Category Archives: Breast Cancer

Strut For A Cure – A Survivor’s Story

 

Strut For a Cure Logo

 

Join The Ladies of STRUT today, as they hold multi-state gatherings for Breast Cancer awareness brunch. Yes I did say multi-state as Florida, California, Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana, and New York will all host STRUT For A Cure events on this day.

The STRUT For A Cure Orlando Edition will feature a survivor’s story by me, Yvette Register.  There will be door prizes, signature pieces of jewelry by two local designers, educational information on breast cancer and a STRUT For Survivors.  To show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness, please wear PINK, BLACK or WHITE. If you know a survivor of breast cancer, please invite them. Make sure to add them to the list.

Brio Tuscan Grille’s brunch will be offered to all attendees at your their expense.  This event is sponsored in part by Libby’s Legacy, a local organization that provides support and assistance for Mammogram screenings to the uninsured and under-insured women of Central Florida.

All that is missing from this event is you!

Yvette

My Breast Cancer Journey -Part 5 of 5 (Radiation)

The following article concludes this five-part series written for the Orlando Times Newspaper on 10/3/11

Yvette RegisterI completed my final chemotherapy treatment the last week in August. I was so excited. I remember how I cried my first day. On the last day I grinned the whole time. When I was done I got a chance to ring the bell. It’s a ritual that everyone gets to do when they have completed their last treatment.

I had a three week break before starting radiation to let the side effects of chemotherapy subside. During that time I met with my Radiation Oncologist and radiation technicians who placed markings on the upper part of my body in preparation for treatment. With all the lines drawn on me with a marker, I thought I looked like a human Etch-A-Sketch by the time they finished.

Next, my doctor referred me to a lymphedema therapy specialist because of the swelling in my left arm due to the removal of lymph nodes during surgery. The specialist also works with me on stretching exercises to help restore the range of motion in my arms due to lack of movement over the past several months.

In addition to the above, I celebrated my birthday on September 3rd! I thank God for allowing me to be here for another birthday and for the peach fuzz like hair that is starting to grow back on my head. I’m seeing a lot of gray, though. I said to myself, “Lord I’m not trying to be ungrateful but can I have some brown hair, too?” Don’t worry I’m very grateful to see my hair slowly return.

On September 20th I started the first of 28 radiation treatments. I was done in 15 minutes. That was much better than my five hour chemotherapy treatments. I didn’t cry either. I was prepared for the possible side effects of fatigue and skin irritation. But I was a little nervous about the thought of possible damage to my heart and lung because of the location of the radiation treatment. As I lay on the table, for the first treatment, and the radiation machine started moving around my body I thought, “OK beam, please don’t damage my heart!” Then I realized that the Lord will take care of my heart, too!

Over the past five weeks I have taken you on my breast cancer journey. I’ve covered the diagnosis, assembling my medical and support team, the surgery and my chemotherapy experience. Now I have caught you up to my current radiation treatments. Next week I will begin my fourth week. I’m looking forward to completing my treatments on October 27th.

I’ve come a long way! In February, I came to a detour in the road of life. It was as if the Lord was asking me, “Will you still trust Me now that you have breast cancer?” My answer, “Yes, Lord, I trust You even more now!” He has wiped away my tears and conquered my fears. And He will walk with me in the upcoming years as I continue to go through follow up with my doctors.

As a breast cancer survivor you understand that there is a chance that it could return or show up in another part of the body. My colleague’s late wife, Cindy, taught me a valuable lesson that helps me stay focused. I call it the win/win situation. If I live I win because I get to be here with my family and friends. If I pass I win, because I get to spend eternity in heaven with the Lord.

I’m not worried about leaving just yet. I have to tell as many people as possible about the good news of Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) I have to let as many breast cancer survivors as possible know that they can go through their journey boldly with faith in the Lord. And I pray that I’m here for my son, AJ’s many life experiences.

I thank the Lord for everyone He placed in my life to help me make it through these last nine months. My family and friends have been there every step of the way. Also, the prayers of many continue to help me through the healing process.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Dr. Calvin Collins of the Orlando Times who allowed me to share my journey in this five part series. Because of him I have been able to reach many people and share an experience that has helped strengthen my faith in the Lord. I hope my breast cancer story has been encouraging. Feel free to pass it on to the women you may know who are traveling a similar journey. Tell them Yvette said to live boldly and never stop trusting in the Lord.

