By Kellie Raymond
May 17, 2011 is a new “birthday” for me, as this date represents another year that I survived a breast cancer diagnosis. Before this date, I related pink ribbons to breast cancer. Now I see the ribbon as a symbol for awareness but there is so much more to breast cancer than awareness. Beyond the ribbon is a network of lifers, survivors, and caretakers. There is also the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) that became a lifeline of support and information during this challenging time of my life.
I was 35 years old and a healthy marathon runner, mother of 3, and an educator. On May 17, my son’s 11th birthday, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I was diagnosed with a very aggressive type of breast cancer called Triple Negative. I am sure I can speak for anyone diagnosed, you never forget the feeling of pure disbelief and utter shock when you are told you have cancer
After my diagnosis things moved quickly; I had several appointments and I needed to make decisions on my treatment, but before May 17th, I didn’t even know there was more than one type of breast cancer. I quickly learned that there were several different types and differences between survival prognosis and treatments for each. Luckily for me I was introduced to the BCRC and joined the Pink Ribbon Cowgirl Forum. This forum helped ease many of my fears and answer many of my questions as I was able to communicate with other women sharing the same journey.
My course of treatment included a bilateral mastectomy, 4 rounds of chemotherapy, 37 radiation treatments, an oophorectomy (ovary removal), and several reconstructive surgeries. Due to my age of diagnosis and family history on my father’s side, I went through genetic testing. It was discovered that I am BRCA-1, which is a chromosomal defect. In simpler words, my breast cancer is genetic. My father and my brother also have the gene. So when my children are 18, they too will be tested for the DNA mutation. They have a 50/50 probability of carrying the gene, however, knowledge is power.
With the support of the BCRC, the community of Dripping Springs, my incredible medical team (Dr. Coombs-Skiles, Dr. Piazza, and Dr. Kasper), I am now 6 years cancer free! I now see Beyond the Ribbon. I continue to remain a part of the BCRC by volunteering for one of their largest fundraisers- Art Bra Austin.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about BCRC and its programs at The Piazza Center’s upcoming Cocktails & Curiosity event. All proceeds from the event will support the BCRC, plus attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the latest in skin care and cosmetic enhancement. RSVP with your donation to the BCRC today!