Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Marianna Boyce

Breast Cancer Awareness is highlighted in October to bring attention to one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. One of every eight women is diagnosed in the United States alone. Chances are, it’s likely you know someone who has fought or is currently fighting this vicious disease. Men can also develop breast cancer, but their odds are much lower. If you or a loved one have been affected, I’m sure your awareness extends well beyond the devoted month of October every year.

The exact cause of breast cancer isn’t known, but one thing is clear: this global issue is non-discriminatory.

ribbon.jpgAccording to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 41,760 women, and 500 men will die each year in the United States alone; however, this same website reports that death rates have also steadily declined since 1990. Contributing factors to this trend are increased awareness, early detection, better screening, and improving treatment options.

We should be aware of risk factors, along with small steps we can take in order to fight against breast cancer. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as alcohol intake, but other factors like family history cannot be. A monthly self-exam is a step in the right direction to detect issues early.

According to the American Cancer Society, current guidelines for breast cancer screening is as follows:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram yearly.
  • Women 55 and older should have a mammogram every two years, or continue yearly screening if they wish.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live ten years or longer.

Every woman is unique. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Remember that your monthly self-exam is the most powerful tool in early detection. If you feel a lump, or something that doesn’t feel normal, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam to learn the proper way a self-exam should be performed.

Life is busy—I get it, but something as simple as a buddy system to help remind one another to self-examine each month could potentially save a friend, loved one, or even your own life. Set a recurring reminder on your phone for a time you can take a moment and devote it to your health.

When’s the last time you did your breast exam? Don’t wait ladies. Do it today.

A Sweet Boy Named Wyatt

By Tina Michelle Cameron

wyatt outdoor pictureThis will probably be the hardest blog I have written to date. It is part two of a blog from earlier this month which was about September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You see, I want to tell you about a sweet boy named Wyatt. It is easy to talk about Wyatt; it brings a smile to my face and warms my heart to think about him, but with the smiles, also comes tears. Wyatt Edward Brown was born on October 28th, 2014 to the most amazing parents I have ever met – Ashley and Eric Brown. If you follow my blog or are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I am a nurse at Lexington Medical Center on the oncology unit. This is where I met Wyatt’s mom, Ashley, as she is also an oncology nurse. Ashley and I became friends while working together which is how I got to know this beautiful little boy.

Sweet Wyatt, as I always affectionately called him, was kind, sweet, funny, smart, and so loveable and loved. He loved superheroes (the Hulk was his favorite), cheering on the Clemson Tigers, playing with his action figures, watching his favorite video, The Hulk vs. Batman, and spending time with his amazing family. He was smart having already learned to read and work an iPad like a grownup at age two.

wyatt and mimi adn gigiWyatt was the strongest and toughest little boy that I had the pleasure of getting to know and love. He would light up a room with his smile and gave the sweetest hugs and kisses. Some of my favorite memories of Wyatt were playing with his toys or just watching cartoons. Another favorite is when they would FaceTime me from Texas or call me during a football game to just say “Go Tigers!” (To mess with me because I am a diehard Crimson Tide fan).

Wyatt was diagnosed at three-months-old with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. He had surgery followed by 399 days of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He went into remission, but then, unfortunately, relapsed – which led to more treatment, radiation, and an extensive surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. Eric and Ashley had to relocate there for three months for his surgery and treatment. This is where they met the incredible Melissa Bellinger who started the A Shelter for Cancer Families organization that provides housing and support to families affected by cancer in the Texas area.

bracelet team wyattAshley and Eric created a Facebook page (TeamWyatt) to keep family and friends updated on Wyatt’s condition. His page has 5,477 followers from all across the world. It is filled with messages of love, support, and prayers showing beautiful pictures of sweet Wyatt and his family. T-shirts, decals, and matching bracelets with the words “No One Fights Alone” were made to show support for Wyatt and his fight. Unfortunately, he passed away on April 28th, 2017.

Just a week after Wyatt passed, and despite their unimaginable loss, his parents held an event to honor Wyatt and raise money for A Shelter for Cancer Families. I was honored to volunteer with the organization and Wyatt’s family, and we raised $10,000 in one evening.

