My Friend Ginny

I met Ginny on the b_inspired Cancer Warriors Retreat to Mexico.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at the age of 53. The cancer was found during my yearly mammogram. I was called back after my mammogram to check a suspicious spot. I had been called back multiple times before so I thought nothing of it. Well, they did an ultrasound and a biopsy and then said the dreaded words nobody should ever hear….you have cancer.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
My first thought was “are you f**king kidding me? Cancer? No way!” Then I thought…….I don’t want to die. I stared at my husband in silence and let the tears roll down my face. How will I tell my kids? I don’t have time for this. And over and over again…….what the f**k?
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Humor is the best medicine for me. I laugh and cry and laugh some more. I make jokes and pretend everything is okay. I found myself supporting those around me as they all seemed so very stressed out. I thought……”I am the one with cancer and you are all very upset.” So I smiled and joked and pretended it was all okay!
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
I am blessed beyond belief to have the most amazing support system. My husband…..my rock…….my best friend……my cheerleader……my decision maker when I could think no more. As hard as my kids tried to be supportive, I could hear the stress in their voices and see the pain in their eyes. We laughed and cried together a lot and maneuvered the road together. I found myself making sure that they were okay which actually became a distraction from the madness. I have an especially great group of women in my life who were there when I needed them…..and when I didn’t. I also have an amazing group of co-workers who stepped up to the plate and told me to “just get it done” and don’t worry about this place. I also heard my mother’s voice everyday (she passed away 9 years ago)……”Ginny, put on your big girl panties” …… and so I did!
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I have learned that I am braver and stronger than I ever knew. You don’t know how you will react to something until you are faced with it. I also have met the most AMAZING people throughout this journey and have been humbled by so much. And most important, I realized that I need to start focusing on what is important and stop stressing over the stupid stuff in life.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
Cancer is cancer. Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4. It is scary as shit to hear those words no matter what stage you are at.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I think I am at a really good place. Physically I feel good — in lieu of being thrown back into menopause by the estrogen blockers! I think that mentally and emotionally I will always be a little scared and timid that those words could come back and haunt me. I am petrified every time I go to a 6 month check and then elated when I am still cancer free. It is kind of like an exhausting roller coaster ride that I don’t think will ever end.
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
The most affected people in my life are my children. I think that they will forever be scared that they could lose their mother to cancer. My daughter won’t talk about it and my son writes rap songs about it. Everybody deals in their own way.
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
Stop sweating the small stuff. Love your husband, hug your children. Smile and be silly. Stop worrying what other people think. Love hard and laugh often. Live in the present because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Fuck cancer.
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
That I made them smile and laugh.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Get your mammograms!

My Friend Candace

I was connected with Candace via the Young Survival Coalition San Diego Facebook group.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I am 32 years old and recently diagnosed with stage 2 grade 3 Triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. The lump was palpated by my doctor at a routine annual exam, I had never noticed it but of course as soon as he pointed it out to me, I couldn’t stop feeling it. After that, I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and finally a biopsy confirming C. I couldn’t have been more caught off guard – I had no known family history of breast cancer (I now know my paternal aunt had BC at 39). Genetic testing showed that I’m BRCA1+.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I’m an ER nurse, mama of 2 (Maribel 4, Benjamin 20 months), my husband is a cop, we’ve been married 7 years. 
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
The worst. That I was going to die, that I wouldn’t see my kids promote out of elementary school, let alone graduate high school, get married, I’d never be a grandma. I worried about how my husband would be as a single parent, what kind of woman would he pick to be their step mother. I obsessed over these thoughts for 2 or 3 days, but since then I really work to not think about the worst case scenario because it isn’t productive and nothing good comes from it.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Focusing on the positive, trying to maintain normalcy, playing with my babies. I know even on my bad days, I need to get myself up and out of the house for a while (even just a trip to the grocery store) otherwise by the end of the day I feel very down. I love going to Disneyland 🙂
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
I have an amazing support system. My husband is amazing, he is my best friend and such an amazing father to our kids. We have lots of family near by that are helpful and available to help with the kids, our friends are consistently checking on us, supporting us with kindness, friendship, meals, gifts, etc. My husband’s department even created an emergency PTO bank and his coworkers donated 6months of PTO for him and always encourage him to take whatever time he needs, whenever he wants it, and have told him if it runs out they’ll donate more. Honestly, the most helpful support I have is from complete strangers I’ve met online because my friends and family love me but they’re scared and also feel sorry for me and I feel like sometimes I have to support them as much as they’re supporting me. Meeting and talking with other women who have been through this and can tell me what to expect and just reassure me that it isn’t a death sentence and there is life after cancer has made such a huge difference.
Where are you at in life now?  Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I’m currently in treatment, I finish chemo in December and then after that have a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and hysterectomy to look forward to. I sometimes wish I could just close my eyes and wake up in a year from now, but then I think about all the good things I’d miss in that year too. I hate cancer, I hate chemo, I hate this entire process but I’m grateful it’s going to give me more time with my family and that’s really all that matters.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
I don’t know about lasting, currently I’m dealing with baldness and eye sensitivity. Hoping they both don’t last.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
Just go kick this cancer’s ass!! I’m looking forward to getting through all this and getting back to work, I really love my job but I know it’s safer not working during chemo. I’m also looking forward to taking some trips next summer, not sure where yet but at least one with kids, and one without.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Cancer is only a chapter in my life, not the story.
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
I knew I was going to lose my hair. Prior to shaving it, I was showing Maribel pictures of women online and trying to encourage her to find them beautiful but she just kept telling me they were ugly. She cried when I told her I was going to cut my hair, she said I wouldn’t be beautiful and we wouldn’t be twins anymore (I frequently styled our hair the same). When the day came, I took her and my son with me to the hair salon so that they wouldn’t be shocked or not recognize me when I got home. She actually took it a lot better than I thought she would. She’s gotten used to it now, and she says now Daddy and I are twins.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I hope that my story encourages women to be more familiar with their bodies, to actually know their breasts and be able to identify irregularities. And, if/when the big C shows up in your life, it doesn’t mean you stop living. I’m still a wife, friend, and mother. Keep doing the things you love, don’t stop being you.

