BOULDER—In a three-part series over the next three days, we will tell the stories of Breast Cancer Survivors in their own words. The following survivors will be in attendance at Saturday’s football game with UCLA (4 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks).
The below survivors agreed to share their story, more coming Thursday and Friday:
Survivor: Julie Mulholland
“I was 20 years old and a sophomore in college when I had my first lumpectomy. It was benign. At age 25, I had a second lumpectomy in the same location. It was benign. At age 34, after having my 3 children, I felt a lump in the same location. The doctors thought it was scar tissue from the previous lumpectomies and told me not to worry about it. I had a mammogram and everything was normal. At 36, I still felt the same lump and asked my doctor. I got the same response and was told that I really didn't need to worry because I was "so young" and I had no breast cancer in my family so I was "low risk". At age 38, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. My diagnosis didn't come from the mammogram. The mammogram showed fibrous, healthy breast tissue. Luckily my doctor also ordered an ultrasound of my breast and that led to the needle biopsy that found the cancer. When I got "the call" I was in the middle of some important meetings at work. Needless to say, those meetings were no longer important and I left to try get and myself together and ready to fight this battle.”
Survivor: Caroline Geary
“Four years ago at age 44 I was diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer. At the time my sister was dying of lung & brain cancer. The thoughts that go through your head are so scarey but with determination, the love and support of wonderful family and friends, and the outstanding treatment and care of Boulder Community Hospital and Rocky Mountain Cancer Center of Boulder, I am blessed to be a survivor. I was so lucky and fortunate to be diagnosed early! I firmly believe it was because I had a DIGITAL mammogram. Breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. Ladies (and guys), you can and will beat this ugly disease. Have faith, hope and trust in God.”
Survivor: Sonja Oster
“In May 2008, I was diagnosed with an aggressive Stage IV Breast Cancer. I had two small children and thought I would die in six months. I chose an equally aggressive course of action for my cancer. I endured 4 months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, radiation and reconstruction surgeries. I am happy to say that I responded very well to my treatments and in October 2008 I was told I was officially in remission. I continue to have monthly treatments of a "wonder drug" (Herceptin) which is the sole reason for my remission. My life has mostly gotten back to normal, albeit a new "normal" that includes monthly treatments, tests and scans. With the help of my fabulous doctors and nurses at CU-Anschutz and the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, I will live a long and healthy life. Long enough to see my two boys attend CU!! As a CU Alumni, I am honored to take part in this event. Thank you!”
Survivor: Andrea Wittenberg
“I am 20 year breast cancer survivor. My diagnosis came just as I was packing up my family for our annual beach vacation. I thought I would just go in for a quick check up the day before we left for North Carolina. Little did I realize how that checkup would change and probably save my life. I remember getting a phone call back from the doctor asking me to please make an appointment with a surgeon that afternoon. He had already sent my mammogram to him. I remember thinking, well this is odd... but I still had no idea of what the problem might be. The surgeon did not want to wait 2 weeks for me to return from vacation, he asked that I come home early for my biopsy....I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. My treatment included mastectomy and 9 cycles of chemo therapy. What a journey... a surgery... hair loss... illness... recovery... I've met so many people along that journey... I've been fortunate to be able to see my children grown, graduate college, get married.... I am here... gratefully... 20 years later, able to share my story.”
Survivor: Jennifer Brackett
“I was 39, and the same spot we had been watching for over 10 years started to change, quickly. I went to the doctor, and my very first (and last!) mammogram showed extensive cancer in my right breast. Since the surgeon told me that there is a 50% chance of the cancer showing up in the other breast if only one is removed, I chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction. (I went for the upgrade. I may as well get a little 'improvement' out of it!)
“I never thought it would happen to me; it doesn’t run in my family and my son had just turned 2 years old. I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 5 surgeries so far; but I'm cancer free, and I feel very lucky that I had something so treatable. In addition, I’m glad my son was so young when it happened, as it wasn’t a scary experience for him.
“The outpouring of love and support was a very humbling experience. Not many people actually 'know' how much others care about them; I feel very blessed. The strength and the support from my husband helped me (and our family) survive with Grace and Courage. And now we can get on with the rest of our lives!”
Survivor: Sue Marchman
“I was extremely lucky. My cancer was discovered in January of this year during my regular mammogram. It was a stage 1 level 1 cancer. I was able to have a lumpectomy and just 16 treatments of radiation to remove it. I will always preach to my friends and family to have their regular mammograms, and not put them off, like I almost did this year. I was truly blessed with support from my Husband Dick, my family, friends, co-workers, and all the dedicated Doctors and nurses during this time. I will always have a prayer in my heart for those who have to go through this terrifying situation, and to thank all of those who help them.”
