When I was 26 years old, I noticed a lump near my breast. I had already lost my grandmother, a survivor of internment in a Soviet work camp during World War II, someone I thought was invincible, to Breast Cancer. I immediately went to the doctor. Fortunately, the lump was a benign cyst. A few weeks later I began experiencing excruciating pain in my abdomen. Again, I went to the doctors. They removed my appendix, only to discover a week later that it was not the cause of my pain. The doctors finally discovered that I had Stage III Cervical Cancer. I needed to be operated on immediately. I was a single mother, struggling to support my son and I, slowly losing hope. But my grandmother taught me that despite how hard life is, as long as you believe in what can be, you can survive. After a hysterectomy and additional treatment, I beat cancer. I beat cancer for my son, for my grandmother, and for me. I now dedicate my life to helping others beat the awful disease.
Four years ago, my entire world changed…
I made my way to Miami for a second opinion on a leg injury from my car accident 5 months prior. I was unable to walk but FULLY expected my diagnosis to be a torn meniscus and a Baker’s cyst. I told myself “all I need is surgery and then this will be behind me”.
I will never forget the shock and emotion I felt on 11/11/15. My MRI scan showed something very wrong. That big white blob? Active Aggressive Fibromatosis of the left popliteal fossa. Complete with strangled artery, that if not treated NOW, could end in amputation.
Cancer was the LAST possibility in my mind. “I need a biopsy, why?”, “I’m sorry, I have what?”, “What does aggressive mean?”, “I need 24 weekly rounds of CHEMOTHERAPY?” — I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong person, car accidents don’t cause cancer!
After two rounds of chemotherapy and relearning to walk through physical therapy, I walked into my orthopedic surgeon’s office in December 2018 for a determination on whether or not I would continue with chemo, or be done for now. All I heard was “decreased vascularity”, “increased collagen”, “the tumor is so dense it’s absorbing all the waves”. These comments were soon followed by cheers and thumbs-up from all 8 doctors and nurses. My tumor responded well to the treatment, and it was his recommendation to stop chemo.
While I’m thankful to be done with chemo, its effects still linger. One of the main effects? My skin is WRECKED. Dark spots, dryness, and irritation. Accompanied by chronic fatigue, newly curly hair, and overcoming emotional and physical trauma.
Cancer doesn’t take a break. It’s been on my mind every day for four years. It’s an everyday choice to fight. I’ve tried my best to not let cancer define me, but instead motivate me to live a full and loving life, since I now understand I only get one.
Thanks for reading!
My name is Jessica,
and my husband, Tommy, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Esophageal Cancer on our 52nd day of marriage. Being 26 at the time (now 28), he was very young for this diagnosis, so it came as quite a shock. Our newlywed lives have looked incredibly different than most in the year and a half since. He has been through radiation, countless rounds of chemotherapy, a surgery to remove his tumor and most of his stomach/esophagus, a second surgery to help prevent a recurrence, and monthly infusions since. In a very short time, I went from newlywed wife to chief caregiver.
Throughout his treatment we took the 'laughter is the best medicine' approach, and were consistently positive, even in the darkest and most unsure times. I decided I wanted to do something to lighten the load for ourselves, and other people going through a similar situation. I used my time in doctor's offices and hospital rooms to create a cancer planner. I called it The Better Book. This planner, journal, and guide is designed to help patients and caregivers stay organized, connected, and healthy. Tommy told me I should see if other people might be interested, and now a year later, 1000s of patients across the country are using my book.
This past October, Tommy's cancer recurred and was found in his lungs. After a complicated journey to find a second opinion, we changed hospitals and began an immunotherapy clinical trial. Finding out we had to fight all over again was the darkest moment of our lives. Fighting cancer a second time after you think you've beat it is a much a mental battle as a physical one. He has luckily had a wonderful response to the treatment. His tumors have shrunk 30% and are continuing to shrink. We are now looking at a future that could be cancer free.
We have used our experience to become advocates for early detection in esophageal cancer. We are continuing to share our story to show other fighters that you need to continue to advocate for yourself and take advantage of the resources available. Being young adults in the cancer world can feel isolating, and we have been shown that there is a beautiful, strong, incredible community there to help you along as you navigate this difficult journey.
