STILL Don’t be Afraid of the Answer! | Nancy Finley Barbour

loudounseptoct2016_page_25What a difference a year makes. For those that were introduced to me in this magazine a year ago, you already know that my story about breast cancer is one of early detection. I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer a month after my 50th birthday in 2013. It was definitely a blow to my otherwise healthy life. After a partial mastectomy that included breast reconstruction (yep, I’m half the size I used to be), I went through radiation. I was blessed that chemotherapy was not needed so from the outside, I looked the same. No hair loss, no weight loss (unfortunately), no extended hospital visits. Only a few family and friends were made aware and they were my support system – that is, until the article a year ago. I thank the wonderful, beautiful publisher of Virginia Woman Magazine, Dorri Scott, for her vision to educate women and let us tell our stories. I now receive texts, emails and calls from friends telling me that they made their annual mammogram appointments.

It is a badge of honor and courage to make sure that you go every year, without pause. My story last year focused on not being afraid of the answer from your doctor. I humbly admit that after I went through breast cancer, I was afraid to continue with my annual mammograms. I didn’t want to know the answer, good or bad. After two years of ‘skipping’ the annual appointment, I had the courage to again pick up the annual ritual in March of this year, at the encouragement of my general physician, Dr. Natasha Simmons-Wyllie. It was a happy day when I received the call that all was okay for another year. Lesson learned: Don’t put it off because early detection is the key to survival.

I am thankful that my health continues to improve every day. I have had several speaking engagements where I’ve been able to tell my story. I always add in the part about seeking emotional help because breast cancer is devastating to women. Our breasts are such a major part of our lives, beginning at a young age when we either become a C cup real fast, or stay an A cup for the rest of our lives. I went from a D cup to a B cup after surgery. I still look down sometimes and think, “What happened to my prized possessions?” The biggest difference in my life is that I am very happy to unsnap my bra at the end of the day and let the girls run free. I know, too much information, but I am amongst friends! I’m still healing, both emotionally and physically, but the scars are a constant reminder of what I went through. At the end of the day, I am thankful, grateful, faithful and all the other ‘fuls that came with early detection. I again encourage everyone to not be afraid of the answer. Make that appointment today!

 

Warrior Woman Kelly Duckworth | One Year Later

loudounseptoct2016_page_24A whole year has passed since my beautiful survivor-sister Nancy Barbour and I were featured on the cover of Virginia Woman, and I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’m still here, smiling, healthy, happy, and thriving!

The past year has been one of learning. I’ve maintained a healthy body by exercising and following a (mostly) healthy diet. I’m learning- with some gentle nudging/ reminders from my friends- that rest and sleep are extremely important factors in health maintenance and physical safety. There is no shame in a nap or going to bed early. There is no shame in having a glass of wine with dinner. There is no shame in blowing off some house chores to go have fun! Life is about finding the happy medium.

Twelve years ago, when my late husband passed away just weeks just before our son was born, I recall sitting on the floor, in tears, thinking “I don’t know what to do, I seriously feel like I’m going to go nuts.” That week, I received one of many sympathy cards, but one in particular one stood out. The pre-inscribed message in the card said “Just remember, the mightiest Oak Tree was once just a nut that held its ground.” This quote resonated within me, and it still comes to mind when I need to feel strength. I’m drawn to pictures of Oak Trees as they remind me that I once felt like I was going to go nuts, but now I am so much stronger. Each and every day my strength grows and I will always aspire to be that mighty Oak.

This year, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel, and I’ve learned something: Life is truly a journey. Not just the type of journey where you plug point A and point B into your GPS and drive, but the type of journey filled with twists/turns, bumps, roadblocks, and occasionally getting completely lost! On each journey, I’ve learned that it is imperative to stay calm, be acutely aware of my surroundings, weigh my options, and make appropriate decisions based on that information. Such is the same with real life. The ultimate goal is to arrive safely at a destination that reflects the real you.

I have developed a passion for mission trips, having recently traveled to the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip. Next up is India and Nepal in late October for another medial mission trip, and my heart races with excitement each time I think about the upcoming journey. While in the D.R., I had the opportunity to serve over a thousand children and adults needing basic medical care. Many of these people had nothing- no roof over their head, no access to food, potable water, medical care, or even basic safety- but they all had a smile. They took nothing for granted.

