Shot for a Cure : Promoting Breast Cancer Awareness - Showit Blog

L Photographie

October 8, 2012

Shot for a Cure : Promoting Breast Cancer Awareness

1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. It’s the most common cancer, next to skin cancer. That’s scary. There are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Here are just four of those families.  We are honored to share their stories and a few photos with the ones they love.

 

I hope you will take a moment to read through this blog post, think about how important it is to take care of yourself, so you can enjoy your family for as many days as possible. Life is so precious, and sharing it with those you love is so important.

We encourage you to schedule a screening, remember to have regular check-ups, as well keep up with your self-exams.  Also to spend a little money around town this month at events planned for Breast Cancer Awareness Month of October. Here are just a few in St. Louis listed over on stltoday.com.

~ J O Y C E ~

First, is Joyce, an amazing and sweet Mother and Grandmother of four.  This is Joyce’s story, along photos with her loving Grandchildren …

“In 1987, I went to the doctor for a routine medical checkup. I was surprised when the doctor sent me immediately for a mammogram. Back then no one talked about breast cancer. My older son and I stopped for lunch on the way home from the test and by the time I got home the doctor had called with the results. I had breast cancer…

I remember sitting on the porch swing crying when my younger son came home from school. “Are you going to die, Mom?” he asked. “No.” I promised. Quietly, I went through chemo, surgery and reconstruction.

It took me 20 years to talk about the fact that I had breast cancer.

In 2007, I didn’t feel well. I knew something wasn’t right. I went back to the doctor. The last test he ran, he found it. The breast cancer was back, this time as a mass on my ovary. I beat it once and here it was again.

I had the misconception that many people have; that if the breast tissue is gone so is the cancer. However, breast cancer spreads and hides.

20 years since my first diagnosis breast cancer had come a long way in awareness and treatment. I had a better understanding of what to expect. After more chemo I was in full remission and feeling good.

In March of 2012, the doctor noticed my markers increased, a sign the cancer was back. I heard the same words again – breast cancer. This time it was in the bones in my back.

I am currently taking chemo with expectation to go back into remission.

I will beat breast cancer again. I have four beautiful grandchildren and looking forward to spending lots of time watching them grow.”


 ~ S H E I L A ~

Next is Sheila. A strong, beautiful amazing woman with a good fight in her. I like that.  This is Sheila’s story, along with photos of her daughter and a friend’s two sons, who wanted to tag along to support Sheila.

“Mammograms … breast exams … yearly check-ups. I won’t get breast cancer. I did all those. Not me…I’m unstoppable. I’m an Air Force Airman with over 25 years of active military service, 44 years old and healthy. However, in September 2009, I felt a sharp pain on my right side.

My initial thought: it was just pain in my breast because every time I would sneeze, my breast would burn. I continued my monthly self-breast exams, but never in a million years did I think I had breast cancer. The pain would come and go, but I thought it was merely gas or something. October came and I didn’t feel anything so I believed everything was okay.

The pain returned in November and I decided to visit my doctor. I told her I felt a sharp pain in my breast and that I needed my mammogram. My doctor assured me pain is usually not a sign of breast cancer, and I felt relieved after that. She did however schedule a mammogram on December 2, 2009.

That date is when I found out the news that would change my life forever. The radiologist mouthed those ugly words… ”Sheila…YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER.” He even showed me the cancer on the screen. Not only breast cancer, but the pain I’d been feeling was in my ribs. The cancer had already metastasized to my ribs and there were also lesions on my liver. The cancer started in my right breast but I never felt any lumps. How could this be happening?

I thought to myself, what the HELL? Did he just say what I thought he said? Yeah, he did. My beautiful mother Grace Evelyn Johnson died of breast cancer on August 17, 2004. So, was I surprised? I don’t know if I really was, but I know that I was devastated…yes indeed.

After that day, my spiritual journey truly began. I didn’t understand FAITH and I didn’t understand “WHY WOULD GOD DO THIS TO ME?” I kept thinking, “What did I do to piss God off?” The devil had put into my mind that God didn’t love me and had cursed me with breast cancer.

When I told my family, they were devastated. I think the hardest part was telling my daughter and my dad. Who would have thought that this ugly creature of a disease would creep into our lives again? I chose not to tell my daughter immediately because I didn’t how to tell her and she was in the middle of finals at the University of Toledo. When I told her, she wanted to drop out of college and come home. Of course, I told her she would not drop out of college today or any day. I told her that I would be fine. And I’m here today to tell you I’m still fine, and that my daughter graduated from college in May 2012.

