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        News — Breast Cancer Awareness

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Patricia Cronin

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Patricia Cronin

        1 week before my 35th birthday. Happy Fu&king Birthday, to me.

        Told by Patricia Cronin herself.

         It was the 4th of July weekend. It was a Friday night. I was lying in bed and had an itch on my breast. While scratching it, I felt a lump in my right breast. I immediately went over to my left breast, no lump. So I knew something was wrong. Very wrong. It would have been normal if I had 2 lumps, if they were both in the same spot on each side. But I only had 1. And it felt hard.

        I panicked. Cancer? Nope. No. Not cancer. How can it be? Calm down. 

         It’s hard to keep your thoughts from spiraling out of control, though. So I needed someone to calm me down, so I called my BFF. No answer. So I left my usual, long-winded voicemail, except this time in a super shaker voice and trying to unsuccessfully hold back tears. 

        "Hey, how's it going, blah blah blah, happy 4th, call me back & oh yea I found a lump in my breast & I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be there, I don’t know if it’s cancer or not, we’ll see. Ok, love you, call me  back. bye!"

         And I’m alone again. In my kitchen in my small apartment. I somehow turned it around and got myself to calm down, and let’s see what happens. Control what you can right now. Rest of the weekend was spent organizing/cleaning my apartment, and snuggling with my 2 fur babies. (I had to stay away from people for my own sanity).

         Tuesday morning I went into work, normal Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. Called my Dr. (PCP) and informed them of my discovery. I had an appointment that afternoon. (The nurse on the phone was way more concerned than me. Because I was like, it’s not cancer, just a lump....). I remember my PCP seeing me & then she referred me to another Dr. To have a biopsy down (which hurt like hell & left quite the bruise). 

         My PCP called me a few days later & asked me to come in around noon time to see her. But your office is closed from 12-130, so why am I coming in at noon? Or I think she said get here when you can...... oh sh&t.

         “You have cancer.”

        Terrified, scared, shocked, cheated, utter fear. Angry (for just a second, but yeah I was angry for a minute). 

        My whole world was completely turned upside down in a matter of seconds. I’m someone who needs to have control over things, and I suddenly had no control over anything. My world was utter chaos.  It was fu&king terrifying. 

         “Am I going to die?” was my immediate response to my team of doctors. 

         I can remember that day like it was yesterday. 

        What about kids? I didn’t even know if I wanted them, I think I did, but are they even possible anymore? Or is that decision now being made for me? I wanted to decide if I had any or not, not cancer. That’s not your decision to make. 

        Family and friends. They were all amazing. They all allowed me to be as independent as I could be, and then were there when I needed help and couldn’t (or didn’t want to ask)ask for it. 

         They took turns taking me to chemo (I couldn’t drive afterwards so I needed someone to take me), they sat next to me for hours & kept me company, and provided some distraction during infusions. We laughed, cried, and watched some TV. They let me sleep when I couldn’t stay awake anymore. 

        They made me meals. 

        They went out for dinner with me at 430/5pm, because my cell counts were always low right after treatment so I had to avoid crowds. So early dinner it is! 

        She shaved my head for me. And then held me as I cried in her arms afterwards. Losing your hair, that really really is the hardest part. I already lost a breast, which honestly I didn’t really care too much about, take them both I begged my surgeon. But losing your hair.... that’s pretty hard. That’s hard. And they tell you that it’s the hardest part for a lot of patients and you think yeah ok, it’s just hair. And then you realize it’s so much more than that. It’s another part of you that you're losing against your will. 

        She drove 7 hours to be right by my side for my first surgery (mastectomy ) because I was completely terrified.

        They all took care of me, in their own way. Always watching to make sure I didn’t overdo it after treatments and got plenty of rest. They watched TV with me, when at times that’s all I had energy to do. 

        In that respect, I was extremely lucky. And so very thankful to have each and every one of them. 

        They joined me in my very first cancer walk (as a patient, during my “off” week of chemo) and helped me to exceed my fundraising goal. We might have walked slow at times, but dammit we finished that walk! So proud to have them all by my side for that moment. 

        And they were there to fix my wig if it ever shifted and looked awkward.... and also my fake boob, which was known to sometimes fall out of place, especially while swimming with a group of your friends and their significant others . I really do have the best tribe. 

        When I completed chemo, it was then into 36 rounds of radiation. On my first visit, after being instructed on where to lay, completely still, the nurses went to leave the room. I begged them, crying like a baby, tears just falling down my face, I begged to please don’t leave me, and was it going to hurt? I wouldn’t let them leave the room that first time, I kept asking them to wait because I wasn't ready yet. I was yet again, completely terrified. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

        It didn’t hurt.

        I think my biggest obstacle, just dealing with cancer in general, was deciding how I was going to deal with it. How am I going to handle this?

        I can either get angry and hate the world because I have cancer. OR

        I can face it head on and fight through it. So I choose the latter.

        I wanted my life back & was going to do everything necessary to get it back.

        So I followed my treatment plan. Which, other than the emotional toll it took on me at times, was pretty easy. I just had to make the decision to show up when I needed to.

