet.  But it was the nurse navigator calling to give me the results of my core needle biopsy.  She told me who she was, and I asked if she could hold on for just a minute, so I could put my baby down.  Then I returned to the phone and she proceeded to tell me that I had Ductal Carcinoma.  Not being familiar with cancer diagnosis terms, I asked her what that was.  She said, “Mrs. Prince, you have breast cancer.  We are scheduling you an appointment with an oncologist and a surgeon”.  I asked her to wait a minute, so I could get a piece of paper to write down exactly what she was telling me.  My hands were shaking, and I kept telling myself to just keep breathing.  I took everything down and thanked her for calling me.

So, there it was….I had just been told I had breast cancer.  I went and picked Genna up out of her crib and walked across the street to my neighbor, Paula Taylor, who was and still is a nurse at Lexington Medical Center.  I knocked on her door and with tears streaming down my face I handed Paula my baby girl and went home to call Gary and my Mama.  The whole time thinking, I wasn’t supposed to be alone when this call came in…they weren’t supposed to call me until 4:00!  But they did and now I had to call Gary.

Everything from calling Gary and my Mother, to my best friend, is still a blur.  I just know they were there in a flash to hold me up and to see me through the biggest fight of my and for my life.

My cancer was Stage 2, Triple Negative and very aggressive.  I had a lumpectomy and then started my eight rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation.  I was told that before my second chemo my hair would be gone.  Instead of letting it fall out a little at a time with a baby in the house, I let Ashlan pretend to be a beautician and she cut my hair.  Then when she finished, Gary said “you are going to want me to go ahead and shave it for sure now”.  So, he did, and I cried.  Not that my hair was that awesome, but it was a part of me and it took me a long time before I would look at myself in the mirror.  Thankfully, I had gone to Becky’s Place and purchased a wig and a hat because I didn’t want anyone to see me without my hair.  I was very self-conscious and looking back on it I didn’t need to be because my family loved me just as much without my hair as they did with my hair.

At my first treatment, I met a woman who was a retired teacher from Airport High School.  I don’t remember her name, but I remember what she said to me that day.  She could tell I was scared and asked me if this was my first treatment and I said yes and that I was terrified even though I had my family with me.  One of the drugs they used is red and is sometimes called the “red devil”.  But she told me to look at it as though it were the blood of Jesus going through my veins washing the cancer away.  I have always remembered that and have shared it with others as they are beginning their cancer journey.

Looking back over the past 15 years and too many surgeries to count, I’m still here and I’m still a survivor.  There are many things that cancer can do to you but there are many more things that it can’t do…. cancer has made me a stronger woman and a person that appreciates even the smallest things in life.  My goal as I began my cancer journey was to see me girls grown…today, my Ashlan is 21 and has already received her B.A. in Psychology and is now working on her master’s and is getting married in just three short months. My baby, Genna, is thriving and enjoying life like every teenager.  I truly believe Genna is my angel sent from God.  I believe the pregnancy hormones accelerated the cancer growth and had I not gotten pregnant with Genna it could have been in my body growing and I may not have found it until it was truly too late.

I encourage you to do your monthly breast exams.  If you feel anything, call your doctor right away.  You can never be too cautious with your life.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month….so wear your pink to remind yourself to always take care of you!

Until next time…..

Janet

Baby

Me with Genna (top) and me with my family on my last day of chemo!

Make time to volunteer

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Janet:

By Janet Prince

I’ve always been intrigued with “blogs”…they appear to me to be a place where writers can share their inner thoughts and experiences with the world.  When LMC had their post on Facebook looking for new “bloggers,” I submitted my name and a brief bio and was thrilled when I was selected!  So, I think my first order of business is to introduce myself to you and share a little about my life.

