The Many Faces of Survival
Cancer affects everyone. We can reach out to any person on this earth and they either know someone or know someone who knows someone who has been given a cancer diagnosis. One can only imagine what this person must go through but what we find in all cancer patients is an undeterred will to fight on. Taking inspiration from things like family and friends, these courageous individuals embark on a journey that pushes their limits often taking great amounts of determination, knowledge and strength. In this issue of elite Magazine, we are proud to show the many faces of a survivor. Here you will find stories of brave individuals who not only gave their all to fight their diagnosis but ultimately gained more in this experience than most do in their entire lives. We highly commend them for sharing their stories with the hopes of inspiring the masses.
Mary was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 43 and with two young daughters ages 8 and 11. She found the lump herself, but because it was determined to be benign, she did not start chemo and radiation for four months. Fortunately, the treatment was successful, and she remained in remission for nineteen years. It wasn’t until 2017 that she received a second diagnosis after having an annual mammogram. As surprising as that was, she is grateful that the lump was detected early and treatment was successful. Mary feels strongly that what got her through these challenging times was her devoted husband, concerned daughters, loving sister and caring friends.” I feel that a strong support system is vital to physical healing and emotional stability. My family and friends sustained me through this experience by calling, sending flowers and encouraging me with inspirational notes. I am so grateful for them.” Mary feels that having accurate information and knowing as much possible about a diagnosis can better equip us to make informed decisions. She also encourages others, during such a vulnerable time, to ask for help when they need it. Mary sees this as a life-changing, transformative experience that gave her new understanding of herself. Working as a volunteer writer with The American Cancer Society and meeting dedicated and selfless volunteers has given her a new perspective on life. She strives to live in joy and gratitude, with courage and commitment, despite life’s uncertainty.
Stage 3 Breast Cancer
Kymmer Crookston was a “cancer warrior”, her son had battled pediatric cancer, leading her into a life of volunteerism working with organizations like Michael Hoffelin and American Cancer Society. Her late sister had stage 4 breast cancer and showed her that despite a cancer diagnosis, positivity was key in fighting against anything. Kymmer received her diagnosis in August 2014. She had her suspicions after her husband had pointed out feeling a lump. This information paralyzed her emotionally and she went to find answers at the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center. After getting confirmation of her diagnosis, the journey began with finding the right treatment course. Ultimately, she decided to go with City of Hope’s more aggressive plan after hearing from a friend who had just completed it. The type of breast cancer Kymmer had was known to be fatal but with the new advent of Herceptin accompanied with chemo and radiation she was able to have a fighting chance. ““Before all the tests were in, my doctor warned me that I might be stage 4 due to the size of the lumps in my breast and lymph nodes. I went to my follow up appointment with the mindset that I would stay positive and make the most of every day that I had. When I found out that I was stage 3, I celebrated because I had a fighting chance to beat this.” Through a sense of humor, Kymmer and her family always looked for the positive when it came to difficult challenges during treatment. “During chemo I wouldn’t take pictures, on my 60th birthday my husband looked at me and said at least you don’t have grey hair and I thought he is right! So, on that day I took plenty of pictures.” Kymmer strongly believes that “having the best attitude and realizing you are going to have bad days you have a right to feel bad but to also keep looking for the rainbow in the storm.”
Stage 2 Breast Cancer
Ivonne Peralta-Shimzu was going through a divorce and career change when she received her cancer diagnosis. She was navigating her new life as a single mother and now this. “When the doctor told me, I had cancer after my routine physical and mammogram, I couldn’t believe what I had heard.” Her journey began with radiation and with strong family support she would make it through. “I had to be strong for my kids, my son was a senior in high school and my daughter was only 13, I knew this was going to be a challenge Ivonne is the epitome of courage and strength she did have her days where things seemed hopeless and she would cry because it was devastating, but she kept fighting because she wanted to live to see her grandchildren. She attributes her success to her faith and family. “My son wanted to go with me to every appointment and I had my sisters, brothers, and parents there to support me.” Taking it day by day she eventually was able to beat her cancer and has thrived in the seven years since her diagnosis and has helped her mother in her own diagnosis. “When I was diagnosed, there was no history of breast cancer in my family, 3 years after my diagnosis I lived this journey again with my mother in Peru who was diagnosed with triple A negative (a very aggressive form of breast cancer) She underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, she is now 3 years in remission.” She strongly believes that through faith and determination accompanied with family support you will be able to overcome anything.
2-time Metastatic Breast Cancer, Stage 4
Susan got her first diagnosis after having her second child in 2008. With a toddler at home, she knew something was not right after learning that one of her breasts was not able to feed her new infant. “Around this time breast feeding was a major thing and I really wanted to have that bonding time with my son but felt guilty about not being able to have this with him.” Taking her concerns to her doctors she did not get many answers other than it might be hormones. It wasn’t until her son’s pediatrician pointed out that there might be something seriously wrong and to push for more testing. After taking her health into her own hands, Susan began advocating for herself to get more tests. The doctor biopsied the effected breast and the results came back the next day. Discouraged she turned to family support and her faith to get through this very troubling news. At 31, she knew something had to be done, she had two babies and her new husband to worry about and she embarked on a very trying journey. “I have always been the type of person who thinks about the worst-case scenario and I took the same approach to this making sure I had enough information to make my decisions.” Her doctors would quickly get her into surgery and find out that her cancer had progressed further than expected. “I was stage 3C which means that tumor was bigger than 10 cm and the cancer had travelled through the lymph nodes.” Hearing this information seemed unreal to her she had never experienced anything like this in her family and was in shock to find this was happening to her. “The first person that passed away in my family was 89 years old and no one had ever had cancer in my family.” Susan’s fighting spirit would not allow her to stop going, she still had her own business as a florist and still was a great mom and wife to her family. As she went through treatment, she kept true to her faith and knew that things were not over for her yet. She received a second diagnosis but this time it was a triple negative. “This was an eye-opening experience for me because my doctor said I only had two years before the cancer would come back and be fatal.” Since then 7 years have passed and Susan is under management treatment. She spends as much time with her family and advises finding a good support system and community. “We are still here and still kicking, no one is giving up and that is just amazing”
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