        And I did so with a little bit of sarcasm, and always having a sense of humor. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

        For me, anyway. I wasn’t going to let cancer get or keep me down. 

        I made cancer my bit&h! And I kicked it’s a$$.
        Life is what you make it, good & bad. 

        So make it a great one!!

        Today Patricia is 8 years free.

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Susie Hynds

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Susie Hynds

        Written by Susie Hynds 

        I was experiencing pain on my right side of my breast, and went to the doctor. They initially thought I had an infection. You couldn’t feel a lump, and I had no other symptoms. 

        I then had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy that showed cancer, I was given a diagnosis of stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. 

        I was 39 years old with 2 kids at home. I was diagnosed 2 days before my younger son turned 2, my older son was 4 ½.

        I was devastated, to say the least, that I had cancer. My whole world was turned upside down. I didn’t think I would live to see my boys grow up. I didn’t want to die.

        I was treated at Dana Faber in Boston, I had 5 ½ month of chemotherapy which started in August of 2012. Then a double mastectomy, 36 rounds of radiation, my tubes and ovaries removed, and then the process for reconstructive surgery.

        There is a program at Dana Faber called "The Young and Strong" program. I was matched with a mentor, Carie, who helped me with so many questions and feelings. She is one of the strongest women I know. She would sit on the phone with me and listen to me cry and help me get through my fears. We are forever connected, and are still friends.

        For me, the hardest part was the fatigue from treatment. I had 2 young boys at home and I wanted to spend as much time with them that I could. My husband worked at night so I would try and rest during the day so night time was our time together, reading books and watching TV snuggled up on the couch.

        My support system was amazing. My sister Jamie took over. She came to every Dr. appointment with me and my husband so she could listen to what they were saying and help us process all the information. She set up a website to help communicate with friends and other family members. She organized meals that people made and fed my family for months so I didn’t have to worry what was for dinner. She cared for my boys when I couldn’t, and took care of me. She drove me to chemo and sat with me almost every time. When I had surgery and couldn’t take care of the kids, they went to her house for a week. She is the true hero in my book! My husband and I are forever grateful and lucky to have her. Our other friends and family made meals and visited with us, and kept us strong. We knew we were never alone.

        My message to you is, get checked, check yourself, don’t wait! You're not alone in this.

        Ask for help when going through treatment. It is so hard, but you can’t do it alone.

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Anne Finucane

        Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Anne Finucane

        By Bella Pelletiere

        “I did not face any major obstacles during my treatment and I have to give credit to my dad for that, Anne said. “He was an incredible role model during his heroic battle with throat cancer. He always had a positive attitude and never gave up so I tried to honor his memory by staying positive."

        Anne Finucane’s mother, cousin, and paternal aunt all had breast cancer. So when Anne was diagnosed, she admitted she wasn’t surprised. 

        “My father had passed away several years earlier after battling throat cancer for three years so I was very in tune about the impact that a cancer diagnosis can have on a family,” she said. 

        She was 46 years old in 2013 when she went to her annual mammogram, and was told she had early signs of breast cancer. 

        After having many conversations with her friends, who had also dealt with breast cancer, Finucane decided to have a lumpectomy. Lumpectomy is a surgery to remove cancer from the breast. Unlike mastectomy, lumpectomy removes only the tumor and a small rim of normal tissue around it. Unfortunately, after the surgery, Anne’s surgeon found another area in her breast with DCIS. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) means the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast have become cancer, but they have not spread into surrounding breast tissue. DCIS is considered non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer.

        “I then needed to decide whether I wanted to have a mastectomy in my other breast as well even though there were no signs of DCIS. After careful consideration, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with same day reconstruction,” said Finucane. 

        A bilateral mastectomy is the removal of both breasts. 

        “My surgery took place at the end of April. Shortly after my surgery, I received the good news that I would not need follow up radiation or chemotherapy. My margins were clear and my sentinel node was clear. I was told my recovery would take around six weeks so I envisioned that exactly six weeks later I would feel like myself again. I think I was a little unrealistic,” she said. 

        Although the journey throughout her diagnosis and surgery was difficult, Anne had the amazing supportive network of family, friends, and co-workers. 

        “Without them, our journey would have been a lot more difficult,” Anne said. 

        While working as a part time preschool teacher, Anne was attending a program that Mass General Hospital set up for her. It was called the PACT program, which provides  psycho-educational support for parents who are patients.

        “I did not face any major obstacles during my treatment and I have to give credit to my dad for that," she said. “He was an incredible role model during his heroic battle with throat cancer. He always had a positive attitude and never gave up so I tried to honor his memory by staying positive.”

        Anne advises women to keep up with their annual mammograms. She also recommends being open about breast cancer diagnoses. 

        “When I was diagnosed, I was very private about my news and did not want a lot of people to know. I regret that I wasn’t more open about my diagnosis because I know there are so many people out there who would have been willing to support me by sharing their own experiences with breast cancer,” Anne said. “I think hearing others stories can help provide inspiration and hope.  I would encourage women to continue to share their stories.”