I have been a lifelong resident of West Columbia, and a graduate of the University of South Carolina.  I am married to Gary Prince and we have two beautiful daughters – Ashlan, 21, who is a graduate of USC-Beaufort and is starting her master’s in clinical psychology at USC-Aiken this month and Genna, 15, who is a rising sophomore in high school.  Gary is co-owner of Senn Brothers Produce and I have been a stay at home mom since Ashlan was born.  I am a 15-year breast cancer survivor and a full-time volunteer!

logoI believe in giving back to your community through volunteerism.  I am currently the Chairman of the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Central South Carolina, which was started by the late Cathy Novinger when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  This group was formed to provide education of the symptoms of ovarian cancer to all women.  Knowing the symptoms helps with early detection which helps to save lives.  This organization means the world to me because I lost my mother to ovarian cancer and because of my daughters.  I am most appreciative of the support that Lexington Medical Center provides to our organization.  LMC will be the presenting sponsor of our 2019 Spring Event and I will be sharing more information on that as the plans are finalized!  Until then though, we will be the non-profit recognized at the Fireflies game on Thursday, August 30th at Spirit Communications Park!  To learn more about the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Central South Carolina, please visit our website at ovariancancersc.com

In addition to the OCC, I am a member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of the Midlands which is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). GFWC is dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.   I have been a member for 17 years, the past ten years spent in leadership of our state organization and I have just completed my service as the GFWC-SC State President for 2016-2018.  As president, I was able to choose projects that I was most passionate about so of course one was called “What Color is Your Cancer? Mine is Pink and Teal” – Pink for my Breast Cancer and Teal for my mother’s Ovarian Cancer.  My other project was “Dyslexia Awareness – Genna’s Story”.  Genna was diagnosed with Dyslexia in the first grade and has learned the tools needed to succeed in school and in life.  You can learn more about GFWC and GFWC-SC by visiting our websites at gfwc.org and gfwc-sc.org

With the start of school just a few weeks away, I would encourage you to look for a way for you to give back to your community.  Choose something that you are passionate about – look around there are so many choices!  You may choose to volunteer at the hospital, your local library, your child’s school, or your church or any of the many national organizations such GFWC-SC, Rotary, your local Chamber of Commerce…the opportunities are endless!

Until next time….enjoy the final days of summer!

Facing Your Giant

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Eliza:

By Eliza Boulware

I am Eliza Boulware, a five year breast cancer survivor. I can recall during a spiritual fast God spoke to do a self-examination. My first thought was checking my spiritual walk but I heard it again, so this time I did a self breast exam. I felt a lump in my left breast.

From there I went to the doctor and completed all tests needed and it was confirmed I had stage 2 aggressive breast cancer. My world was turned upside down. I became afraid that I would die because I had never been sick. After losing both of my parents, I had spoken that when I find any health problems, I did not want to suffer long.  Now I am looking at my children and my granddaughter and saying, “not now Lord!”

I held it together at first. I allowed one tear drop when I was first told I had breast cancer but the flood gates opened when I sat with the counselor who went over the financial cost. I cried so hard because as a single low-income woman, how can I afford this and take care of my children?

As a minister of God, I had believed I was healed and now I was angry at God. I began to pray and I had to face that this was a cross I had to bear. I had to face this giant and believe I have the victory.  Faith no longer was just a word but it became a true action word for me. I faced the giant called CANCER and defeated it. I went through 12 rounds total chemo treatments and 33 rounds of radiation. I lost my hair and did not hide it. My fingers and feet turned black. I told my story every chance I got. I continued to go to work, host my yearly conference and continued to preach God’s word. I faced my giant with my faith and family support.

I encourage everyone to face your giant. At first, it looks bigger than you can handle, but with God CANCER became cancer.  Facing your giant with truth and education helps you know how to defeat your giant. Never give up – you have the victory.

Rearview Mirror

By Katie Austin

As I log into my laptop to write my next Every Woman Blog article, I close my eyes to allow my mind to wander as I try to come up with a topic to write about.  It feels good to sit still, thinking about life in general. It’s not often that we find those quiet times in our busy days to just think without having a deadline or having to be somewhere.   I try to come up with something and look at my calendar to see if there are any life events coming up I should write about.