As you travel on you own life journey, I encourage you to embrace the twists, turns, bumps, and roadblocks. Learn all you can from every person you encounter. You might meet some nuts along the way, but you might also take a detour down a sunlit path lined with glorious mighty Oak Trees. When you take that detour, take a seat under that big Oak and bask in the glory of who you have become.

By Kelly Duckworth

Meet Connie Bash, Breast Cancer Warrior!

LoudounWOJOSeptOct2015_Page_22My journey with Breast Cancer began with the first dawn of the year 2000. My cancer was triple negative, meaning it was aggressive, likely to spread/ recur, and difficult to treat. Although it was a poor prognosis, I never allowed that to permeate my thinking.

Throughout the entire year of 2000, we (my doctors and I, with the loving support of family and friends) took a hard line of attack… and won.

During the treatment, I lived my life as normally as possible; and after, was determined to move forward without looking back. It took me years to become comfortable with the term survivor. I did not want my identity to be tied in so tightly with the disease. Grateful, I strived to give back in all areas of my life, including raising money for causes important to me, like Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

But it wasn’t until I was reporting on statistics of the disease – to raise awareness, prompt people to take charge of their health, and donate- that it hit me. It was important for me to own my Survivorship; not to define me, but to provide hope and be a source of strength for those entering this fight, and to honor those who did not get to wear the title Survivor.

The by-product of surviving Breast Cancer is the proof that I am resilient and strong, and the knowledge that I can overcome any challenge put my way.

Great traits for an entrepreneur! I know what I am made of, I trust myself, and am not afraid to pave my own way! Dorri, Thank you for celebrating women recognizing their strengths within!

Blessings and good health to all!

By: Connie Bash

Meet Kelly Duckworth, Breast Cancer Warrior!

LoudounWOJOSeptOct2015_Page_21I have been an ER nurse for 20 years and I have shared in countless victories for patients as well as help them through their darkest hours. I have cared for babies taking their first breath of air to patients that have just taken their last breath and everything you could possibly imagine in between. I cheer for my patients, I hurt for my patients, and I can’t imagine any other profession that I would rather be in. Being an ER nurse makes me feel like I make a difference every day.

I have always felt a certain degree of empathy for all of my patients in some way. My life, like many others, has come with its own difficulties and challenges. In 2004, when I was 37 weeks pregnant with my son, I received word that my husband had just been killed in a plane crash. I delivered my son 20 days later and carried him in my arms to his own father’s funeral when he was merely eight days old.

Seven years later, I was blessed to find love a second time, and married a wonderful man who later legally adopted my son. As we approach our fourth year of marriage, I realize how difficult it has been. On the third day of our honeymoon, I suffered a head injury so severe that it kept me out of work for three months. The following year was not much better as I suffered two very difficult miscarriages. Yet, nothing could prepare me for those three awful words that were spoken to me in March, 2014 that again took me from being a nurse to being a patient: “You have cancer.” The unfairness of it hit me and I was immediately full of emotions: rage, fear, turmoil, sadness, and disbelief.  As it sunk in, I had to decide how I was going to handle this new challenge that had been laid before me.

If you know me, you know that I have been blessed with the ability to continually find the good things that come out of the bad. I am a very positive person, and my strength, resiliency and sense of humor have carried me through many a difficult time. On the day of my diagnosis, I decided my modus operandi would be no different. The following year would include several surgeries to remove cancer from my breast and lymph nodes, five months of chemotherapy, complications that put me in the ICU on multiple life-saving IV drips, and nearly seven weeks of daily radiation.

My family and friends have given me the name “Warrior”; a perfect name for me based on my Irish heritage. My name, Kelly, means “Warrior” in Gaelic, and “Warrior” is the name given to breast cancer survivors.

As I said, good things can always be found; you simply have to be willing to look for them. I have felt the unwavering love of my family, friends, and coworkers, who all wore a special “Team Warrior” t-shirt to support me during my treatment. Since being in remission, I have continued to better myself and help others by raising money and walking in the Avon 39 miles over two days and running in the Komen 5k the following weekend. I was a team captain for our local Relay for Life event, and was named “Nurse of the Year” by my peers this year! I have taught my son to persevere through difficult circumstances, as I have shown my own strength.

No matter what happens,
I will be a survivor,
I will be a warrior.
Just you watch me.

By: Kelly Duckworth

Meet Nancy Finley Barbour, Breast Cancer Warrior!

