WHAT I GAINED FROM
BREAST HEALTH SUPPLEMENT 2014 sponsored by
Finding Her Courage By TIFFANY WHITE Photos: MELISSA DONALD
Lara MacGregor’s biggest adversary has been fear. At age 30, Lara was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child, Bennett. She had seven surgeries, a double mastectomy, and 14 rounds of chemotherapy while caring for her newborn. While she was in treatment, Kelley Brewer, a cancer survivor, sent her a box of scarves with a note inside that read, “You can do this.” Lara wore the scarves throughout her time in treatment, but when she asked Kelley if she wanted the scarves back, she told her to find someone else who could use them. The experience inspired Lara to start Hope Scarves, a nonprofit organization that gives cancer patients and their families the mental arsenal and support they need to deal with the disease and its treatment. Lara’s organization collects scarves and stories from breast cancer survivors that are passed on to others. Each cancer patient receives a package that comes with a dry-cleaned scarf, a story, scarf-tying instructions, and information about Hope Scarves. “A cancer diagnosis can seem very isolating, so we are trying to help people see that they are not alone,” Lara says. Hope Scarves (hopescarves.org) has evolved into an exponentially growing powerhouse. Lara says, “It’s the ‘sisterhood of the traveling scarves,’ and it has grown from a little project in my spare bedroom to an international nonprofit organization with an office based in Louisville.” The organization has sent out more than 900 scarves to women in 48 states and eight countries.
practices Vinyasa yoga. “Being physically active helps me realize I am living,” she says. “I try to live my life and be true to myself because I have an amazing life, and I want to keep living it.” Staying engaged with her family and friends is equally important. “I take my kids to school and soccer practice,” she says. “I volunteer, go on date night with my husband, and I find joy in my life and being me.” Lara says she would encourage others in the same situation to use hope as their anchor. “I would tell them hope is stronger than fear, but to let yourself be scared and afraid and not feel like you can’t be, but not to stay in that place of darkness.” Lara is staying true to her own advice by continuing to stare down her fear — without flinching.
While the success of her organization is considered extraordinary, Lara says her biggest accomplishment has been to figure out how to live with hope in the face of despair. Lara’s cancer had been in remission, but earlier this year, the 37-year-old wife and mother developed stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her bones. When she first learned of the diagnosis, Lara says the uncertainty of her future led to severe depression. “I had never experienced anything like that before. I had always been stable. I became detached from the world out of fear, panic, and disbelief that this was really happening.” But she isn’t letting the disease define her. “My diagnosis is terminal, but I don’t look at it that way. I am determined to face this recurrence with the same determination I did in 2007.” Coping with the fear of her illness is about living her life with the same vigor she did before the breast cancer diagnosis. She runs on the trails in Cherokee Park, rides her bike, and
Cover Makeup: LORIE KARNES, Z SALON & SPA Lara MacGregor is also pictured on the cover.
BREAST HEALTH SUPPLEMENT
What I Gained From Breast Cancer By TIFFANY WHITE Photos: MELISSA DONALD Cover Makeup: DENISE CARDWELL, BLADES SALON & SPA
Breast cancer can take away many things, but these survivors show that in spite of the loss, they will appreciate what they have gained.
Angela Dyer remembers sitting in a high school class learning about breast cancer. “Someone came to my school to show us how to find a lump in a breast [model] that we passed around,” she says. “We all laughed. We didn’t really know how serious breast cancer could be.” She couldn’t imagine breast cancer affecting her life — until she found a lump in her right breast at age 30. Test results showed the lump was malignant. A mother of three small children at the time, Angela immediately became concerned about the possibility of dying from the disease. “It was devastating news,” she says. “I thought breast cancer was a death sentence. Little did I know at that young age how much I could do to help myself.” The level of support from friends and family, she says, gave Angela the emotional strength she needed to persevere. “A friend who was an acquaintance at the time organized meals for our family for a month.” Her friend, whose son attended the same preschool as Angela’s, would take her son back and forth to school while she recuperated. Not having the ability to fulfill all her responsibilities as a parent was difficult, but she says she is glad people stepped in. “I was a stay-athome mom who was in control of everything, but I had to take a step back and know that everything was still going to be taken care of without me taking care of it. I just needed to heal my body.” Angela had a mastectomy that included removal of her lymph nodes. Since her surgery 13 years ago, she hasn’t had a recurrence and is optimistic about her future.
What I Gained From Breast Cancer
A minor injury saved Susan Henken’s life. While folding clothes, she accidentally hit her left breast and quickly noticed a lump she believed surfaced from the impact. After a couple of weeks, she saw her doctor, who suggested she get a mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy revealed the lump was cancerous. Susan was diagnosed with aggressive stage 2 breast cancer in 2010. Timing is everything: Susan’s doctor told her that if she had never injured herself and waited until the regularly scheduled time to get her yearly mammogram, she might not have been alive. The day after her first round of chemotherapy treatments, Susan completed the Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk. Susan says recovering from the chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, and rehabilitation has been long and tough, but she hasn’t lost her ambition and focuses on helping other survivors. “My husband and I are now part of the Patient Family Advisory Council for Norton Cancer Institute in which we serve as advocates for other patients and caregivers,” she says. “I feel more rewarded as a result of the cancer and being a survivor.”
