The Gift – Stacie G.

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“Having breast cancer has been the scariest, saddest and most humbling time in my life. This horrible cancer not only found its way into my left breast but separated into three tumors climbing it’s way to my lymph nodes. Before cancer life passed by at lightning speed, I was a supper mom juggling schedules and taking care of everyone else but me. This all stopped in March 2015, now it was time to focus on myself, but was it too late? No it wasn’t! I am here today because of my husband. A true life Super Man who supported a sick, depressed wife and three children without a single thought. My Mom who came to almost every chemo and would take me home and stay to help until she too was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months later. We also had family and friends who brought meals, planned play-dates so my boys had something to do over the summer, rides to chemo, helping administer Neupogen shots. These are the gifts that I hold so close to my heart. I am still humbled by the outreach of support and love. Truly, thankful for all the gifts God has given to us.”

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The Gift – Cindy S.

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“I have come to think of my cancer diagnoses, as my universal reboot. Weeks before my first cancer diagnosis, my anemia problem was growing worse due to increased bleeding, while I was adjusting to a new role at a job I was trying to feel better about. I had been unhappy there for some time, and crazy stressed by new responsibilities that I thought were just the thing to fulfill me as an Inventory Control Specialist.

May 6, 2013 I checked into the hospital for a hysterectomy that would end the horrible bleeding I was experiencing. The doctors were so sure I just had vicious fibroid tumors. As I awoke from the anesthesia, I saw and heard my surgeon say, through my foggy state, “We found cancer.” They found 4th Stage Metastatic Endometrial Cancer. They found the neck met, the next day in a CAT scan, as well as 3rd Stage Triple Negative Breast Cancer in one breast. What a sock in the face! Two advanced cancers. My excellent cancer team administered a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. The PET scan follow-up showed no signs of active cancer, my oncologist told me.

I get a call a couple weeks later, from my internist. There was a tiny bright spot that he noticed on the scan. I had Thyroid Cancer. Might as well make it a triple. So, out went my thyroid gland. I took the radioiodine treatment, a standard treatment for thyroid cancer, and that cancer resolved, as well. No more cancer activity in my body.

As I was getting the treatments, recovering from cancer and the treatments, new people and opportunities began to enter my life. I joined a cancer support group and met two dear friends. We know we were all meant to meet each other. The bond took effect so quickly. Had the three of us not had cancer, at that time, in that city, seeking that support, we probably would never have met each other. I formed many new relationships that started with the common denominator of cancer, but developed into deep connections of caring and trust among individuals.

I lost my job in the course of receiving treatment. Yes- in the course of receiving treatment. It happens to people with cancer, more than it should. Truth is, I wanted a different job anyway. I was miserable in my position, for quite a while, but never made the full commitment to myself, to change that situation. My thinking is that, I was not on the true path for my life, so the universe did me a solid, and stepped in. Universe: “Yeah, uh, Cindy is not getting it. Time to pull out the big guns.” So they did.

The gift of my getting cancer was it stripped away all the things that prevented me from living true to myself. The spirit-draining job, trusting the wrong people, and keeping a toxic friendship. All of them had to go, so I could give my all to fighting cancer; not to struggle uphill for things that do not enhance my life or my spirit’s happiness. Cancer’s “gift” is different for each person. Look for it to propel you into your own life’s truth.”

The Gift – Marlene W.

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“Tumultuous: involving a lot of violence, confusion, or disorder

I have a tumultuous relationship with cancer.
“It” caused complete havoc in my life in the Spring of 2014. When I was diagnosed, I was shocked, angry and confused.
Forced to prepare for the unknown and armed with the absolute determination not to allow anything to control my Life, my decision was to fight back and live a meaningful life.
Once the short-lived shock, anger and confusion had subsided I began to focus on strengthening my Spiritual relationship. God’s grace & mercy allowed me to weather this stormy health crisis. The strengthening of my faith was the first ingredient to my recovery. The second component was a large number of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and others that helped me, everyday, with everything.
I was blessed to experience for the first time, what “It takes a village” truly meant… The third element was exercise, particularly yoga.
I never liked yoga but I now love yoga! I attended a life-changing yoga retreat in June, 2015, sponsored by The Foundation for Living Beauties in Santa Barbara, California. The yoga retreat linked me to the amazingly sensitive photographer, Cynthia Perez and The Scars Project. I was actually part of a professional photo shoot! I have never experienced more freedom, physical beauty and empowerment in my life. The past year has been unbelievably difficult with so many insurmountable hurdles but as I continue to rely on God’s guidance, my journey becomes easier and less tumultuous yielding manageability and ease.”

The Gift – Laura A.

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“‘The Gift’ that cancer gave to me….

Cancer gave me many gifts but the most important one, was the gift of Gratitude.  I use to live a life that I thought was decent, I felt I was a good person, I was appreciative.  I never imagine that i could have been more appreciative, more patient, more loving especially since I already had the “Mommy” title…..In June 2009 my world was suddenly magnified, I suddenly became hyper aware of everything and everyone.  I was dealt the Cancer card ….what i like to call a double edged sword…I wish I didn’t have to ever experience it but I did and because of it, I received so many gifts ….I received compassion, friendship, love, and the most important one was Gratitude. One can read all the cute quotes about how you only live once, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and so on…Yes, there are many truths to them but to actually live through Cancer or with Cancer makes everything so much more meaningful. Gratitude describes my everyday feeling, even when I am having the worst day I am grateful for what I do have….I have life and I have time.”

The Gift – Gena C.