I am moved daily by the positivity and feedback we receive from people who share their stories with us. Being able to make the day to day a little brighter and easier for all the fighters out there has given me a new purpose. Sharing our journey, and using it to aid other's in theirs has changed my life in so many ways.
In Cancer on the Brain, Jay Lefevers chronicles his personal journey in dealing with first a brain tumor, and two years later, a diagnosis of lymphoma. In 2013, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the nation’s largest independent book awards organization, selected Cancer on the Brain as a 2013 general nonfiction finalist.
His health struggles did not impact Jay’s passions for either baseball or business. In 2007, his Little League team advanced through championships games to become one of 11 Arizona teams that qualified for the state tournament that year. In 2008, his company, Viewpoint Group, was named to Inc. magazine’s “Inc. 5000” list — recognized as being one of the fastest growing companies in America. From 2010 to 2013, Viewpoint was named as the second-highest ranking top commercial real estate appraisers firm by the Phoenix Business Journal. He joined CBRE in June 2014.
Jay is available for speaking with business, cancer and wellness support and community groups, as well as for interviews. Review copies of Cancer on the Brain are available for reviewers, reporters and editors. For scheduling speaking events, or requesting book copies, photographs, or other general information, please contact the author at 602-770-4530.
Hello, my name is Kayla. I am sharing my story in hopes to shed some light on a topic that has a lot of dark places in it. I feel by sharing it makes everything a little less scary.
In September 2018, I woke up and felt a lump in my right breast. My gut immediately knew that it was not a good lump. I put it off for a week because I was afraid of what the doctors were going to say. I was afraid of the mountain that was being placed in front of me. I have a family history of cancer (not breast cancer though) and the outcomes were never good. I simply did not want to deal with it.
In October 2018, after a mammogram, ultrasound, and a very painful biopsy I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer). All I could think was, “I am 34 years old, how can this be?”. I spent the next few days just spinning from all the information that was thrown at me. I knew that I had a huge mountain to climb but I also knew my God was bigger than this nasty diagnosis. I actually was quite calm through most of it. I took my orders and handled business. I had a, “lets get it done” approach to the whole thing. Of course, moments of weakness crept when I was sick and tired of the side effects from the chemo,recovering from biopsies and surgery. I chose, in those moments, to feel it for the time being and then dig my heels into my faith and pray hard and move on from it.
In December 2018, I had to have my unilateral mastectomy mid chemo treatments due to necrotic tissue that formed as a result of the rapid pace at which the tumor was shrinking. Lucky, that happen because is what showed us that my tumor was actually two different kinds of cancers. I was then considered stage 3 and told I also had spindle cell sarcoma also. At that point I was getting used to the curve balls so I rolled with it and added another chemo to the already intense plan. I knew it was going be harder, but everything in me just said, “I got this, let's do it. I want to kill this stuff!”
So... here I am today 16 rounds of chemo (4 different kinds), 33 radiation treatments, and a unilateral mastectomy under my belt. I finished with active treatment May 17th 2019. I feel a little beat up, but I am alive and I am grateful for that. Yes, cancer took a lot, but it also taught me a lot. I try to approach every single day with a grateful heart and I know that time is a gift and growing old is a luxury that not everyone gets to experience.
I am thankful that there was treatment for my cancer. I am glad to be done with chemo and radiation but I will continue oral hormone blockers for 10 years since 5% of my tumor was HR+. Side effects from the medication are still around; brain fog, fatigue, joint pain and hot flashes just to name a few. I pray, in time they all go away.
Cancer will always be on my mind but I refuse to let it define me. I am trying to have a full, healthy, fun life with my husband, family and friends who love me and got me through the craziest chapter in my life. I know now that you can't wait for everything to be perfect to live your life. You only get this one. Live now!
You can find me on insta at kayla.rummell
Thank you for reading.