LoudounWOJOSeptOct2015_Page_20My story is about the importance of early detection. March 1, 2013 is forever  etched in my brain. I listened to a voice message on my phone earlier in the day from my gynecologist, Dr. Gloria Ivey-Crowe. It was a Friday and I didn’t bother to call back because I was certain that the result of the biopsy I had a few days earlier was negative. No way did I have breast cancer. NOT ME. I received a call back late in the afternoon and was told that I did indeed have Ductal Cancinoma In Situ, DCIS.

Thankfully this is an early stage and is referred to as stage zero breast cancer or pre-cancer with a 99% survival rate. The diagnosis that I had an early stage did not minimize the shock, worry or pain of being told I had breast cancer a month after celebrating my 50th birthday. NOT ME. I watched a few years earlier while one of my good friends, Trish, battled and survived Stage 4 breast cancer so I was aware that my faith in God and strength as a woman would get me through it as it did her. Again, that did not minimize my pain. NOT ME. I am not afraid to admit I cried – a lot.

The next couple of months after the diagnosis were a blur of doctor’s appointments, decisions to make, a painful partial mastectomy with breast reconstruction, recovery, and healing. Two years later, I have days where I am still in pain.

I went through radiation after surgery, but didn’t need chemotherapy so I did not lose my hair, the universal sign that a person is going through cancer. I had no outward evidence so many that saw me during this time didn’t know and I didn’t share. NOT ME. That was a mistake because I missed some much-needed support beyond my loving husband Paul, daughter Lindsey and a few close friends and family.

My advice to women reading my story is to schedule your annual mammograms. Don’t skip the appointment or the follow up because you are afraid of the answer. I am a believer now because I know it could have been a lot worse. I am alive and well and have a testimony. YES, ME!

By: Nancy Finley Barbour

Letter from the Publisher | September/October 2015

Hello Friends

Four years ago we introduced you to our inaugural class of “ WOMAN “Thrivers”. This year we introduce you to our class of 2015 “Warriors” – 3 breast cancer survivors including a male who shares his breast cancer story. (Yes! Men too can be diagnosed with breast cancer.)

Celebrating a life-interrupted due to breast cancer, each “survivor-thriver” has raised the bar since our first edition. Two ladies from last year (Eileen Isola and Connie Bash) have updated us. Enjoy their success stories and inspirational updates.

They are FEARLESS and all look great thanks to the creative artistry of photographer Valerie Cavalheri and makeup artist Jamie D’Agostino. (See Kelly and Nancy pages 19, 20 and 21).

Added to the breast cancer issue, we are honoring one ovarian cancer “thriver”. Her courageous stories brings light to the silent killer.

And finally, be encouraged by a mother’s love, shared by Sharon Ferraro, who has never stopped fighting for her daughter Nikki, diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her teenage years. Their happy ending is a must read!

Climbing new heights (and raising money) through events, races and auctions, September and October are filled with activities.

Kindly, Dorri

Obstinate, “She-Warrior” and the Power of HOPE | Breast Cancer Awareness

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_19The call came at 8:21 am on Friday, May 31st, 2013. A memory that will be forever etched in the granite of my life. I had undergone an excisional biopsy earlier that week which was the surgical culmination of my breasts being extensively tracked, monitored, examined, poked, squeezed, mammo’d, ultrasounded, MRI’d, and needle biopsied since 1996. May 31st is made even more memorable because I was in the bathroom sitting “mid-stream” when my cell phone rang. I looked down and saw it was Dr. M – and wished like heck I had done more kegelling.

“As I hurriedly “clamped down” before the call kicked to voice mail, I was immediately consumed with good news-bad news anxiety. Do doctors call at eight o’clock in the morning with bad news? Or does bad news keep til business hours?”

“Eileen, you have breast cancer. It’s called DCIS… ductal carcinoma in situ.”

Later, after further pathology, we learned I had extensive DCIS from my chest wall to the nipple and also LCIS. And so I was issued my membership in the pink ribbon union. This was just the first step of a million along a path of unknown terrain. I am still working every day to navigate it, some good, some not-so-good.

I had entered a whole new world and nothing…not even my 24-year career as a US Air Force officer and pilot with combat time…had prepared me for this. But I am not one who “goes gently into that good night” –  it is just not part of my DNA. I dove head-long into educating myself on breast cancer and quickly figured out that it is an industry unto itself with its own unique protocols, medical jargon, conversational lexicon, and culture. Hours at my dining room table in front of my laptop turned into days which turned into weeks as I struggled to understand my form of breast cancer, what the standard of care is, how I should be treated, where I could be treated, and what my recovery would consist of.