 

My Breast Cancer Journey – Part 4 of 5 (Chemo and My Hair)

The following article is part four of a five part series written for the Orlando Times Newspaper on 9/26/11

With my mother at my side, I sat in my Oncologist’s examination room and listened as she told me the results of the tests done on the tumor that was removed during my surgery. The tumor was larger than they thought. Because of the size they considered it stage three breast cancer. My doctor advised me that I would have to have six rounds of chemotherapy and have it administered once every three weeks.

I was so glad my son, AJ, made it home from college before my treatments began. He would be able to go through the chemotherapy journey with me. The morning of my first chemotherapy treatment I gave him a big hug and then my mother and I drove to the hospital.

Once in the hospital I began crying as we waited for the elevator to take us to the 5th floor. I continued to cry when I got off the elevator and signed in. The ladies at the desk said hello but they didn’t say a word about my tears. Neither did my mother. They just let me cry. I appreciated it, too. Sometimes when you go through rough times you don’t need to hear someone say, “Don’t cry.” You have to know that it’s ok to cry.

In the treatment room there was a reclining chair, a TV and another chair so my mother could sit with me. My nurse hung several bags that contained my medicine in it on an IV stand. She connected the first one to the port that was placed in my chest during my surgery. Having a port makes it easier to receive the medicine instead of having to get it through my arm. Once one bag of medicine was finished the machine would beep and the nurse would come in to start another one. For me, the whole process took about five hours. During that time, volunteers came to visit each patient and provided pillows, lunch, cookies, words of wisdom and lots of smiles. When the last bag of medicine was empty I could go home. Three days later I would return to get an injection of another medicine that replenished my white blood cells.

Everyone experiences different side effects. Some of mine included pain in my bones, sore muscles, numbness in my fingers, at times extreme fatigue and at other times insomnia. One thing is for sure, during my entire chemotherapy journey I never lost my appetite. Food stopped tasting good, but I still wanted to eat it! Needless to say, weight gain was another side effect.

From May until the end of August the chemotherapy medicine, the bad cells and the good cells were at war inside of me. Many times I cried out to the Lord and recited “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalms 61:1-2(KJV).

In addition to dealing with side effects, I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was for the big one – the loss of my hair. On May 3rd I had my first chemotherapy treatment. On May 17th my hair started to fall out. I was speechless for a moment. Both hair and tears were falling from my body. My brother, Ron, was at home to hug me and tell me that everything would be ok. I knew it would be but I was thrown off guard because I thought my hair wouldn’t start falling out until the third chemotherapy treatment, not the first one! But there I was trying to plan the inevitable when God had His own schedule. I thought I had learned to let go. I realized I hadn’t. At that moment I finally turned it all over to Him.

It was time to part with my hair. I decided to have it all cut off rather than go through the agony of watching it come out in large amounts. I called my beau, Mac, and asked him to come over to cut my hair. But before I had it cut off, I wanted to prepare my son, AJ, for my baldness. I showed him how much hair I was losing with each stroke of the comb. He watched and said, “Wow!”

The next day it felt awkward sitting and watching my hair being shaved off. When Mac finished my head was as bald as his. I would have to get used to the new image that I saw staring back at me in the mirror. Sometimes I was hard on myself. Sometimes I’d laugh at myself. Soon I began to say “I’ve lost my hair but not my spirit.” Most important, I know that God loves me with hair or without hair. And I know that His love for me does not change.

I’m thankful for all the love, prayers, hugs, visits, positive feedback and words of encouragement that I received from my friends and family during my chemotherapy journey. It wasn’t an easy experience but it wasn’t an impossible one either. I made it through it.

Next week will be the last article on my breast cancer journey as I close with my radiation experience. I encourage you to stay with me as I continue to share how God’s grace has covered my life and made my walk with Him stronger and more courageous! I hope it will be a blessing to others who may have a similar journey!

My Breast Cancer Journey – Part 3 of 5 (Surgery)

The following article is part three of a five part series written for the Orlando Times Newspaper on 9/19/11

Hospital bedWith the medical team in place and my family by my side I was ready to face the next part of my breast cancer journey – the surgery.

At 5:01am on March 25th before going to the hospital for surgery to remove a malignant tumor, my friends poured out their love.  My friend Donna Jones called me and prayed with me.  We cried together.  She reminded me that when I first told her about my diagnosis I said, “I want to be able to help others to know that they can go through this without falling apart.”  Hearing her repeat my words helped me realize that this was the beginning of many opportunities I would have to practice what I preached.

Next, I received a text message from my high school classmate Rubenia Felton.  I remember reading the following, “God have your way today.  Guide the hands of the doctors.  Keep them alert and let nothing distract them.”  She then quoted Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” She closed with “We trust you God, in Jesus name, Amen.”  I then sent a text message to my son who was away at college and let him know that I would call him as soon as I could.