Then it hits me.   The day on the calendar is the only one I see.   It’s like there is a glow around it and my mind begins to race, my emotions flooded with memories of that moment.  When my life stood still and everything changed.

I will never forget that day.  It was Friday, March 5th 2010 and the time was 11:15.  My parents and I were at the house waiting for a phone call.  You see, I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy the day before and the hospital’s breast health nurse navigator, Kelly Jeffcoat, was planning to call me by 11:30 with the results.  I already had a feeling there was something wrong just by the reaction of those around me the day before.  I tried to take my mind off things all morning but all I could think about was wanting to know.

Then the phone call came.  Nothing can prepare you for that moment.  I actually let it ring two times before picking up because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I needed to know but I knew picking up that phone could change everything.   I was right, my life was going to change forever with that phone call.   I was told that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

From that phone call, I underwent eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy), 26 days of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy (Herceptin).  Shortly thereafter I had my port removed and then was on medicine to lower my estrogen levels for almost five years.   I met the most amazing people along the way and their friendships continue to this day.

Katie-Sharon

Katie with Sharon Nipper (her infusion nurse)

KatieBrandy

Katie with her breast friend Brandy

It’s hard to believe that on March 5th of this year it will be eight years since I was diagnosed!   As I let my fingers move across the keyboard, I think back to the day I rang the bell and how much I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.  Over the years, I would try to motivate myself to get healthier and it would work, but then I would fall back into the same habits.  I would allow myself the excuse that I am lucky to be alive so I shouldn’t worry about that.  But that’s not true.   It’s been almost eight (8) years since that fateful day and I am no closer to finding that new normal than I was then.

rear-view-mirror-quote

I spend more of my time thinking back to when I was in shape, when I felt better, when I had more energy, when I didn’t have cancer.  As I type this, I realize that during my cancer batter I had to be strong.   After my treatments were done, I had to be strong and to get back to life I had to put those feelings aside so that I could enjoy myself again.  I realize now I never dealt with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the diagnosis.   I need to take the time to deal with those emotions.  It’s ok to think about and miss my survivor sisters who are no longer here.  I need to be ok with being afraid of my cancer coming back but not allow it to hold me back.  I need to put God first and my health needs to be a priority.  I want to be ready if/when my cancer rears its ugly head

As I sit here writing down my thoughts, I realize I wrote quite a bit and my next blog post 🙂

I can’t change my past but my future is what I make of it.  I can’t expect things to work out on their own.  Sometimes they do, but for the most part I know that I need to heal before I can move on.  Then I will be ready to take on the changes I need to make in my life.

Life isn’t how quick you get there, but the steps taken to get to where you want to be.” – Katie Austin

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog,

Katie Austin

 

My Breast Friend

By: Katie Austin

There are moments in life that define you. They make you stop dead in your tracks. They make you reevaluate who you are and where you are going. Sometimes you can see it coming and other times it’s like you were hit over the head, knocking you to your knees.

That moment for me was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2010.

What I remember most are the incremental moments along my cancer journey.

The day I was told I had the “C” word.

The first weekend after being diagnosed before starting my rounds with the doctors, I felt like I was cramming for a test. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything they were going to tell me.

The day I had my port placed in case my veins didn’t cooperate. It ended up being one of the best decisions I made, as chemo sent my veins packing. They are just now coming back to life.

The first day of my chemotherapy treatments. I remember sitting in the waiting room. It felt like forever before I was called back. My stomach was in knots. I tried to joke with family to keep my sanity through it all. Then I looked across the room and saw other patients sitting there waiting for their turn. It was quiet in the waiting room, but as we looked at each other and smiled we were giving each other support as we entered into the unknown.