This amazing little boy endured surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments like a champ. He never complained. Wyatt will never be forgotten and will forever be loved by his beautiful family. Despite his life being so tragically cut short at two and a half years old, his parents and family gave him a lifetime of love and adventures in that short time. I know that he is watching over them and his new little sister Emma Ray Hope from Heaven and will forever be their guardian angel.

family picI will always love Ashley and Eric for allowing me to become an honorary member of their family and the time I spent with sweet Wyatt. Ashley, I love you like a sister, a close friend, and the daughter that I never had. Thank you both for sharing your most precious Wyatt with me and the world. To Wyatt, we will continue to fight for more funding and for a cure. You will always be my superhero.  I will always love you and hold you in my heart forever.

#teamwyattforever #noonefightsalone #superhero #hulk #sweetwyatt #ashelterforcancerfamilies

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

by Tina Michelle Cameron

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold is the color representing childhood cancer. How I wish that neither of these would exist. Cancer shouldn’t exist—for anyone – adults or children. This statement is coming from a woman who worked for 25 years as an adult oncology nurse. I would love to have to find a different field of nursing to work in – this would mean, cancer doesn’t exist. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Image 2Many people think childhood cancer is rare. But, each day in the United States, 43 families will hear the words parents should never hear: “your child has cancer.” It is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death (after accidents) in children ages 5-14. This means that every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. This is an average of 300,000 kids worldwide being diagnosed each year—does this sound rare to you? This is unacceptable. Something must change. We need to demand more for these precious, innocent children.

I have listed the seven most common types of pediatric cancers. Leukemia is the number one cancer in children followed by Rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms’ Tumor, Neuroblastoma, Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, and Brain/Spinal Cord Tumors.

According to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2)* in 2014, of the $4.9 billion budget of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only four percent went to research for childhood cancers. So, exactly how much is 4%– 4% of a dozen donuts is half a donut; 4% of an 8-hour night of sleep is 19.2 minutes and 4% of a $50,000 salary is $2,000.

Image 3Are you shocked? Has your mouth fallen open yet after reading that? Mine too. Were you also aware that since 1980, there have only been 3 new drugs approved for pediatric cancer treatment? In addition, only 4 new drugs approved for both pediatric and adult cancer treatment. These children are receiving adult-strength dosages to treat their cancers. The NCI needs to put childhood cancers as a higher priority as well as pharmaceutical companies. Many adult cancers receive private funding, this is not the case for pediatric cancers.

Parents are terrified of losing their child to this horrible disease, but must also still deal with life—work, other children at home, financial worries, as well as watching their child be sick with nausea/vomiting, pain, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss and other side effects from their treatments. Children that survive cancer often face lifelong problems from their treatments. These problems can range from breathing problems and difficulty walking to sight, hearing and heart issues. Many of these children can become traumatized from everything they go through. So, even though the treatments are over, their journey is still not over. They will have the fear of it returning.

Image 1Parents should not worry about losing their job, their home, their car or getting behind on bills because of the financial burden that cancer treatments cost. Many parents must create a GoFundMe page, so they can stay with their child in the hospital or be with them for their lengthy treatments. This should not be. We as a nation need to stand up for these children and do better. We need to ensure more research funding goes to these children. They deserve more than 4%.

*Credit for cancer statistics given to Coalition Against Childhood Cancer and the National Cancer Institute.

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!

Facing your fears

By Eliza Boulware

I am scared, or should I say AFRAID of dogs. Any size, any type – yes, even the tea cup dogs. I know it’s bad and it is sometimes embarrassing because it seems like everyone has a dog. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and they told me it was aggressive which mean it grows fast, so I was faced with a greater fear. The fear of cancer and not sure if I would live through it.

Before I started treatment, I was told that they would bring therapy dogs around and I began to panic. If a dog came near me, I would run, jump, break things, as I screamed. My heart would race and it felt like I stopped breathing.  Now I am trying to figure if I am sitting there plugged up to all these machines, what if I pulled the needle out? I began to pray and made my mind up that if I could face the fear of cancer, I will face my fear of dogs at the same time. My journey started and I became the main attraction.  Everybody would walk up to see how I would respond. At first, I could not relax when the dog came in. The lady had to keep the dog from even touching me. As I continued treatment, I kept dogworking on overcoming my fear. As you can see in the picture, with trusting God to face my fears, I was able to allow the dog to sit beside me and even rub the dog. I can’t express how major that was.

Lesson learned that when we trust God, we can face any fear and overcome them. Life sometimes has us to face some difficult situations and we become fearful of the unknown. I still don’t know why I am afraid of dogs but that fear could hinder me from doing what God has for me to do or can keep me from being in the right place to receive my blessing. Face your fear so that you can overcome what maybe hindering you on your journey. With God all things are possible. Face your fear!

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