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MELANIE'S STORY

When were you diagnosed? I was diagnosed in 2005 at age 38.

Melanie - Survivor

Were there any signs or symptoms? I suffered from fatigue and depression. I was anemic too. My arm was always numb because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Everything I picked up with my left hand would drop to the floor. Also, I felt drained all over my body. I even went to a dermatologist because my skin felt extremely dry. I had a "lump" in my breast, but it was more like fluid trapped in a spot. It was not a hard lump. I never thought it was breast cancer. Even with the "lump", [breast cancer] never entered my mind. I just thought I was getting old and running out of energy.

What type of breast cancer did you have and at what stage was it diagnosed?  My cancer is described as estrogen positive. It spread to 8 of my lymph nodes but 12 of them where removed. Late stage 2.

What was your health like before your diagnosis? I had a healthy diet and I worked out in the gym. I faithfully went to my annual doctors visits.

What got you through your treatments? Family, Friends, and Faith! Initially I called on my family to help me sort things out, but believe it or not I was mostly alone in my doctor's visits and my chemo and radiation treatments. Once the news spread to friends, I was amazed at some of the people that reached out to me. I received cards and phone calls from people I hadn't talked to in years and they were diligent in keeping in contact with me. Many of them had the experience of family members with the diagnosis so they knew more about what I was going to experience then I did. Help came from people and places I couldn't have imagined, but things worked out in the end. Although I was physically alone at times, I was never alone in spirit.

What should newly diagnosed patients know? Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Don't be afraid to ask your physician and other healthcare professionals questions about your diagnosis and treatment options. Also, talking to other survivors is important. No one understands unless they have been through this journey, so don't be afraid to ask survivors about their experiences. For example, I had a port placed in my arm that was used for the chemo transfusion. The port became infected and had to be removed. It was then put in my chest area and the doctor wanted to continue chemo treatment the next day. I thought it would be too early since my stitches hadn't healed. I panicked, but other survivors I spoke with assured me that they had the same experience and that this was "normal" procedure.

What is the current status of your breast cancer? On 10/18/10, I will be a 5 year survivor! At this point, I should see the doctor every 6 months for a check-up and once a year for a mammogram. Since I'm not dependent on a doctor, I use preventative care though holistic health practices. I eat to live through raw foods and juicing. I work out in the gym and I work out in a community garden. I plant vegetables, sow, harvest, and eat what I grow. I don't plan to battle cancer again! Getting back to nature is my new medicine.

You can share your story of survival with us by sending your story along with a photo to share@lainifluellencharities.org.