What I Gained From Breast Cancer Despite being diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer — the same type of cancer her dad died from — Trina Amos says she realized there is life after cancer. She worried about whether the cancer would be curable, but she knew she had to stop letting the negative thoughts take control. “I remembered the acronym for FEAR — False Evidence Appearing Real — so every time fear tried to creep in, I tried to stay positive knowing I could beat this,” she says. In 2007, Trina had a bilateral mastectomy followed by ongoing breast reconstruction surgeries, but the process wasn’t a smooth transition. After having additional surgery to remove an infection, Trina had to start chemotherapy treatments that caused her to feel ill. However, Trina relied on prayer and humor to get through the rough times. “I knew God would bring me through all of this if he brought me to it,” she says. She is passing on this same message to other women who have been diagnosed so they can have a better outlook on their future. “I share my story because I feel like maybe that is the purpose I was chosen for: to be a voice,” she says.
What I Gained From Breast Cancer After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005, Pastor Ruth Ward of New Birth Ministry Center regularly reminds her female congregants about the importance of making their health a priority. “I tell them that ‘if you don’t go to the doctor, you’re being selfish,’” she says. While being treated for an ailment, Ruth’s doctor suggested she get a mammogram — even though she’d already had one a year ago. Since she didn’t have a family history of breast cancer and lived a healthy lifestyle, Ruth says the diagnosis was shocking. But she didn’t put her life on hold because of it. “I had choir practice on the same day I received the news, and I went instead of staying home,” she says. “I decided I would go through this process the right way by not feeling sorry for myself because I knew I would be talking to other women about this.” Although the cancer had only affected her breast ducts, Ruth had a mastectomy rather than the lumpectomy her doctor suggested for peace of mind. Ruth, who didn’t undergo chemotherapy treatments or radiation, says she is thankful for her life but occasionally feels guilty because she didn’t have those experiences. “In some instances, I almost feel like I didn’t have it,” she says. Nonetheless, being a breast cancer survivor has turned her into an advocate for women’s health: “You can’t take anything for granted.”
BREAST HEALTH SUPPLEMENT
PINK W MAN sponsored by
We celebrate with these Breast Cancer Survivors! We are here to show the newly diagnosed that there are
a ton of us out here who have been or are going through breast cancer now, and we are here to support you.
— Georgiana Dotson
NK W MAN photo sponsored by
Ladies, get those annual mammograms. Gentlemen, make sure the special ladies in your life get their annual mammograms. Do NOT let even one year go by. My 2008 mammogram was fine. My 2009 mammogram showed cancer. If mine had not been caught early, I would have had to undergo far more (treatment-wise) than I did.
— Robin Eldridge
from Breast Cancer Survivors 14
As a breast cancer survivor, I have lost a marriage, but I gained incredible strength as a single woman. — Meredith Geraci
I think I have gained a “second chance” with my diagnosis. It was definitely a wake-up call. You begin to look at life a little differently and realize how short and fleeting it really is. I now make the most of each day and realize it could be my last. It helped me to see who and what were most important in life. — Wilma Fugate
Most people want to help you, but they don’t know what you need. It’s important to ask for specific help (i.e., ride to chemo, meal, babysit, housework, etc). — Georgiana Dotson
I learned that there are many people who will go above and beyond to help you when you are going through treatment. The love you feel when you have people helping and praying for you is pretty amazing. — Suzanne Childers
I would never, ever in my wildest dreams say that cancer was a blessing. I will say, however, that it has given me a new appreciation for life. There are silver linings — in the friendships I have made, my work at Gilda’s Club, and how I appreciate the differences in people. — Missy Wislocki
I have experienced cancer diagnoses twice now in the last two years, followed by 18 weeks of chemotherapy from January 10 — April 25, 2014. What I have learned about others is that their generosity of support physically, emotionally, and spiritually is boundless. I teach at the University of Louisville, and my students were so supportive and understanding when I had to “cut short” our semester in 2012. My students this last semester stood by me as I endured chemotherapy and continued to teach. I have also learned that even when people don’t talk about their faith, that is what sustains them and supports others (in this case, me) when the “going gets tough”. The power of prayer is strong indeed!
I’ve gained a lot of patience, not sweating the small stuff. I might be more accepting of others. I’ve had a little struggle with depression and fear/anxiety, but now I can relate, maybe even help others. — Lorraine Farris
’ve learned that people either are there holding your hand every step of the way or they hide because they are afraid to watch because they are fearful that it could be them. For those that stood by my side, I thank God every day for your support. Cancer is a very lonely disease, and you helped me push past my loneliness and embrace what was to come! — Cindy Wohl
— Beverly Edwards TODAY’S WOMAN