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“I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer on October 1, 2009. I don’t think anyone wants to hear those words but I knew I would beat it. The gloves were on and I was ready to kick butt.
After 9 months of chemotheraphy, surgery, radiation I thought I knocked it out. To my surprise winning that fight was only the beginning. I spent another year fighting auto immune issues. So the testing begins, MRI’s, PET scans, CT scans, blood work. I was told I would need a liver transplant within a year. I was in a wheelchair for about 6 month caused by my lupus diagnose and fatigue that would keep me in bed for days.
To say that this was a lot to deal with, it was. I know that I’m a strong person but at a point you need someone or something to hold you up. I had my loved ones and friends but I needed someone to really understand what it was like to walk in my shoes. I joined support groups and cancer organization all very helpful but I believe the biggest transformation was my first yoga retreat that the “Foundation for Living Beauty” hosted.
I will never forget the first day. I felt like I belonged and I was understood. More importantly I was embraced so tight I felt completely supported. I could be strong and vulnerable at the same time. I met women whos fight was harder than mine and  the courage they possessed only made me stronger. It is the strength in that room that first day I carry with me.
Now when I’m told how amazing I look or how great I’m doing or what an inspiration I am, I know that I carry the strength and courage of these beautiful women. That is the gift the “Foundation for Living Beauty” gave me and others fighting cancer.
I did know that first day I was diagnosed that I would survive cancer but I could have never imagine the sisterhood that empowers me everyday.

I’M GENA AND I’M A LIVING BEAUTY “

The Gift – Paula V.

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“It’s hard to find a silver lining when you’ve been told you have cancer for the second time. This has been my life for the past three years. I hold tight to the belief that I am a survivor who is living with, not dying from, advanced metastatic breast cancer. This helps provide the balance, hope, and gratitude I try to find in every moment, and with each person who is a part of my life and recovery. Having cancer is such a dichotomy – at times life moves very quickly with the never-ending commitments of treatment, testing, doctor visits. More than a full time job, to say the least. But what happens, out of choice, maybe out out of necessity, is a slowing down, a re-positioning of ones place in life. I choose to surround myself with friends and family who love and support me unconditionally, who hold onto hope and life, especially during difficult times when I can’t. They are my lifelines, they are my ‘gifts’.”

The Gift – Rosario B.

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“I am a lucky girl.
‘Don’t worry it is probably a false positive, most are!’ – My doctor’s words.
I am glad I did!
I am a lucky girl!
I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma stage II shortly after.
After a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy, here I am!
I lost my hair, my eyelashes, and my eyebrows but, yet blossomed inside.
My energy was gone, however never my inner strength.
I grew strong.
Friends and family stood in disbelief as they watched me go through this journey.
I am a lucky girl!
I am lucky to have such a great husband, parents, siblings & friends.
I learned that we, as human beings, are able to withstand the unimaginable.
For me there was no other choice.
Yes, I have lost my breasts but have gained so much more.
Today I am blessed to watch my son grow into this incredible human being.
I am a lucky girl!
Today I live in the moment because I do not know what lies ahead.
Today I appreciate my loved ones so much more for they are my source of strength.
Today I count my blessings.
Today as always I realize…
I am a lucky girl.”

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The Gift – Robin L.

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“The Gift of Cancer.

I know by now most of you are wondering if this title is a mistake. I am here to share with you how having cancer has improved my life. So a little about me first. I am 61 years old,married with 2 adult children Kira and Seth. Two different fathers but that’s a whole different story. Lived in Ventura California for the past 24 years. I am the kind of person who likes to be involved in my community. I am what some people call a take charge kind of person who helps others. Trained as a social worker I have helped others all my life.

So let’s skip to about 2 and a half years ago.  Funny this reminds me of when I was young and used the half way marker to show people I was older. Of course now I just use the correct year. Ha Ha. In this case since my mastectomy the more years away from that dx the better in terms of it coming back. I know I said it was a gift but getting it once is enough of a gift.  Although if it does come back I am sure I will learn more.

Though my treatment I the independent take charge person who helped others was learning how to accept help from others. A foreign concept to me.  In addition I learned that life does have an end. I often had trouble being in touch with my feelings. With cancer, I was able to take opportunities that helped me become more in touch with my feelings I became more spiritual and less anxious. Instead of always thinking about the future, being in the moment was important. I was able to appreciate small things like a sunset. Sounds silly maybe to anyone who doesn’t have time to stop their busy lives and appreciate such things.  It also has taken away my fear about death and need to control things. Ability to control things go out the door once you are diagnosed. I feel I can live life to the fullest now. However one might define that. For me my relationships have improved and I have learned to take time for myself.

Being part of this book and letting you all look at my new body has helped me also to accept myself as I am. Not only because I have one breast but because of who I am as a total person.  Which includes the good the bad and the ugly.

Please learn from me that taking care of yourself and accepting yourself as you are is the greatest gift “

The Gift – Sharon C.

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“I have been given a new identity of sorts: I have a new birthday, with new birth-marks (scars), I have new sisters (Living Beauties) and a New Now. I have learned to appreciate Now, love me as I am, find joy in taking time for small things and appreciate my gift of joyful living and being grateful for each day.”

Sharon Hubby

The Gift – Jacque R.

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“The Gift!

Breast cancer is one of the best things to happen in my life. I know that sounds either crazy or like a cliché. From the time I was diagnosed, had a mastectomy, completed chemotherapy, and had five surgeries, I was surrounded by a community of friends (old and new) who helped me and my two sons. As a single mom who lost income-earning abilities, we would have been homeless and hungry without these amazing angels. The best gift of all is my ignited focus and commitment to serve others as an advocate, mentor, and resource as they trudge through their journey with breast cancer. If I had not had breast cancer, I would have missed out on many of the beautiful friendships I now have. While I would not have chosen breast cancer, I would not change it!”

Jacque Son