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For me, that summer of my despair became the summer of my determination, because I believed I could make a difference in the lives of others.

Have you ever seen that greeting card with a little girl on the front, standing tall, legs splayed open hands on her hips that reads, “She thought she could so she did.”

As a Michigander, I claimed this quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or your can’t, you’re right.” I thought I could and I did, and you can too.

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When I got the news was the darkest moment for me. Shock. Disbelief. Confusion. The emotions so common when we get the “news.” Even though it was 19 years ago, I remember what followed. I said to myself, “I will get through this. I will be well.” I remember thinking, “Now is the time to use every single ounce of strength, all my inner resource and knowledge to become well.” I was more determined than I had ever been in my life.

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No Fear!

Q & A, Survivor March 29, 2017

Fortunately, I was one of those “lucky” ones. My cancer was slow growing and caught early. But I would tell my pre-cancer self (and have actually apologized to others affected by cancer before I knew better) – that there is nothing good about cancer. Nothing. There is no “good” cancer. I would be more compassionate with cancer patients and their families. I would be more patient, a better listener, and a more giving friend to anyone cancer impacts.

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Thrive!

Q & A, Survivor March 22, 2017

After three perfect strangers reached out to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt a deep need to pay it forward. They shared their stories and it made all the difference for me to be to come out of despair and begin to heal. They helped me learn first hand the power of sharing one’s story. And that is why I created the magazine.

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You Are Beautiful

Q & A, Survivor March 15, 2017

I have to say, from the moment I was diagnosed, I made the conscious choice to focus only on the positive. I would find anything that made me happy or smile and stay in that place of gratitude. When my mind would wander to a dark place, (it usually happened when I would search the internet for answers), although educating myself on my cancer was necessary, allowing myself to become fearful did nothing but make me upset, so I eventually stopped that process.

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It seemed like a lifetime, but about three months following diagnosis, I crawled out on all fours toward the light. I’m so grateful that I finally found my center of strength and clung to a spark of motivation to not only help myself, but to help others. That’s when I began to write about my experience with invasive breast cancer, something I absurdly believed I’d never have.

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My darkest moment wasn’t the cancer itself so much as having to share my diagnosis with my closest family members. In some ways, I was embarrassed to say the word leukemia. I worried that people would feel sorry for me or worry that they would lose me to the disease.

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Lending Color

Our Stories, Survivor February 22, 2017

I’ve also always sensed that I’d have to overcome a health hurdle in my 50s—and if I survived, I thought I’d live to be 88. The breast cancer experience didn’t feel as scary as I’d envisioned. I was back to life as usual and tried to figure out what having cancer was supposed to mean.

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Stitching Love

Q & A, Survivor February 15, 2017

Someone talked to me when I could barely walk. That made all the difference in the world, to believe that I could be well one day, too. I find I “have to” talk to people. I didn’t know how to quilt, but I learned so I could deliver a piece of security and love while someone is enduring chemotherapy. I do my very best to keep in touch with the new people that have come into my life.

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Yet, as my mother used to say, “You can’t un-ring a bell.” I did contract ovarian cancer, and it taught me that all I had gone through with breast cancer was a walk in the park compared to the complexities and difficulties of treating ovarian cancer.

I was almost gone by the time ovarian cancer was diagnosed, and no one expected me to survive the first occurrence, much less all the recurrences that have followed. The surgeries, the complications, the chemotherapies – they all left me feeling flayed alive, stripped down layer by layer, and abandoned in heaps and piles all over a room I could not leave.

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My pre-cancer self was innocent and unsuspecting of any health issues; arrogant in her healthiness and immortality. I’d tell her to listen to her body. Don’t ignore the signs that she’s ill. I’d also tell her that she’s strong. Much stronger than she gives herself credit. And that, despite the unbearable hardships she’d face in the coming year, she’d find a wear to bear it. She would come to own the word ‘survivor’ by showing up to the cancer center every day, making soul connections as she fought her way back to life.

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I Have the Will

Q & A, Survivor January 18, 2017

The darkest moment in my cancer journey was initially finding out in 2007. I was mortified. I could not wrap my mind around the diagnosis. I was only 36 years old and healthy as a horse. It was like it came out of the blue. Also, after the first round of chemotherapy, I had Neutropenia, low white blood cell count. The shots to remedy the condition made me so sick, I could not lift my head off the pillow.

It was some scary times. It was scary being bald. The wigs helped me so much but I really enjoy my own hair. I was happy to have my hair back.

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Without a doubt, a cancer diagnosis is a very dark moment all by itself. But there are a million other things affected by it. At my diagnosis, I was a newlywed and my eldest son (a career Air Force intelligence agent) was about to deploy to Afghanistan. I gave my new husband permission to leave, not knowing what the future held for me. And I was terrified he’d take me up on it. Equally frightening was my son’s safety, which actually overshadowed my own fear of death.

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