Survivor: Jenny Herring
“I was diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer in August 2010. After doing some informal research and talking with some friends who'd had breast cancer, I asked my doctor about the possibility of doing chemo before surgery in an effort to shrink the tumor. I was a good candidate for this, so I began six rounds of chemo in October 2010. I finished in January 2011, and the tumor was smaller! This meant I could have a lumpectomy and save the breast. I had surgery in March and followed this with 36 rounds of radiation. My treatment course ended in June 2011 and I am cancer free. It wasn't ever a club I wanted to be in, but I was treated very well by all my doctors and nurses. The professionals at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in Longmont are amazing and so kind.”
Survivor: Tani Owens
“Early detection purely because of a Mammo. Because of early detection the lump was small and appeared to be contained. Had the lump removed successfully and I participated in a Radiation study (hoping to make a difference in the research of the future).”
Survivor: Nancy Schultz
“21 YEAR SURVIVOR!!! Thank you for doing this for so many out there who are still fighting breast cancer, those still celebrating victory and those honoring loved ones lost.”
Survivor: Marissa Scarborough
“My name is Marissa. In November 2009 I was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer. To say this was a complete shock would be an understatement. A few months prior I had been lying down on my bed watching TV and had my hands folded across my chest. I am not sure it happened but I felt this weird lump in my right breast. I had no clue what it could be. I had just started working out with a trainer and thought maybe it was a calcium deposit or something like that. I asked her the next time I saw her and she said that she was pretty sure it wasn't that. I waited a few more weeks before I mentioned it to my sister. I had her feel it. It was rock hard. I will be the first person to admit that I hate going to the doctor. Going to the doctor means you are going to hear bad news. After being convinced for a few weeks that I really needed to go, I set up an appointment with my OB/GYN to get some questions answered. I had just celebrated my 29th birthday. The first thing my doctor said was that there was no way it could be anything bad because I was only 29 years old. I had no family history of any type of cancer so she wasn't worried. She was pretty sure it was just a big cyst. An ultrasound was done and she told me that if it was still there in a month I should see a surgeon. The lump inside my right breast was the size of a golf ball. At this point I should have known something was wrong. When a month had gone by and I still had the lump I went to see a surgeon. He said we could do a needle biopsy and do tests and if it was nothing I would just have to get it checked every year to make sure everything was ok or I could do a lumpectomy and remove it. The surgeon was convinced that it was nothing bad because I was only 29 years old and had no family history of any type of cancer. Deep down I knew that it was something so I scheduled a lumpectomy. My surgery was scheduled for Friday, November 13th.
“Cut to me waking up in recovery with my surgeon sitting at the end of my bed. Being told that it was worse than he thought. Being alone with no one around. Cut to me sitting in my oncologists’ office 4 days later. My doctor wanted to schedule a mastectomy and then do chemo. My first response was hell no. I liked my boobs. I had waited my whole life to have them. I wasn't going to just be cutting them off. Yes I know, probably not the most important thing I should have been thinking about. Because a lumpectomy was done first they had removed most of the cancer. My doctor agreed that we could do chemo first and see if it did its job. If that was the case then I wouldn't need to do a mastectomy. Then we would do 6 weeks of radiation. I also had a sentinel node done to determine if the cancer had spread. It hadn't. Thank God. He decided on 3 chemo’s every 3 weeks for 6 treatments. Chemo kills everything in your body. Good stuff and bad stuff. Like your reproductive system. Being told that chemo was going to kill the cancer in my body but also maybe kill the chances of me having children. For someone who has always wanted to be a mother that was a hard pill to swallow. I was able to try this new drug that was going to put my ovaries in a chemically induced coma so the chemo wouldn't attack them as much. And basically just hope that everything would turn out ok in the end.
“My 1st round of chemo was rough. Not knowing what to expect. The doctors will give you many different scenarios of how things are going to go down. But nobody will have the same diagnosis so you don't really know what to expect. My hair started to fall out 2 weeks to the day after my first chemo. I cut my hair and a week later it started falling out in clumps. Shaving my head was probably the most traumatic thing I have ever done. I cried afterwards. It was real now. After my 5 other treatments I had another lumpectomy to see if the chemo did its job. Chemo got a gold star because it did what it was supposed to do. Yay chemo! I started 6 weeks of radiation a month later. Every day Monday through Friday for 15 min at the cancer center. The radiation wasn't as bad as chemo. Just tiring going every day. My last treatment was August 11, 2010. I was on the table getting ready for them to zap me and just started crying. It was a happy cry I am pretty sure. My brain new this was a big deal to be finishing with treatment.
“It has been 2 years since finishing my treatments. I see my doc every 3 months to make sure everything looks ok. I try to have as much fun in my life as possible and I have almost forgotten how rough those 8 months of my life were.”