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Her2neu and estrogen positive breast cancer. The first question I asked myself was, “Am I going to die?” But the events that happened after my diagnosis were truly amazing. I was sent to the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis to see the breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Julie Margenthaler. Dr. Margenthaler told me surgery was out of the question for now because the cancer had already spread, so it would defeat the purpose of surgery to remove my breast.

She then referred me to a medical oncologist. What the heck is an oncologist, I asked? I started seeing Dr. Cynthia Ma at the Center for Advanced Medicine. Dr. Ma put me on a 9-month chemotherapy regimen. Every Monday for 9 months straight with a break every three weeks, I received Taxol, Herceptin and I whole bunch of pre-medications. The chemo shrunk the legions on my liver only slightly, but it stopped the cancer from progressing, which was a very good thing. I still get Herceptin every three weeks and Zometa every six weeks. I’m on Tykerb along with Letrozole, and this treatment plan has been working very well.

I had to get a portacath and that was scary, but I had the most amazing nurse who held my hand the whole way. My veins are terrible, so I thought a port would be in my best interest. I really didn’t get sick too much from the chemotherapy. I attribute that to God. I just felt very tired and fatigued, and sometimes nauseated. My hair fell out and that was okay. Hair can always grow back. I’ve been wearing my hair short for 10 years anyway, so that wasn’t a big deal for me.

I was still active duty in the United States Air Force, but I had the most amazing supervisor and coworkers. They were there for me, hand and foot, whenever I needed them. I wasn’t going to let cancer get the best of me. I continued going to school. I would come home from chemotherapy, take a quick nap, and head to McKendree University every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

 

I’m currently in remission. I finally had a mastectomy on my right breast in January 2010. I chose not to have reconstructive surgery at that time. I think eventually I will, but for now I’m okay the way I am. My breasts don’t define who I am nor define my heart. I know God is a healing God and I know God has gotten me this far with his grace and mercy.

I still cry sometimes, but I laugh more than I cry.

I choose not to focus on the negatives of breast cancer. I’m living my life and I refuse to let cancer deter my dreams or goals. I don’t focus on my cancer as Stage 4. I’m going to keep living and keep striving. I eventually retired from the military and I’m not really involved with volunteer work. My goal is to hopefully start a nonprofit to educate young women about breast cancer. I now make breast cancer bracelets to remind women to get their mammograms and to perform their self-breast exams.

I have an amazing support system, from my doctors and nurses to my family and friends. And, it has been an amazing journey. I’ve learned so much about myself and my strength. I would say to anyone with breast cancer, whether it’s Stave 1 or Stage 4, just keep living and keep believing. God has a plan for us all, and just because we have breast cancer, we don’t have to stop living.
My quest in life is, “What the H.E.L.L. Helping Everyone Love the Lord through my cancer.” Doctor Ma said today “Sheila it could be worse.”
I’m just blessed by the man above and I will continue to smile and live.
Jesus loves me…THIS I KNOW.”

~ J E N N Y ~

Next, meet Jenny. She and her girls came dressed ready to “tackle” cancer, and have some fun together that day. This is Jenny’s story, and photos with her four daughters…

“I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in May of 2011.  I had a double mastectomy and lymph-node removal in June of the same year.  I chose to have skin-expanders put in at the same time as the mastectomy.

My cancer was a stage 2 when it was found with a normal mammogram.  18 lymph nodes were removed and 3 of those had cancer in them.  I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiation.

I am currently waiting to start one of three reconstruction surgeries.

I was 41 when I found out I had cancer.  My mom had the same exact type of breast cancer and so did her mom (my grandma).

My great-grandma had a “breast issue”, but back in “those days”, it wasn’t talked about.  We are suspicious that she may have had cancer too.

I have 4 daughters and a niece.  I am extremely worried about their chances of getting breast cancer.  Even my brother isn’t safe.

We were BRACA tested and we DO NOT carry the gene.  We have talked to a geneticist.  She says that BRACA covers about 95% of the common markers for the breast cancer gene.  She is convinced that my family must fall under the other 5%.

My mom’s tissue samples are being studied at a place called Cleveland Clinic.  Depending on what they find, they may request my tissue samples too.   I have agreed to let my tissue be studied.  I think it is our duty as women, and as humans, to allow our tissue samples to be studied.

It is one small thing that we can do to help the next lady, mom, daughter, aunt, grandma, niece, or friend that gets hit by this nasty disease.”

