"I Am #1in8"
In their lifetime, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will say, "I have breast cancer." Meet a few of the extraordinary women we have cared for during their journey to survivorship.
"When I received the call about my biopsy results, I could hear the empathy in the nurse’s voice on the other side of the line. I almost felt sorry for her. What must it be like to deliver that kind of news to someone? I was totally blown away. I’m still processing it all.
I told my wife first, and we immediately moved into action mode. She wanted to know what our next steps were. We talked with my navigator, Kathy, who assured me this is something we were all going to ...get through together. After that, we cried. And then we rallied. My wife is strong. We’re stronger together. She’s been my yelling post, my leaning post, my crying post, and my holding me up post. My family thanks her daily for taking care of me.
After ten years by my side, we’re finding a new normal together. There’s actually a lot of arts and crafts going on in our house lately. I’m thankful even for that. It’s the little things that matter now. I’m thankful for the hope I have, for the care I’ve received…people have just gone above and beyond. You really find out who your true friends are when something like this comes along. I know now. Ultimately this is my journey in survivorship but I can’t say I’ve ever really felt alone in it.
I'd never heard of any kind of breast cancer statistic before this...especially that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are diagnosed every year. But breast cancer can happen to anyone. If I could give any woman any advice it would be to know your boobs. Know your body. It’s yours…no one else’s. Oh…and love one another. That’s important too. I am #1in8."
"The first time I saved my mother’s life was when two blood clots traveled through to her heart. She’s stubborn but I insisted she seek care. They said 15 more minutes would have been too late. That was during her first battle with breast cancer, when she found a lump on her breast on Christmas Day of 2005. Well actually Dad found the lump, but I plug my ears for that part of the story.
There was only a 2-5% chance the cancer would come back after that mastectomy. When she felt the second lump a couple of months ago, she snuck out of the house in the middle of the night and went to the hospital without waking us. She didn’t want to scare anyone. When she got the call that it was cancer, I watched her jaw drop open. I immediately hugged her and told her not to worry. I told her we would get through it together…and we will. My brother and I recently moved in to help take care of her.
On her sad days, mom heads out to the corral and nuzzles the horses. They feel everything. They understand.
On her good days, she wakes up and asks herself, ‘Who am I going to make smile today?’
Most days, it's me. My mom is #1in8."
"I’ve been playing roller derby for the Billings Roller Derby Dames for six years. I started playing after a friend told me that it’s a tough girl sport, and I ...thought, ‘that’s the sport for me.’ I’m the oldest person on my derby team, but derby really has no age.
In April, I broke my ankle, and I was forced to take two months off from derby. I had just gotten a note from my doctor finally clearing me to play. I was so excited to compete again, but unfortunately, my excitement didn't last. That same week I'd found a lump on my breast. It was cancer.
Because I’m fairly young and in good shape, my doctors and I decided to treat my cancer very aggressively using chemotherapy and radiation. Chemo makes me feel like I am falling apart. I’m active. I’m athletic. But chemo makes it hard for me to even stay on my feet.
Reaching out for help is not easy for someone who is so independent, and I’m fiercely independent. But in derby we have what is called a Derby Wife. Each player has one. My derby wife has rallied the team around me. They take my dogs for walks. They bring me meals. They clean my house. They’ve been unbelievable.
Roller derby is an aggressive sport and the only two requirements are physical and mental toughness; skating is the easy part. But sometimes it takes things like this – things like cancer – to really kick you in the butt. It’s redefined toughness for me. I do a lot of praying now. I have a lot of faith. That is what strength is to me now. That is toughness. I am #1in8."
"I lost both of my breasts to cancer at the age of 27. They weren’t huge in the first place but they were mine. Shortly after that I read a story about another woman’s journey with breast cancer. In it, she described this moment when she looked at herself in the mirror the morning of her mastectomy and said goodbye to her breasts. I still get sad when I think about that because I didn’t do that. I didn’t let myself really grieve the loss of my breasts. Looking back, I wish I had. I wish I’d said goodbye.
Now when I tell newly diagnosed women that I’m a survivor, I’m very open about what reconstruction can do. I offer to let them look at my “new” breasts, and most take me up on it. Some women even get right in there and give 'em a squeeze. I’m happy to show them off if it will help someone understand and cope with their own loss. It’s not a big deal to me because my breasts have been gone for so long. These guys just make my clothes fit better.
My mom died of breast cancer when she was 51. This year I turned 52. When people ask me what advice I’d give now that I’m a 25 year survivor I just tell them this: You’re going to have good days and bad days, and that’s okay. You don’t have to be brave and courageous all of the time, but you do have to want to survive. And at some point, you learn what is truly important in life. It took some time, but eventually I discovered that my boobs did not make the list. Laughter, however, most definitely did. I am #1in8."
“After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my cousin’s son did a four day sun dance with no water or food to take on my suffering for me. My sister never missed an appointment with me. My nephew got his entire rodeo team to wear pink shirts with my name on the back. Men all over Hardin wore pink sashes for me. Women are really honored and respected by men in my culture.
But when I first found out I had cancer, I wanted to be by myself. I wanted to do the treatments by myself. But my 91 year old mother told me not to turn anyone away, so I had to listen. I’m grateful for that. I have a big family. Four sisters and 22 nieces and nephews. Getting breast cancer made us all closer, especially with my nephews.
When I started losing my hair, my nephew asked his wife to cut it off for me. I had not cut my hair since 1984. I lost 3 feet of it. She cried when she cut the pony tail.
Accessing health care can be hard on the reservation. There is also a reluctance to seek care for some. But when I was 15 I went to an Indian boarding school where I got used to medical doctors and nurses, so I’ve always been good about getting myself checked for things. I teach all of my nieces and nephews about it now. Tell them to talk about their health. They listen now. Doctors and nurses saved their aunt. I am #1in8."