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Joy in the Morning
with Katie Hines

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Breast Cancer Survivors:  Three Incredible Women
by Katie Hines     

During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have spoken with three incredible woman, all breast cancer survivors.  Although their cases are markedly different, all three emphasize that their personal faith, support from loved ones, churches, and friends carried them through the difficult times of diagnosis, treatment, and life post-diagnosis/-treatment.
Our first survivor is Helen Martin.  She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of fifty-six.  A biopsy revealed cancer hidden in the scar tissues of an earlier biopsy.  She received the news and thought, “Here it is, let’s deal with it.”
After diagnosis and surgery, she had four months of radiation treatment.  Her church family scheduled one member to accompany her on her treatment days.
For her last session of radiation therapy, her boss rented a limousine to take her and her friends to her last appointment.  They played Pomp & Circumstance, gave her flowers, made a graduation certificate, and ate at Steak and Ale.
She kept a journal, and in those pages, she confronted her fears, and wondered what the diagnosis would mean and how would it change her life.
Now eight years post-diagnosis, she encourages women to have monthly breast self-exams, yearly mammograms, and be examined by a physician.
Partnered with the American Cancer Society, the ACS alerts her when a woman in the area is newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  She pairs a survivor with the person, and they lend support as needed.
Janice Boggs discovered her breast cancer when she was sixty-four.  Her left breast hurt, and about a quarter of it was red.  A visit to her family doctor resulted in antibiotics for what he decided was a bug bite.
Three rounds of antibiotics later, with her breast continuing to worsen, she consulted other health care professionals and finally received the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer.
She wasn’t prepared  for the shock and numbness she felt when diagnosed.  Her breast was removed, and the doctors found the cancer contained within the breast tissues.  Once the breast was removed, she did not need chemotherapy or radiation.
When she awoke from her mastectomy, she felt as though a tremendous load had been lifted.  She felt no pain, and was on an emotional high.  Other survivors cautioned her that she would face a period of melancholy.  When it happened, she struggled with knowing she no longer had two breasts.  Her husband didn’t care, she said.  He and their friends were a tremendous help and support to her.
Mrs. Boggs, now a year since diagnosis and treatment, strongly encourages women to check their breasts daily, and note any abnormalities.  If any are found, seek help immediately. 
Nena Cloer was thirty-eight when she hugged her husband and felt pain in her breast.  After consulting several medical professionals, both were devastated at the diagnosis of breast cancer.   Thirteen days after consulting two surgeons and an oncologist, she was receiving chemotherapy and later, radiation treatments.
She received phenomenal support from family and friends.  Mrs. Cloer’s mother drove five hours every week to help care for Mrs. Cloer and her family.
When her hair fell out, Mrs. Cloer immediately bought several very colorful hats.  The next Sunday when she went to church, about fifty women also wore hats.
At one low point during treatment, she was susceptible to infection and could not go outdoors.  Instead she watched through a window as her children played in the yard and was depressed that she couldn’t even buy them birthday gifts.
Although she experienced mood swings, she and her family founds things to laugh about.  Friends would call with jokes, and she found her attitude and reliance on her faith were keys to getting better.
With her cancer a year and  a half behind her, Mrs. Cloer emphasizes the importance of doing monthly breast self-exams.  “Take control of your health care,” she said.  “And if you have a doctor you don’t trust, go to another until you find one you can.”
These three women are all breast cancer survivors.  They have risen above their diagnoses, above their fears.  They have embraced their faith in new ways, and have gained new appreciation for their families.  Their stories are sign posts to wellness for other cancer patients on their road to recovery.


Copyright © 2007 Katie Hines

Katie Hines majored in English in college, and is currently finishing her second book, a middle grade children’s novel.  She is a member of the Oconee Writer’s Association.  She lives in South Carolina with her children and husband of 20 years.  Visit Katie's web site at




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