The Brave Faces of Cancer
Being diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer three times in 22 years, starting at the age of 33, has left this wife, mother of two and grandma of four feeling blessed to still be here. Five years after my first diagnosis, the second diagnosis occurred in the other breast. Seventeen years later, scans indicated malignancies in both breasts. After two lumpectomies, a “lifetime supply” (as doctors explained) of radiation, two chemotherapy regimens, along with a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, I am now six years cancer-free. Having cancer puts you in a club you never wanted to belong to, but there are some silver linings. The love and support from family and friends made me more appreciative of the angels in my life whom I hold so dear. I’m grateful every day to be here for my family and to experience life’s milestones with them. It was a privilege becoming part of our cancer community in Santa Clarita over the years, volunteering and making friends with some incredible humans through the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery, Relay for Life, and the Circle of Hope organization. My best advice is to listen to your body, don’t skip regular checkups and stay informed. Be well.
Throughout summer 2017, I experienced pain near my collar bone but I thought I just strained it at the gym. That September, my routine mammogram revealed a suspicious mass that needed to be biopsied immediately. The results showed stage one triple negative breast cancer. I was stunned, shocked and scared. My loving husband reassured me that although this would be a tough journey, we were tougher. We would face cancer with the love and support of our family and friends.
Although the cancer was only stage one, triple negative is an extremely aggressive form of cancer with no estrogen or progesterone receptors. In October, I began an eight-month chemotherapy regime and underwent 22 weeks of radiation while our extended family and lifelong friends enveloped us in support.
Two weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment, I was blessed with a beautiful granddaughter. She and my daughter were the light in my darkest days. I finished my cancer treatment in July 2018 and continue to see doctors for quarterly follow ups. I am proudly cancer-free and find joy in helping others who must face this challenge, too. You are never alone!
Ladies, listen to your bodies. Get your routine mammogram. Do your self-checks at home.
by Tyra Ghamghamy
“If I hadn’t gone through this, I wouldn’t have met so many people that have touched my life in so many beautiful ways.”
Alison Lindemann was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer in 2011, but rather than viewing it as the end of her “normal” life, she saw it as something very different: the beginning of a new journey.
Enter Sheri, a close friend of Alison she met years after her diagnosis who has made an immeasurable impact on her life and cancer journey. Alison started out supporting Sheri, a Melanoma survivor, by providing meals, helping her move, and countless more tasks that brought them closer together.
“Sheri is my hero and role model – she faced her disease with strength and grace,” Alison says. “She’s the force that drives my philanthropy and giving back to the cancer community in SCV.”
Sheri inspired Alison to get to where she is now – helping uplift and support SCV’s own cancer community, as well as the rest of the more vulnerable population in our valley.
“There’s no greater gift than making a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “I want to be strong so I can help others – it gives me way more than I could ever give them.”
by Tyra Ghamghamy
When Katherine Ward was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the world was on the cusp of something equally as traumatizing – the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Katherine was officially diagnosed on February 24th, 2020, and the timing makes her feel that her treatment and journey are definitely unique.
Since then, she’s undergone chemo, surgery, and radiation during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most damaging events of our generation – she had to spend her appointments alone, often without the physical presence and support of her loved ones.
“Thankfully, this journey made me stronger,” she shares. “I am still working through some complications, but I’m thankful for the amount of recovery I’ve achieved.”
As a yoga instructor, Katherine places a heavy emphasis on being the best version of herself all around, including physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Her support system is what has held her up through everything; her daughter, sister, and mother have been there to uplift her, even when the pandemic meant doing it from a distance when needed.
“The after-cancer journey is one of perseverance and growth. I look at every day that I’m cancer-free as a gift – it has changed the way I live, releasing fear and giving me strength.”
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