It was during my treatments that I met my breast friend. No, I spelled it correctly. That is what she and I began calling ourselves. We were on a similar treatment plan with her being a treatment ahead of me.

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

We were sitting next to each other, hooked up to the machines that were providing us our medicine. Ellen Degeneres was on TV and it was at the start of the show where music plays while Ellen dances in the audience. Little did we know at the time that we were dancing in our chairs to the music. We looked at each other and laughed. It was in that moment that I knew we would become fast friends.

It was such a relief to me to have someone there that could relate to what I was going through. She was ahead of me, so I would ask her questions to see how she was feeling and what did or did not help her. My favorite thing that we would do is race to the bathroom 🙂  I know – probably not the best place to do that, but we did and we would laugh. As soon as I saw her motioning to get up out of her chair, it was on! It was like we were the only two there and we found ways to laugh through the process. We were there for several hours, so we made the best of it.

Recently, Brandy’s cancer has come back. I am crying even as I write this as I miss my breast friend and wish that I could be there to comfort her as she goes through another battle. I know that she is strong and WILL beat her cancer!  She is the reason why I am writing this blog post; I want to dedicate it to her and others that are fighting cancer. I ask those reading this to post positive comments and to pray for them! Prayer is so powerful and I know that together we can give those fighting cancer the strength to keep moving forward!

For those battling cancer, don’t give up!  Keep fighting and know that you become a survivor the first day you start fighting back! Keep moving forward even if the steps you are taking are small. I will continue to pray for you and hope one day that we will find a cure to send cancer packing.

Brandy, I love you, my breast friend, and will continue to pray for you!  You are an amazing wife, mother, daughter and friend to so many. I hope to see you soon and know that we are here for you!

Survivormode: Part I

By: Katie Austin 

You would think that life after cancer would be easy. Treatments are in the distant past, visits with the medical staff are less frequent, my hair is getting longer, and food tastes amazing. All I dreamed about during my cancer fight was to get back to normal.

But then, is life ever truly “normal?” Was it “normal” before I started this journey?

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

My mind wanders, thinking about all of the things I did before cancer and what I am doing after cancer. Then I question how much of what I was doing before my cancer journey is still active in my life and what “new” things I have taken on.

I take out a sheet of paper, make two columns (“Before” and “After”), and begin writing down all of my thoughts. If there is something that I did before and am doing now, I list it in both columns. I continue this process until I can no longer think of anything else to write down. After I am finished, I sit back and look at my list, and it becomes clear.

Do you think my list is longer on the “Before” or “After” side of the page?

You might be surprised to read that the “After” column is longer. How can that be? I don’t have the energy to do all the things I used to do in a day. But there on paper, it is clear that I have more on my plate now than I did before my cancer diagnosis.

How can that be? I thought I had everything in my life balanced.

To dive deeper into my list, I take the “After” list and begin checking off each item that I feel is something that clearly defines who I am or what I want to accomplish in life. Then, it hits me and I begin to cry.

I am keeping myself busy so that I don’t have to think, feel or relive anything to do with cancer. If I keep myself busy enough, then I don’t have to worry. I am hiding from the fact that I lost close friends last year to cancer, that I have several friends who are fighting now, and that I am always looking over my shoulder to see if cancer will raise its ugly head again.

And then, I had an Aha! moment: I can’t outrun what will always be with me. I will always have cancer but it will not always have me.

I realized that I was clearly in what I would call, “survivormode.” I am doing everything and anything because I am scared to not be a part of life, because cancer took such a big part of my life. It’s one thing for me to protect myself but I can’t actively be a part of life if all I am ever doing is being busy.

Like a movie ending that leaves you hanging, this where I am going to leave you (for now). 🙂 I am going to begin taking steps to get to the healthier, happier me and will be sure to write about my progress in future blog posts. That way, I will be able to share what I learned along the way.

Until then, wishing each of you a blessed day and looking forward to seeing you back at the Every Woman Blog!