Sunday, September 26, 2010

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

This is the letter I sent to the American Cancer Society and was selected for a makeover on 19 Aug 2010 along with five other women. It was a great day.

I having meant to put this on here, but I have forgotten (one of the my little side effects). Anyway, I share this with everyone, but I hope it touches every woman's heart:

I write to tell you of my journey with breast cancer with two-fold hopes; that you will select me for a makeover, and that I may inspire another whose journey is just beginning. I am 45 years old and the daughter to parents who died of cancer, a sister to nine siblings, a mother to two sons, and a retired U.S. Army soldier.

In June 2009, while sitting in my office, I received the dreaded phone call that changed my whole world in four simple words: “You have breast cancer.” More words followed, but I heard none of them. In the following weeks, a series of a hundred invasive tests were performed, and I felt humiliated and embarrassed. Everyone was kind and patient, as quietly, I cried on the inside. I couldn’t believe what was happening; I didn’t feel sick, tired maybe , but not sick. I have always taken pretty good care of myself but when my sister was diagnosed as triple negative breast cancer patient in 2007, it got my attention and I got a mammogram. A mammogram caught my cancer early and although BRCA negative, I too, am a triple negative.

From the beginning, I promised myself that I would get up, dress up, and show up and for the most part, I have. I have children, and although grown, this is scary stuff so it was time to put the game face on. With every surgery and setback, I am more determined beat this. Fighting cancer has absolutely been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it has also been a gift. I look at everything much differently now. Today, six surgeries and several infections later, I will not stay down. I am a mother and a pink warrior. In Spring 2011, I hope to complete a Dual Master’s Degree. Strangely enough, college has been a source of strength for me; a way to help me maintain control of my life. It keeps me focused and it sets the bar pretty high for my children, too.

I have poured my heart into a blog, in a positive manner, in hopes to inspire someone else. I hope it has. One of my first entries in June 2009 was this:

“I am frightened, but I have faith. I am educated, but not in this. So, what's a girl to do? Put my faith in God and know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be today. And that's enough for me.”

And so, I reflect on that passage and say, “Everything is moving along. I am still a little frightened at times, but I am not afraid because I have educated myself in this disease. I place my faith in God, always, and still believe that I am exactly where he wants me to be… today, and everyday… and that is all I ask for.

The bottom line is that in the last year, I have lost my breasts, my memory, all of my hair, my dignity, my strength, and even fake friends; however, I have never lost hope, faith, my family, my sense of humor or real friends.

My life has been a roller coaster of tears, fears, hope, prayer, hugs, help, and every other source of assistance imaginable. My friends and family are closer to me than I could have ever imagined and for which I am eternally grateful. My tush may be bigger, but so is my heart. I’ve lost much, but I've gained so much more out of life and each day is a beautiful gift. I am committed to living my life and not just merely existing in it. Not just for me, but for others like me.

My message for women: You are never alone. I know how you can be in a room of 50 people and feel completely alone, but shrug it off and get back out there. Define your cancer; do not let it define you. Put your face on it, not vice versa, and then walk this chosen path with your head held high. Have a positive attitude, and smile, and the world will smile with you.

As for me, I am committed to helping women. Even today there is still a taboo about breast cancer; I want to break it and keep talking about it - whatever it takes. No woman should ever go through this feeling alone.


  1. I agree with everything you said here. I just discovered your blog and will be back to read more. I just started one myself because I, too, want to keep the talk going and help other women who are struggling to make sense of their cancer journeys. Hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.

  2. Hi Arla - Your words are so inspirational! I wonder if you would be willing to share your words of empowerment with the women on Navigating Cancer who have also been diagnosed with breast cancer.
    You can contact me through
    Thanks! Have a great day! Becky

  3. Arla-
    I have enjoyed reading through your blog. I have a son Kyle too! He is 22, graduated, and working now. The other kids (2 boys and a girl) are in college and in high school. I am about a year ahead of you in my breast cancer journey. Finshed Herceptin 9 months ago, implant exchange was 14 months ago. Hair has grown back, breast has not (and I grieve that every day) but I press on! Jesus is also by my side and I have never felt this stronger than in going through this trial. I have breast mri's now instead of mammos alone, and a recent scare revealed a breast cyst (whew!) and now I realize that I will forever be faced with this uncertainty every 6 months. My husband retired from 25 years in the USAF YESTERDAY! We just finnished 3 glorious months of terminal leave together and I mean it when I say glorious! Life is good! God bless you!

  4. Loved your letter!! I'm a year younger in my journey with TNBC, though I'm about 15 years older in age, and luckily, caught mine early too. Your words have uplifted me today. Keep on blogging - you're a much needed positive voice. We have such an advantage in dealing with this because of our faith - I wish everyone could have it too! God bless!