Most difficult and destabilizing of all, however, was the fight to figure out how I was going to pay for it all. Despite having both military retiree health insurance and being a service-disabled veteran, I could find no breast team capable of performing my surgeries and treatment that would take my insurance, and amazingly (perhaps not) my VA medical center had no knowledge of the standard of care for treating breast cancer. Somehow it never occurred to me to be in fear of losing my life.

Denial is a power that sometimes cannot be reckoned with. The She-Warrior prevailed carried on the wings of my God and strengthened daily…literally and figuratively…by a humor-rich network of angels: legions of friends, my amazing family, my business community, my extremely skilled and always wellaccessorized breast surgeon, my most gifted physical therapist, and, most of all, my spouse, Becky, who has the heart of Aslan. We threw a “Ta Ta to the Ta-tas Party” and, several bottles of wine later, the group had produced a list of 78 different terms and phrases for “breast.” Who knew?

When complications arose from my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery that necessitated leech therapy (yes, leeches), we named them Thelma and Louise, Bert and Ernie, and Jacques and Pierre in tribute to their Montreal origination. When those same complications yielded me a reconstructed breast on the right and a permanent implant on the left, I
named them Thing 1 and Thing 2. I decided that Dr. Seuss was as capable as anyone to help me through this. (I do not know if I like green eggs and ham.) But nothing…nothing…can eclipse the day my surgeon proclaimed me CANCER FREE. They had gotten it all!

No chemo…no radiation…no tamoxifen. I promptly made an appointment with the local FAA medical examiner for a flight physical…and passed. It will be a little while longer before I have the upper torso and arm strength back to feel comfortable piloting an airplane. I have several more surgeries to go, and pain management and physical therapy remain a major
focus. But how far I have come in the last year…it is exactly one year ago today, August 15th, as I write this that my breasts were amputated. I do not yet have the reflective perspective that comes only with time and distance along this million step path. But it will come…one step, one angel, one day at time. And I will be here to embrace it.

By Eileen Isola

Maintaining a Positive Attitude | Breast Cancer Awareness

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_18New Year’s Eve, 1999, as I was getting ready for the evening, I did a quick “breast check” in the shower and felt a substantial lump. This took me by surprise. I’ve had mammograms every year since I was 35, saw my gynecologist regularly and did self-breast exams monthly–lying down. So what was this?

I jumped out of the shower, lay down on the bed and did my usual check. It was hard to detect. I sat up –there it was. It was a Friday and New Year’s Eve and there was nothing I could do until after the weekend. I called first thing on Monday, but the only available appointment was over two months away. I scheduled it. Two months later, during the appointment, my doctor asked why I waited – an appointment would have been made for me if they had been aware of the situation. Luckily, he realized the urgency and scheduled me for a biopsy immediately. Since the surgeon was in the same building I ran up the stairs, reassuring myself that I was in control; but the truth was my legs were shaking. During the biopsy they took out 17 lymph nodes. My doctors informed me that breast cancer is generally identified by the presence or lack presence of three hormone receptors: estrogen, progesterone, and the Her 2 receptor. Treatment is determined by those receptors. Three months after I first felt the lump, I learned that my tumor was triple negative: lacking all three. What this meant was that my cancer was aggressive and more likely to return. A lumpectomy was scheduled and I was told I would have back-to-back chemo regimens, since with this type of cancer chemo is not optional. Fortunately, at the time of my diagnosis, I was a flight attendant and was able to use my accumulated sick time throughout my treatments. I needed that time to concentrate on my needs.

Everyone chooses their own approach to coping with possible life altering events; one of mine had been to wait until I got the results before sharing my news with anyone. With the surgery date looming I told my parents, boyfriend and a few select friends. I continued running and exercising until I couldn’t. I wanted to keep what was going on with my life private and carry on with as few changes as possible. But cancer does take a toll on those who care for you. In some ways, my being sick probably hurt my parents more than it did me. I know of romantic relationships that have grown stronger from going through a life changing experience together, but mine wasn’t one of them. My boyfriend wasn’t able to handle the stress and our relationship didn’t make it through my treatments. Unlike a lot of people I know, I also chose not to delve too deeply into researching my cancer on the Internet and avoided support groups (except the “Look Good, Feel Better” program). I didn’t want to listen or be influenced by other people’s stories. I didn’t want to have to answer, “I’m fine,” each time I was asked how I was—especially if I wasn’t. I was intent on maintaining a positive attitude and concentrating on living my life.

