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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Blogging for a cure: Breast cancer survivors’ insight in their own words

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  • In their own words, breast cancer survivors offer insight on challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and what advice they offer for those who are newly diagnosed.
    What I learned: When Katie Hall was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41, she was overwhelmed by her emotions and had a difficult time processing them all. “I was angry, sad, confused and most of all, scared … I was stunned into silence,” she says.
    “Four or five weeks after my diagnosis, I grabbed my dusty journal and wrote out all of my worst fears ... my kids growing up without a mother, my husband growing old alone. I cried, but putting it all down on paper created some order in my own personal chaos, tamed my monsters a bit. I only wish I would have picked up my pen and journal earlier.”
    What I recommend: “I think keeping a written chronicle is crucial, via journal or a blog. It has helped me to keep the big and small stuff in perspective; and I have a great record of what my year in treatment was really like.”
    Katie Ford Hall blogs at UneasyPink.com. She lives near Cincinnati with her husband and two children.
    What I learned: “I was surprised to learn that a lot of breast cancer patients who have ‘frozen shoulder’ … difficulty moving their shoulders … get better between year one and two,” says Suzanne Harp, who blogs at Breastcancerloop.org. “I thought I was going to not have mobility forever.”
    What I recommend: “When you are diagnosed, get yourself to a support group,” Harp advises. “When I think of my time of diagnosis and treatment, I was in a sheer free-falling panic until I went to a support group. Also I love the book “Cancer Vixen”! It made me feel less alone … it was like my security blanket.”
    Suzanne Harp is a broadcast journalist and breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at age 42, just a year before she was married to her husband, Ethan. She blogs at breastcancerloop.org.
    What I learned: “I was a 37 and pregnant with my fifth child when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One thing I regret, five years later, is that I have no photos of me during this time period … no photos of me and my kids or even my newborn,” says Tammy Winstead, who blogs at pinkstinx.blogspot.com. “I believe it is important for me to embrace this fight as it is part of what made me who I am today. Cancer doesn’t define me, but it certainly touched me and changed my life.”
    What I recommend: “If you’re facing cancer treatment, I suggest journaling, documenting, starting a blog and taking photos,” Winstead says. “You may not want to look at them right away, but eventually you will and you will be glad you have them. I promise! This is just another part of your life that will determine what makes you you.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Tammy Winstead is a five-year breast cancer survivor. She blogs at Pinkstinx.blogspot.com.
    What I learned: “A year after my breast cancer treatment in 1996, I developed lymphedema in my left arm,” says Jan Hasak, a two-time breast cancer survivor, of the blockage in the lymphatic system that prevents lymph fluid from draining, causing pain and swelling. “The surgeon convinced me the risk was minimal and provided no precautions.” Having received extensive treatment for the lymphedema, Jan now takes extreme caution with her affected arm, wearing a compression sleeve and avoiding skin trauma and heavy lifting.
    What I recommend: Jan suggests that a person newly diagnosed with breast cancer can reduce the risk of lymphedema by educating themselves via the free literature available at the hospital or the National Lymphedema Network, lymphnet.org, as well as at stepup-speakout.org.
    Jan Hasak has written two books on her medical journey and blogs at Janhasak.com.
    What I learned: “Losing your hair is not as big a deal as I thought it would be,” says Marcy Bruch, who blogs at BattlingBreastCancerWithClass.com. “Also, losing both breasts isn’t the big deal I thought it would be either. When reconstruction is finally done, everything looks as good — or better — than it used to.”
    What I recommend: Marcy recommends looking up “before” and “after” pictures on the Internet or at your plastic surgeon’s office. “I would read these ‘Dealing With Cancer’ magazines in my oncologist’s office, and it helped to read and see pictures of women wearing low-cut dresses after breast reconstruction, gushing about how happy they were with the end results of their reconstruction surgery.”
    Marcy Bruch is a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor who shares tips for fighting breast cancer “with grace, humor and style.”
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