My name is Stephanie and I am a 6x triple negative breast cancer fighter and now a metastatic bc warrior. My first diagnosis of tnbc was in April 2011 plus I’ve had 5 recurrences since August 2017 until now. Currently while recovering from diep flap reconstruction surgery, a CT scan confirmed metastatic breast cancer in nodules in my lungs, and an ultrasound & biopsy confirmed cancer in an auxiliary lymph node under my right arm (my good side) again.
You would think I’d be crumbling into a tight ball right about now, but I’m not. Sure I am devastated and exhausted from fighting this stupid cancer, but the natural born fighter in me is not going to let this cancer get the best of me! I’m going to keep fighting.
I have faith in my oncologist and we will be going the route of a clinical trial immunotherapy. I’m in the process of doing tests for submission to see if I qualify for the clinical trial. I have high hopes this will be the help & treatment I’ve needed. Obviously my immune system was damaged during 2 rounds of chemo & can’t fight the cancer on its own.
I’m ready to do this. I’m here to inspire my fellow tnbc warrior sisters that we can do this, just take it one step & one day at a time.
I received samples of PH Balance Skincare after I finished 5 weeks of radiation and just had a diep flap reconstruction surgery. I had a lot of scars and it was a tough recovery. I was so lucky to receive such a wonderful care package. It brightened my day when I felt at my lowest point. I used the Reactive Recovery Cream on the scars on my new breast flap & along my lower abdomen. It helped soothe my skin as it’s light and perfect for my sensitive skin.
I used the Rejuvenating Daily Moisturizer on the rest of my skin that had been neglected during my recovery process.
I still use the Daily Cleanser to cleanse my face and it’s perfect for my extra sensitive skin. It’s clear, no chemicals or fragrances and perfect for me. I am not a fan of perfumed products or those that smell like chemicals. That’s what I like about these products, they’re natural, non-toxic and no perfume.
Thank you for making such clean, healthy and conscious products.
In 2006 death wasn't even on our radar as a family. Healing was. Fighting was. Encouragement was.
But what if our main goal wasn't the goal at all? What if healing was the never the answer?
The words flew out of my mouth on that cold October day in Syracuse, NY where I was visiting my mom. “Mom, I will design clothing for you to wear.” I had flown in from NC as I wanted to spend some quality time with her. She recently decided that she would stop chemotherapy and enjoy the rest of the time she had.
As I sat in the chair waiting to board my flight back to NC just a few days later, I felt the Lord speak to me, “draw a shirt.” I really think He wanted someone else to do this, not me, I can’t draw and a shirt, Lord you know I love clothes, but I can’t sew. ￼
Well, I drew the shirt. A post op shirt. It was the first thing that came to mind, as mom had surgery very soon after she found out she had breast cancer. I also remember well as a previvor that I had drains coming out of the sides of my breasts and they were pinned to my bra. #notcomfortableorflattering
I started researching and calling everyone I knew. I googled and emailed and cried and prayed and Redefined Courage was born. Gerrod and I decided to start Redefined as a business, but guess what God had always told me these would be for free. I thought I could open a business and give them for free, BUT just in case you don’t know-this doesn’t work.
We have had tremendous people come along side of us. Jenn and Emma sewed for us. Jamie let us use her body measurements (while she was going through chemo) and was a model. Suzanne and Angela modeled for us as well. Leanne let us use her coffee shop and share ideas with her. So many, many others bought tee shirts when we first started to show their support and help raise money to get the post op shirts manufactured here in NC.
Well, with all of the support and many, many prayers we realized that we needed to follow the original calling. To give the post op shirts for free. In order to do this we will need individuals, churches and businesses to come along side of us. We will be closing the doors as a business to open as a foundation. With this we can gift hospitals, cancer centers and individuals free post op shirts.
#hopeandgrace4everywoman is our hashtag for our campaign to see every woman in our county, state, nation and world have a shirt for FREE!
Please share with one other person. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The diagnosis my mom received in 2006 and her death in 2015 were not planned or expected, BUT GOD. He knew what He was doing when He gave us this idea. He knows BEST! It will ultimately lead to helping thousands of women and sharing HOPE.
We miss her terribly every day and that will never change, but continuing her legacy of helping and loving others…Now that is healing!