I just finished reading the inspirational story written by Beth for FNC iMag. Those of us who have survived this horrendous disease have a special kinship and feel her pain.

I am a seven-year breast cancer survivor. I found the lump in April of 1998. I was 45 years old, and after much thought and debate with my husband, we decided to do a lumpectomy. My cancer was in the left breast, and I was already at a strong stage 3, with 17 out of 24 lymph nodes cancerous. I felt my days were numbered. There had been no cancer on either side of my family, and the question from everyone was, "If your family doesn't have any ( breast ) cancer, how did you get so unlucky?” That question is still unanswered.

With my husband at my side and our two children, we started the long horrible process. At the advice of my doctors, I started with three months of chemotherapy. From there, he suggested a stem cell transplant. I was fortunate enough that the cancer had not spread to any major organs. After three months of chemo, and under the very close supervision of my doctor, I was ready to move on to the transplant. It was not an easy decision for my husband and myself. After hearing the pros and cons, and the doctor only giving me a 50/50 chance that the cancer would not come back without the transplant, we felt we didn't have a choice. With the transplant, my doctor said there was an 85% chance that the cancer would not come back.

The stem cell transplant, at least the parts I can remember, still burn in my mind like a terrible nightmare.

Preparing for the stem cell, and then receiving chemo for five straight days, nine hours a day took a toll on me. I ended up in the hospital for one and a half weeks with a severe infection in my throat and mouth. It was just awful. Someway, somehow, I found the strength to live. By this time, I had lost 55 pounds and had no immune system whatsoever. It took every ounce of my power to even walk.

In December of 1998 I started my radiation treatments, 30 of them in all. The radiation was nothing like the stem cell transplant though — it was a breeze in comparison. The hardest part was the fatigue. Thanks to a lot of prayers, and the good Lord above, I finally came around to a point where I was regaining my strength. The progress was slow but steady.

There have been medical setbacks in between, but it is now October 2006 and I have been cancer-free for seven years. My heart is only working at 62%, but at least I am not having serious problems.

My only prayer is that all women watch their bodies! Get breast exams, go for yearly mammograms, and be sure to get a thorough check up on an annual basis.

Thank you for letting me share my story.

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