~ J E N N A ~

And, last but certainly not least, is Jenna. Such an amazing story, and so inspiring to new mothers and those trying to get pregnant.  This is Jenna’s story, and photos with her husband and daughter…

Rett and I met at the University of Missouri- Columbia in 1999. That is when we went on our first date. I went overseas to study in 2001 and when I got back to campus that Fall, we ran into each other on The Quad. He asked for my phone number and the rest is history. After our second date, I knew this was the man I was going to marry. We had a beautiful winter wedding in January 2004. Since then we have been planning how we were going to grow old together and start our family. We have both established great careers: Rett in civil/structural engineering and myself in advertising. 2010 was supposed to be our year, but the summer is when our world would be turned upside down. It wasn’t part of the plan. And now we find ourselves searching for the answer to “Why?”

I am a huge planner and all of my family, friends and co-workers would agree that creating lists, scratching things off that list and time management are all things that keep me organized. It is easy to create a to-do list for grocery shopping, errands to run or things to accomplish at work, however 2010 was the year that creating a list wasn’t going to help me and Rett accomplish the biggest gift of all, starting a family.

After studying abroad in college I had always wanted to travel back to Europe with Rett and explore cities and countryside that would create everlasting memories for us. We did this in the Fall of 2009 and traveled to 6 countries in 18 days. It was our “Last Hoorah” trip together before we would start a family. I found out I was pregnant on June 27th, 2 days before my 30th birthday. I was about 5 weeks along. We were both so happy and fulfilled with so much love. We immediately began buying books and reviewing online newsletters to prepare us for our new bundle of joy’s arrival.

We had several trips planned for the summer and we were just dying to tell our family and friends but we wanted to make sure it was the right time and we were far enough along in the pregnancy. Over the 4th of July we went to visit Rett’s family in Crystal Lake, IL. We thought we were being sneaky but I don’t think we fooled everyone. The next weekend, we met my mom, my brother, Taylor, and my sister-in-law, Aubree in Boston to celebrate my 30th birthday. I met my mom at her gate and she immediately was picking up on cues and then when I didn’t order a glass of wine at dinner she knew! We told my family that weekend but swore them to secrecy. The next weekend we were back with Taylor and Aubree in Columbus for an annual golf tournament Rett plays in with Taylor. It was nice to just relax at the pool, get a pedicure and hang out with them. After getting back from all of our travels, we had our 8 week ultrasound and what a beautiful miracle we could see in our printed ultrasound. A healthy baby! Over the course of the next few weeks we had so much fun telling the rest of our families and friends about our great news.

On Monday, August 23rd I was scheduled for my 13th week baby check-up. My OBGYN, Dr. Smith, and I had decided to also roll in my women’s annual exam into this same appointment. Rett and I had discussed that this was an appointment he wouldn’t have to meet me. Dr. Smith had a hard time finding the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler device so I got to see the baby again via the ultrasound. The baby was laying on its back with his hands in front of his face and jumping up and down. Baby Oesch had grown so much, almost doubled, since we had had our 8 week ultrasound.

After we had fun looking at the baby and determining all was healthy, we moved onto my health check-up. Dr. Smith found a lump in my left breast and immediately sent me to the Breast Health Center at Missouri Baptist Hospital. I went upstairs hoping they would take me as a walk-in for a breast ultrasound and that the ultrasound would confirm that the lump was just my body reacting to the pregnancy.

Within two hours, I had received the ultrasound and two biopsies, one on the lump and another on my lymphnodes. It was the most terrifying two hours. I was alone (until Rett raced to the hospital before my biopsy), scared, not sure about my future health and how this was all going to affect my baby’s health. Dr. Hamill was great as he kept me calm and walked me through the biopsies step by step. He explained to me that the ultrasound had shown two areas of concern, those in which were biopsied and that the lab would be able to give us the answer to the looming question- was it benign or malignant?

I left the hospital that afternoon to go home, take care of my post-biopsy areas and await for the news. Tuesday, August 24th. I wasn’t expecting to hear from any of my doctors until the next day. So, I woke up still recovering from the biopsies to work from home. Rett had gone to work as well. The phone rang around 12:15 PM and it was Dr. Smith. She was calling to tell me that she had received the results back from the lab and that the news was not good. The results came back as malignant and I had breast cancer.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What does that mean? What lies ahead? What does this mean for my pregnancy? What do I do next?

