Cindy had been getting yearly mammograms, because her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. Every year’s mammogram had been fine until 2014, which came back shockingly different. After a more extensive mammogram and biopsies, she received a diagnosis of bi-lateral, triple negative breast cancer.
Her sister in Seattle insisted that Cindy get a second opinion at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which she did. There, she met with a multidisciplinary team of doctors, including a breast surgeon, oncologist and radiologist. Together, they decided that she would start on chemotherapy before a bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstruction. She would also have surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, given the risk of ovarian cancer. “Since triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive cancer, it was decided that I would have an aggressive treatment,” Cindy said. She has had a complete response to treatment, meaning that there is no evidence of any remaining cancer.
As a survivor, Cindy and her family (husband Randy and daughters Emily and Jessica) have gotten involved with fundraising for Susan G. Komen® Nebraska. She also supports those who have just been diagnosed with longtime friends Tricia and Mary.
Ponca Women’s Story
Because of a grant from Susan G. Komen® Nebraska, more than 100 free mammograms were offered to Native American women in 2014. “In our community, women prefer to do things together. So much of our success rate was due to allowing them to have this experience together…and in groups at (screening events) UNMC. We would sit together and provide each other strength and support,” said Rebecca White, Tribal Health Planner, Fred LeRoy Health and Wellness Center.
According to Susan G. Komen®, mammography is the best screening tool used today to find breast cancer. Mammogram can find breast cancer early when it is small and the chances of survival are highest. Susan G. Komen® recommends women age 40 and older at average risk have a mammogram every year.
Our cancer journey started when I was a 32-year-old wife and mother. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2008. My kids were 4, 2, and 10 months. My chemo port was placed, and I started 16 weeks of chemotherapy. I underwent chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the mass so surgery would be easier and hopefully more successful.
It has been a humbling experience. You are stripped of a lot of things that you feel are essential to being a woman. You find out what you are really made of, and that being a woman is more about the heart than anything else. I have really learned to fight again.
Fighting for life isn’t such a bad thing. It makes me appreciate the everyday experience all the more. Life is sweet and the smiling faces and laughter of our kids and families are the sweetest. Currently, I will be coming up on my fifth year of being cancer free.
I have also had opportunities to share my story and experiences over the past four years. I helped to plan the very first Susan G. Komen Nebraska luncheon in Lincoln, which was a beautiful and rewarding experience.
A month after her wedding, Tracy was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She postponed her honeymoon and started chemotherapy right away. She had six rounds of chemo, one every three weeks, which made her very sick during the week she was getting treatment and also caused hair loss and weight gain.
In April 2009, she had two lumpectomies to take out the remaining cancer, followed by 35 radiation treatments and medication to prevent recurrence. She is now cancer-free and has routine checkups with her doctor every three months. While she knew about Susan G. Komen Nebraska prior to being a survivor, she recently got involved through a friend and also speaks about her experience through Community Health Charities.
Tracy said she was very fortunate that her cancer was caught early and did not spread to her lymph nodes. She encourages women to do monthly self-examinations, as that is how she was able to catch her cancer so early. “Early detection can save their life,” she said. She also wants people to understand that young women can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. She recommends that if a lump is found, you should be persistent and seek out help until someone makes sure they know what they are dealing with.