I arrived at the hospital and checked in at 7:00am.  After having pictures and x-rays taken I was led to the pre-op area.  I was greeted by a nurse named Brenda who told me she’d take good care of me.  She then gave me a gown to put on and closed the curtains.  I stood there and thought, “I don’t want to go through with this.”  Tears rolled down my face.  I cried for a moment and then a calm feeling came over me.  I thanked the Lord, wiped my tears, put on the gown and opened the curtain.

Across the room I noticed two nurses looking at me and pointing in my direction.  Could they have heard me crying?  I didn’t think I cried that loud. Then one of them came over to me and told me her name.  It was one of my customers!  She reminded me of how I helped her years ago and how much she appreciated it.  She said she had been waiting for me because she had seen my name posted on the board the day before.  She wanted to tell me that she was a breast cancer survivor and that she felt wonderful.  Look how the Lord works.  She was one of many He sent to comfort me as I prepared for surgery.

After my surgeon went over some last minute things with me the anesthesiologist administered the medicine that knocked me out in less than five minutes.  I woke up in the recovery room and was told the surgery went well.  I was surrounded by my mother, my brother, Ron, my sister-in-law, Barb, my friend, Dawn and my beau, Mac.  I remember praying, “Lord today and during this whole time I saw and felt your love. Thank you.”

I called my son as promised.  I told him that I was talking funny due to the anesthesia but I was ok.  I kept saying the same thing over and over again before someone took the phone from me and told him not to worry.  My mother spent the night with me in the hospital and the next day I was released and went home.

I received a constant flow of get well cards, flowers, gifts, personal visits, emails, text messages, and calls from church members, colleagues, friends and family.   It was heartwarming to know people kept me in their prayers.

I made it through learning about my breast cancer diagnosis, I made it through assembling my medical and support team and I made it through the surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from my body.  I believed the Lord would help me make it through the next phases in my journey – chemotherapy and radiation. The real battle was ahead of me.

I hope you will continue to go with me on this journey.  It is one filled with faith, hope and trust in the Lord.

My Breast Cancer Journey – Part 2 of 5 (Assembling The Medical Team)

The following article is part two of a five part series written for the Orlando Times Newspaper on 9/16/11

medical teamBeing diagnosed with breast cancer was shocking. For a few days I walked around in disbelief. My brother Darryl reminded me of a bible verse I used when I spoke at a church scholarship dinner a couple of years ago.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

It helped because up until then I didn’t have the nerve to review the diagnosis the doctor had given me the prior week. On the lab result I read the words Invasive Adenocarcinoma of the ductal type. It occupied 60 percent of the biopsied tissue. What in the world did that mean? I started researching this on the internet to learn as much as I could so I would be prepared when I talked to the doctors that would make up my medical team. I discovered that this is the most common type of breast cancer and it accounts for 8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers. It starts in a duct, breaks through the wall of the duct and invades the tissue of the breast. It could spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. That was something I really didn’t want to think about. I prayed that spreading had not happened.

After doing some research on my own, I used a three ring binder to organize my notes, diagnosis paperwork, lab test results, doctor’s appointments, questions, insurance paperwork and all the information I’d get during my journey. I needed to do this because it was time to do something. It was time to assemble my medical team.

When I talked to some cancer survivors they told me that when they found out they had breast cancer their surgery followed quickly. For me it seemed like it took forever to get to that point. I spent the entire month of February and most of March interviewing doctors and having more tests done. I asked the Lord to help me find the best doctors for me. I used the recommendations my gynecologist and family practitioner gave me to begin the process of assembling my medical team.

Equipped with my internet research, I interviewed surgeons. I selected my two surgeons because I liked the patient education process they took me through and their compassionate bedside manners. That’s what I was looking for and needed. I would learn that many of the questions I had such as the exact size of the tumor, the stage of the cancer and the type of treatment could not be answered until after the surgery. I was given the surgical options and explained the choices are an individual decision.

I also met with an Oncologist. She would be responsible for the coordination of my chemotherapy treatments. She spent a lot of time during my initial visit and prepared me for what that process involved. She explained that the exact plan of treatment would come after surgery. She didn’t assume that I automatically wanted chemotherapy. When she asked me what I thought I told her “Are you kidding, I already bought a wig! I’m ready.” It was the truth. I thought I might as well get a wig now rather than wait until I was bald. At the end of my appointment she hugged me. Wow! I felt special. I’m glad I added her to my team.