My Friend Reagan

I met Reagan through the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group.  Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
My name is Reagan Wade, I was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 22. I was nursing our son Jace. I had produced SO MUCH milk, about 1000 OZ on top of nursing Jace, till he was 13 months old.. I had a lump in my left breast that wouldn’t go away.. my husband and I got married and 1 month later we found out we were expecting our miracle baby Jude. I was 11 Weeks pregnant & luckily mentioned to my OB “how to get ride of this clogged duct.” She immediately did a biopsy and I found out July 21, 2016.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
What makes me, me is I am loving, a busy bee and always on the go 🙂 I enjoy my family & cherish my friends close.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
My babies. I remember looking at our little baby Jace playing on the floor with his trucks… my life flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t leave my baby boys.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Reminding myself to take things day by day.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
My family and friends. We have a huge support system! It seriously does take a village! I am so so thankful for everyone.
Many people are unaware that you can do chemotherapy while pregnant. Thoughts and personal experience?
Luckily I had an amazing team of drs. My OBs next words after “it came back as breast cancer..” was “but you can get chemotherapy while pregnant.” I immediately said “okay, whatever we have to do.” I was so thankful for my doctors.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I have found out a lot about myself. Stuff I never would have ever known… I realize how strong and powerful I am.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
“Does it run in your family” for some reason people think you can only get cancer if it runs in your family..
Thoughts on the pink…
Metavivor.org 
Where are you at in life now?  Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I currently have two beautiful baby boys: Jace is a sweet, loving, and crazy 3 year old. While Jude is a rambunctious, wild 1.5 year old. I have opened my own business specializing in skin care treatments. I also have created ChicBD Infusion which has completely taken off!! I believe God has put me through this to help others and I am so happy I get to help others feel beautiful in their skin every single day!!
Mentally- mentally is a challenge, there are some days worse than others but for the most part I clear my mind. Before cancer, I never even paid attention about mental health.. It’s real and so important!  I do lots of yoga and working out!
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
Mentally, I still forget things and have brain fog.
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
Family- although we always joke, when a family member has cancer the whole family does. I am so thankful for my family… We have all been through a lot but we are all so much stronger and closer because of this.
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
Don’t sweat the small things.. really focus on those who make you feel important. Never take a day for granted or your health.
What are you passionate about? 
Helping others!
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
Short term- best physical and mental appearance. Long term- buying Chic Beautique’s own building & eventually have a full team of boss ladies. 
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Be still and know.
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
How silly and crazy I am haha! I hope people laugh!
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
Literally. Bahaha shittiest moment, and probably the worst. My first chemotherapy, I thought I didnt need nausea meds, I was 12 weeks pregnant. Sick. Both ends. Puking, toilet… I couldn’t eat anything but a plain potato. In one week I ended up losing 11 pounds, it was awful.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now? 
My business! Www.chicbeautique.org . We have just blown up and I couldn’t be more proud.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
No matter your age or health… please be aware of your body!!