37, Pinellas Park
GOAL: To raise awareness in the fight for breast cancer.
WHY I DID IT: I had just given birth to my fourth child when I felt a hard, painful lump in my breast. While still in the hospital, a physician examined me, but with no other symptoms, family history of cancer or risk factors, determined it was not suspicious. However, a hospital midwife thought otherwise.
Before being discharged and bringing home my new baby, I mentioned the lump to the midwife on staff. Five months later, I received a certified letter in the mail from this midwife, begging me to get a second opinion.
The next week was a blur: I made an appointment for an ultrasound, was sent for a mammogram the next day, and had a biopsy the next. Then, I was told I had stage III cancer in my left breast, meaning it had spread to my lymph nodes.
I was so busy raising four kids, and I had no symptoms. If it wasn't for the midwife tracking me down, I don't know where I would be today.
I just went into survival mode. The following month I started my aggressive treatment plan: a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment.
HOW I DID IT: I received my radiation treatment at WellSpring Oncology in Pinellas Park. The moment I walked in the door it just felt like they understood. With everything that was going on, I felt that this place was just wonderful — from the front office staff to Dr. Zucel Solc, who took the time to explain everything and answer all of my questions.
In addition to treating my cancer, WellSpring Oncology provided Thanksgiving dinner for my family and gave us the Christmas we could have never had otherwise, all through the Giving Tree fund. The cancer center also sponsored my son's Little League team for its on-the-road tournament, supplying snacks and drinks for the team.
HURDLES: The biggest hurdle for me was trying to raise a family while going through all these treatments. The support of my family, WellSpring Oncology and confidence in the aggressive treatment plan we chose together made the experience much easier to go through. Had I not gotten a second opinion, I don't know where I would be now.
GOING THE DISTANCE: I wrapped up my cancer treatments a year ago. Now my focus is on enjoying spending time with my family and helping raise awareness for breast cancer screenings.
I became involved with WellSpring Oncology's Giving Tree efforts, helping other families the way they helped mine. My family and I participated in WellSpring's Catch for a Cure to help raise money for the Giving Tree fund.
I'm proud to be a survivor, spreading awareness and volunteering through WellSpring Oncology support and outreach efforts to help other women throughout the year.
BEST ADVICE: The best advice I can give other women is to know your body. And if something doesn't feel right, don't wait to get help. Get mammograms yearly, talk to your doctor about your risk factors and be sure to live your life to the fullest. If I can help just one woman like the midwife helped me, I will know that my ordeal was worth it.