Sisterhood of South Suburban Breast Cancer Survivors: Share Your Story

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we asked Southland women to share their breast-cancer experiences with us. We gathered their wisdom here. Share your story in the comments or upload a photo of an inspirational survivor in your life.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One of the greatest challenges for those who have been newly diagnosed is finding sources of support. Patients are eager for information on everything from enduring surgery and chemotherapy to how to deal with hair loss.

While there are many local resources and support groups available in the Southland, women can also find comfort in a sisterhood of survivors who have already been in their shoes.

Best selling author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Delinsky has gathered the wisdom of hundreds of breast cancer survivors who are eager to inspire those who are new to the “breast cancer sisterhood.” She shares all of the stories and tidbits she found in her book "Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors."

To tap into a similar vein of local wisdom, we asked Southland residents to share stories—either their own, or those of the people they honor by wearing pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Here's what they shared:

My journey started with a annual visit with my gynie. He did the breast exam but felt nothing (as did I). He sent for a mammo just like every since my aunt died. Than less than a week later the hospital called an didn't like what they saw so they had me come back for an ultrasound. The gyne want a biopsy and when they we're doing the procedure I knew deep in my heart that it wasn't good they had trouble getting a sample. It took less than a week to hear the scary results! My world as I knew it than has forever changed! First I had a lumpectomy with complications. Than after the whole summer of 2010 to recover I started chemo at the end of Aug. My hair fell out right away my parents cried but never in front of me.My husband who is my rock! Changed his work hours to take me to chemo. Staying with every step of the way. I thank God he was with on my second round because I had an allergic reaction. Just when I'm at the end of chemo my dad passes away. With God and my husband (and all my family) we got through this! —Roni Quintanilla-Sawicki, Oak Forest Patch Facebook

I wear pink for my mom who we lost to this awful killer one and a half years ago, for my cousin's wife who we lost at 52 after fighting since she was 25, and for my dear friend Leda Smaga who thank God is still with us, and for everybody fighting this fight! —Ellyn Holbrook Blauser, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook

I wear pink for my mom who died when she was 36 in 1988. Her birthday is in Oct & her favorite color was pink! There was no awareness month back then, so I really appreciate all of the attention brought to this terrible disease! —Amy Benik Pinkston, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook

...I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I was 39 years old and a single mom. I was given the choice to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Being 39 years old I opted for the lumpectomy. I went in on a Monday morning for surgery and they removed tissue a little larger than a golf ball. It was sent off to the pathologist and after surgery I returned home. I returned to the surgeon’s office on Thursday for a follow-up only to learn that the tumor and surrounding tissue still had dirty margins (meaning there were still cancer cells present). He scheduled me for surgery the very next day. This time he removed a section of the breast tissue that would be equivalent to a baseball in size. Again, I was sent home with instructions to see him the following week. ... He recommended Chemotherapy followed by radiation for me, specifically because of being diagnosed at a young age. A few weeks after my scar was healed I started chemotherapy. Wow ... how do you describe chemotherapy? I remember walking in, sitting down in the chair and feeling HEALTHY, wondering why I was even there? They started me off with an IV and then slowly added in the Chemo meds that were designed to best fight breast cancer. ... Each chemo session took a little more out of me, and each Neulasta shot left me feeling more pain in the bones of my body. I found myself weak, tired, present and yet not quite there. ... You can’t help but to think to yourself, “I went into that building feeling healthy, strong, and full of life. Now I feel sick all the time! How in the H*LL is Chemo helping me? ... Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were NOT fun; being truthfully hones ... they sucked! BUT they helped to save my life and I am grateful! —

... after all of it was said and done, it was time for me to return to work. I had a dusting of hair on my head, but opted to wear the head scarf for self-conscious reasons. When I walked into my department, I noticed that one by one each guy I worked with had either a buzzed head or a very short haircut compared to how they normally wore their hair. I joked and asked if they all lost a bet or something, and they replied, "No, we did this for you." I took off my head scarf and proudly displayed my 5 o'clock shadow hair line. I looked like a Momentos candy that rolled around on a dirty floor, but I didn't care—they loved and accepted me just the way I was. —Leda L Smaga, on Oak Forest Patch Facebook

My mom fights like a girl! She just got the "all clear" from her oncologist last month after a year long battle! Chemo, surgery, radiation...through it all she was and is a true inspiration! Even on days where she felt terrible she put a smile on her face and upheld a positive attitude. She never lost hope! — Mandy Raimondi, on New Lenox Patch Facebook

Breast Cancer found me in 2009. I was diagnosed in January and went through Chemo and Radiation all through the year till September. I am alive today because of Research. So I raise money all year long for research and to help others so they don't have to go through what I did. — Sharon Bostik, on Orland Park Patch Facebook

TELL US: Do you have an experience with breast cancer that you would like to share? Honor the sisterhood of survivors in the Southland by uploading a photo to the gallery above or sharing your story in the comment section below.

Lauren Traut October 17, 2012 at 06:26 PM
THANK YOU for sharing, Mari.
Cheeryl Schaefer October 17, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I will be a 15 year Breast Cancer Survivor , on, January 16, 2013! I had a Triple Negative Cancer, with no Lymph Node involvement! I had a Lumpectomy, 4 Chemotherapy Treatments, & 35 Radiation Treatments! It is hard to believe, that it will be 15 years!
Lauren Traut October 17, 2012 at 08:36 PM
You're a fighter, Cheeryl! Thank you for sharing your amazing story of fight and survival! Congratulations on 13 years!
kim Gower October 25, 2012 at 09:25 AM
I I am was diagnosed wih Breast Cancer in May of 2010. 16 weeks of chemo, 3 surgeries, and and 30 radiation treatments later I have been rode hard and put up wet but I am here. This dec. 23rd I will be in remission 2 years. It was the most terrifying thing I ever went through. I hope we find a cure soon. I don't understand the shame that goes with this particular cancer but it does. I am still scared and ashamed the fear I understand. I am still trying to work my way back but it does change you forever. I hate knowing I will never be the same for my 16 year old son. Everyday is stillmhard for me. Does it ever reall get any better? I think about it 24/7. I cry everyday. I also pray the Lord will take away some of my fear. I might be alive on the outside but cancer killed me on the inside. I wish I could have a happy ending and say I am doing fine but I am not. And I don't know how to move forward. If anyone can help my e-mail is kimgo910@aol.com. I don't answer just anybodys mail so if you could put pink or cancer somewhere I will open it. Thanks for hearing my silent screams. Kim Gower
Lauren Traut October 25, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Kim, thank you for sharing your story. It couldn't have been easy, especially given the fear you're still experiencing. You've come a long way, it seems, and I hope someone reaches out to you. Might I recommend a support group? We have a list of options in the Southland, and maybe one of them could be the right fit for you. http://oakforest.patch.com/articles/breast-cancer-support-groups-in-the-southland I hope you find the comfort and peace you deserve after such a fierce battle.


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