In July of 2011, I discovered a lump in my breast. But with no family history of breast cancer, coupled with my young age, I thought it would turn out to be “nothing” – a hopeful self-diagnosis that would be verbally “confirmed” by the first doctor I consulted.
Unsettled by a nagging internal voice, I decided to switch doctors, only to be told that that “nothing” was indeed a serious “something” – a cancerous tumor measuring three centimeters, roughly the diameter of a quarter.
I heard the words “stage two breast cancer” but couldn’t absorb them. I thought it was a mistake, praying that someone got it wrong.
I was then referred to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. My doctor said it was the only place to go, and looking back, I have to agree. My surgical oncologist and the comprehensive care I received at Roswell Park were exceptional.
My path to recovery, however, was daunting. Treatment included eight rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by a lumpectomy and 45 sessions of radiation. I finished treatment in April 2012, and today, I am cancer-free and deeply committed to a cause close to my heart.
The experience taught me something - not only to give back, but to give voice to issues that affect all women – even young women like me.
I began by working with Detric Johnson of the Buffalo/Niagara Witness Project, a community outreach program that uses storytelling in churches and other community settings to educate participants on early breast and cervical cancer detection. Collaborating with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Roswell Park program is funded in part by the WNY Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Detric showed me the ropes and I am forever grateful for her guidance and wisdom. The Witness Project helped me and many others in my shoes, see things more clearly.
I felt like I could do even more to inform and influence women in the Western New York community, not only about cancer, but also about health and healthy living. So I founded a local organization called For Our Daughters. Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower women by raising awareness, applying what we learn and then passing it on to the next generation. The program, also funded in part by the WNY Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, speaks to young people, particularly young women in high school and college. To date, students from Lockport High School, Medina High School and Sweet Home High School, among other schools, have participated and benefitted from the program.
For Our Daughters was started because I have a daughter and I believe that there are important lessons to be found in the phrase “Like Mother, Like Daughter.” We are trying to create programs geared toward inspiring our children, especially our daughters, to live healthy lives and influence those around them. Like so many other women, I went through a difficult challenge. More times than I can count, I wanted to throw in the towel, but when I looked at my children, I knew that I had to continue to fight. They need to continue the fight, too. We’re all in this together.