Another member of my medical team that I added was a radiologist. He explained to me that chemotherapy treated the entire body and radiation treated the site where the tumor was removed. He also explained the possible side effects. Again, I would have to wait until after surgery to find out if I needed radiation.

In addition to my medical team, I needed the help of a support system. Part of my support team includes my friends the other part my family. I have been blessed to have my mother heading up the family support team. She has been to every doctor appointment since my diagnosis. And another blessing came in the form of my brother Ron and his wife Barbara. They had been planning to move for a while but couldn’t sell their home. When I told them about my diagnosis, their house sold and they moved to Florida from Ohio to be here to help me in my office so I could focus on getting well. All I know is that without a shadow of a doubt God is great.

I hope you will stay with me as I continue the journey with articles on the surgery, the chemotherapy experience and radiation treatments. It is my desire to let people know that if they or someone they know is diagnosed with breast cancer that they should focus on assembling the best medical care and support team possible. The Lord blesses many doctors with the knowledge and expertise to help heal us through the field of medicine. I am thankful for the healing process in the journey.

My Breast Cancer Journey – Part 1 of 5 (The Diagnosis)

The following article is part one of a five part series written for the Orlando Times Newspaper.

lab technicianIn the beginning it was a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to talk about it because I would start crying. I remember February 1, 2011 like it was yesterday. That was the day the “C” word entered my life and changed it forever. It was the day my doctor told me that I had Breast Cancer! The lump that I found in January and had biopsied was malignant!

I sat in my doctor’s office and listened to her say, “Well Yvette, I don’t have good news.” It sure wasn’t. As I listened, I tried to hold back the tears in my eyes because I was trying to be strong. Some rebelled and fell anyway. I just kept saying, “Wow!” Lots of things ran through my mind like, what will happen to my son, AJ, what could I have done differently, will I lose my business and how do I tell my family. I also remember saying to the Lord, “Lord, I can’t die! I have too many people to help. I have to be here to finish helping AJ through college and the rest of his life. Lord, do I have to go through this?” The answer was yes!

After a long discussion on the journey ahead of me and getting the names of a couple of surgeons, I left my doctor’s office and sat in my car and cried some more. I had a long talk with the Lord and told Him I needed Him to get me through this. I prayed for strength and guidance. And then I called my mother. I just knew the news of my diagnosis would break her heart. To my surprise she was very calm. I know it was for my sake and I’m sure when I hung up the phone she cried, too. But telling her was a partial relief for me.

In the upcoming weeks, in between my MRI and searching for my Cancer Medical Team, I found the courage to talk with two cancer survivors. Winsome Edwards and Iselyn Dallas had traveled the road I would come to know well. In addition to their advice I read Lakeba Wallace’s book entitled “You can make it!” All three ladies I had met years ago. I believe the Lord planned it that way to prepare me for my journey. From them, collectively, they shared the following words of encouragement:

Breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence! Especially since there have been many advancements in cancer treatment.

Take one day at a time!

Sleep when I don’t feel well!

Ask the surgeons about my plan of care, the stage of my cancer, the chances of re-occurrence, the type, etc!

A diet of fruits, vegetables, chicken/fish and lots of water would be very helpful!

You are stronger than you know!

I can make it!

Next, I gradually began letting people know of my diagnosis. It wasn’t easy but I felt relief and a sense of freedom. I felt free from the worry and stress of keeping a secret. I had people tell other people and it made it easier on me. For example I told Deb Moore, my college friend, and she called, emailed and texted our other college friends to let them know. It made it much easier on me when they called to have the “I was diagnosed with breast cancer” discussion out of the way. I told my staff immediately and we cried together. But I waited until I lost my hair from the chemo treatments to tell my fellow agents. I don’t know why, I just did. The main thing is that I told as many people as possible. I wanted to assemble prayer warriors.

During my journey I’ve found that a lot of people keep silent about breast cancer. In the beginning I was one of them. I’m writing a five part series to give others a glimpse of the journey they call a battle. Many are not aware unless they or a loved one has experienced it. My friend Renee Scott suggested I take her on my journey, because it may help her with a loved one or a friend in the future. Today I began sharing my breast cancer journey with the diagnosis. I hope you’ll come with me when I share putting together the medical and support team, the surgery, the chemotherapy experience and the radiation treatments in the upcoming series of articles.

It is my desire to let people know that you don’t have to go through breast cancer silently or alone. It can be done boldly with:

The comfort and support of others!

A strong faith in God!

I want my words to encourage, inspire and be a blessing to others. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE IN THE JOURNEY!