I was alone sitting at my kitchen table and all I could do was cry and scream! I had to call Rett at work. I asked him to come home ASAP and to drive carefully. I didn’t tell him the news on the phone but he knew. My next phone call was to my mom. I didn’t know how I was going to tell her that her daughter had breast cancer and that I needed her to come to St. Louis. Before I knew it she was on her way to St. Louis, thanks to wonderful friends that volunteered to drive her as she was too upset to drive.

Once Rett got home we held eachother and cried. He told me he loved me and that we would do whatever it took to battle this to make me healthy again. Rett is my rock.

Dr. Smith has told me that a team of Missouri Baptist (Mo Bap) doctors would be meeting to review my case first thing Wednesday morning and that I would begin my consultations that morning as well. It was so much to take in. I was entering a brand new world, new terminology, new doctors and new treatments.

Friday, September 3. I have since met with my team of doctors and I know that I am in very good hands. I can’t thank Dr. Smith enough as she was so proactive once she felt the lump in my breast. Dr. Hamill was so thorough with the ultrasounds on both my left and right breasts, mammogram and biopsies. Dr. Yadzi was so comforting as the surgeon whom will operate when necessary. Dr. Fagundes will administer my radiation in the Spring of 2011 and Dr. Lyss will administer my chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

This team of doctors have a fantastic reputation and I am so blessed to have them all under the same roof and working together to bring my health back to 100% and cancer free. Plus, I was very lucky to have my mom, my dad, Taylor and Aubree in town during this time as well as rely on Rett’s in town family for love and support.

I had my power port put in via outpatient surgery. This port will serve as my semi-permanent IV for all of my treatments. It allows for one injection site as the veins in my arms can’t withstand all the sticks for the chemotherapy. Wondering what it looks like? I was too. It is triangle in shape and about the size of a nickel. It is about a 1/2 inch thick and is shiny purple. In the middle of the triangle is a pad where the needle will go. Coming out of the port is a tube the size of a spaghetti noodle. This tube carries the chemotherapy to my main artery and distributes it throughout the rest of my body. It is completely under the skin in my chest on the upper right hand side.

As of right now, I am done with my treatments. I endured 16 months of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, 6.5 weeks of radiation, and am currently working through 5 years of hormone therapy (daily pill). All during this, we welcomed our daughter, Emma Oesch into our family. She was born at 33 weeks and only weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces due to the side effects of one of my chemotherapy drugs. However, she is a fighter like her mom; she knew she could tackle the world and I will be forever grateful to her as I was able to move onto my next chemotherapy drug 7 weeks earlier.

It is a story of the miracle of life. Rett and I were able to get pregnant; the pregnancy led to the discovery of the lump in my breast; and that two of the three chemotherapy drugs wouldn’t pass through the placenta to harm Baby Emma; and Emma was in and out of the NICU in two and half weeks and we were all back home as a family under our roof.”

 ~

To help share these stories, create awareness and hopefully encourage you to donate to Breast Cancer Awareness during this month, we are having a friendly little “share” contest over on Facebook. So please hop over to our Facebook Page {RIGHT HERE} then click “share” to spread these stories around. If we reach just 100 shares, L Photographie will be gifting a little something extra from their photo session to each of these four amazing families!

And, if you are so inspired, we would love for you to make a donation to help fight. As a nonprofit, Breastcancer.org relies on donations to provide valued resources free of charge. Breastcancer.org remains committed to offering the most comprehensive, expert-reviewed information and to hosting a vitally important peer support community so that women and their loved ones can make sense of the complex medical and personal information about breast cancer and, in turn, make the best decisions for their lives.

Please help continue to provide these resources to others by making a donation at any level, right here at: Breastcancer.org.

To Joyce, Sheila, Jenny, Jenna, and your families, thank you so much for sharing your stories. I am honored that I got to capture love and joy in your life with people that mean so much to you.

~ ~
If you, or someone you know, has been effected by breast cancer and would like family photos taken, please shoot us an email. We will be donating family sessions again in 2013 to help raise more awareness, and give some deserving families some loving photos. All for free.
Send an email to: portraits @ lphotographie . com
(link broken to avoid spam)

avec l’amour,
(with love)
Kristie, Liz & Kate of L Photographie

 

(source for stats above: American Cancer Society, and St. Louis Magazine)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Lauren Acosta

    October 8th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    These are so amazing, Liz and team!

  2. Robin

    October 9th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Absolutely outstanding photos and breathtaking stories! Thank you! Francesca’s Fancy Flops was happy to be a part of this shoot!

share to

facebook

share to

pinterest

share to

twitter

share with

email

back to

blog