Throughout it all, I never stopped reminding and believing, with all my being, that I was going to be fine. I think I had an easier time than some because of a concentrated effort to maintain a positive attitude.

I am now 14 years cancer-free and out of the danger zone. The experience made me a stronger person, and has resulted in an enriched, more meaningful life. I am blessed.

By Connie Bash

My Mom Got Breast Cancer When I Was Three

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_21My mom got breast cancer when I was 3. At the time, I didn’t know what breast cancer was. She was 32 years old and she was always happy and doing things. Then one day, she told
me she had to have surgery to fix a booboo in her chest, and that she wouldn’t be able to horse around like we used to, then she would have to have more medicine and her hair would fall out. I didn’t understand any of it. When she had surgery, she was gone all day and I really missed her. When I came back home, I ran to jump on her and everyone shouted and told me I couldn’t do that. I just wanted to be close to my mommy. She looked the same and acted the same, so I didn’t know what this breast cancer thing was all about. After a few weeks, she started going to “treatment”. She would go all day and when she came back, she would be really tired.

She started getting sick all the time and throwing up. That was when I began to get worried. My aunts would take me out to do fun things and play, but I didn’t want to leave mommy.
One day, mommy picked me up from school and she looked different. “Mommy, your hair isn’t the same. What did you do to your hair?” I didn’t know she was wearing a wig. After dinner, she told me that the medicine had made her hair fall out, so she just shaved it off. She said that she was going to go into the bathroom and when she came out, she would look different. When she came out, she didn’t have any hair. She looked like my mom, but I didn’t understand what had happened to her. “Put your hair back on, Mommy.” She said that it was gone. She told me that I wouldn’t go to her at first, but then she told me to come to her and smell and hug her and then I would know it was her. I did and then I realized she was still my mom. She held me and cried.

After some more time passed, she created the Tigerlily Foundation, to help other women understand and get help while going through breast cancer, and she wanted to help other little girls to understand it and live healthier lives. We began going to places where she would speak and she met a lot of people and was always trying to learn more about how to raise money and grow Tigerlily Foundation. In 2012, I decided I wanted to help and started the Pajama Glam Party. I host this event, where everyone wears pajamas. We talk about prevention, wellness, ways to stay strong, fit and healthy and lower the risk of breast cancer. We have had over 300 people attend. The first year it was held in Washington, D.C., and the second year, we had it in New York too. I want to have them all over the country. We are looking for sponsors and partners so that we can spread the word and encourage more girls and moms to talk about health and prevention, and to understand how to be their best advocates when it comes to breast cancer. If you would like to support Tigerlily Foundation, email info@tigerlilyfoundation.org. To get involved with Pajama Glam, email pajamaglam@tigerlilyfoundation.org.

Busy And Thankful Life

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_17The past year has been both busy and fulfilling. With a daughter going to college this year, I have returned to work full time as a speech-language pathologist. I have a private practice; work in the school system as well as at a summer camp for children with autism. Additionally, together with two other women, I’m running a volunteer community ministry for Special Needs children and their families in the Purcellville area. We just hosted our inaugural Free Carnival and had a wonderful turnout! I am also involved in starting a Special Needs program at the church we attend.

Being a mom is of utmost importance to me, so I have enjoyed spending time with my daughter preparing for her first year at Liberty College and watching my son play baseball at colleges across Virginia! I am also maintaining a healthy diet to reduce carcinogens and anything that might feed cancer through food sources. This includes eating a Paleo type diet of eliminating sugars, starches, carbohydrates, dairy and anything processed. I have learned to rely on nuts, seeds and meats for proteins, as well as raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil. It’s also the best weight management plan around!

Every few months I get a call from a woman who knows my breast cancer story and have the privilege of being with her through initial testing, doctor appointments and all the ‘what if ’ questions. I’ve also walked some of these women through chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomy surgery. It’s an honor to help set up a meal program for them or just sit, pray with
them, be there when they get news from the doctor, cheer them on during the hard days and celebrate with them when they finish each step in the journey. I also joyfully participate in Relay for Life every year in Western Loudoun! I’m so proud to be a 4-year survivor now!

By Cheri Holdredge
Photo by: Cavalheri Photography

All rights reserved Ruby Red Press LLC 2016