Click For Hope

Breast Cancer

A Time to Mourn

Cancer, Loss, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez1 Comment

I had the opportunity to meet Jennifer last September, and she was such a delight. Can you share a little more of who she was to you? What was her personality, motherhood, wifehood, etc. like?

It sounds cliche, but Jennifer was my everything. Jennifer and I have been together for my entire adult life. We met around our second week at U. of I. and started dating soon after. When we first met, I was a kid trying to reintroduce myself to the world. I was loud but timid, outgoing but private, passionate and unfocused. Jennifer was the complete opposite. She knew exactly what she wanted and had the drive to make it happen. As soon as I met Jennifer it became very apparent that she was exactly what I wanted out of life. Jennifer was this incredibly brilliant woman, who's intellect was only matched by her genuine compassion for others. More importantly, she understood and accepted me for who I was and who she knew I would become. In every practical sense, we grew into adults, side by side. We were both each others' biggest cheerleaders and critics. From teenager to adult, from marriage to motherhood, in every stage of life I saw something new in Jennifer that made me love her even more. As a wife, it was as if we were Co-CEO's of our family. It just felt right coming home and having her there to hug and kiss, talk about our days, and make future plans. As a mother, I'm not sure words can accurately describe the level of love, care, strength, and emotion that arose from Jennifer. The most important thing in her life was Deacon. She planned, scheduled, organized, and guided his life until she couldn't. But even at that point, the footprint that she left behind continues to make an impact on his development. If there is one thing I can say that people may not know about Jenny was that what people saw of her and in her was not an act. Jennifer was an incredibly multifaceted woman with strength, intelligence, beauty, and compassion but also experienced weakness, sadness, regret, and pain. She was human with all of the strengths and flaws that everyone experiences.
 

What were the final weeks like when she decided that she would no longer do treatment? 

They were mixed with some of the most complicated emotions that I've ever felt. It will be something I will treasure, something I will never forget. The best way that I can describe the final weeks would be to imagine a seemingly endless whirlwind of happiness, sadness, frustration, joy, angst, and gratefulness. We spent just about every moment, that I could fit in, by each other's side. Jennifer and I couldn't change the diagnosis. We couldn't cure cancer. We couldn't control the when, why, or how. We couldn't control the ways in which cancer rapidly spreading quickly changed her way of life. All we could do was make the best attempt at happiness. In many ways, things went back to normal, or a resemblance of normal. During the final weeks, Jenny still did homework for her PhD program. Deacon went to school. We watched TV, ordered out, we talked, we laughed, we cried. Family and a few friends visited. Jenny had quite a few girls nights. I won't sugar coat how utterly frustrating it was at times. But as we always did, I had her back and she had mine. One day I told her, that my body was hers, whatever she couldn't do, she had me. But at the same time, she kept me strong. One day, I was frustrated with everything, I couldn't get the day to go correctly. She didn't say much by this time, but unprompted, she looked at me and in her calm Jenny voice, she told me I was doing a good job. It was everything I needed to hear, and even with what she was going through, she still kept me from falling. So as heartbreaking as our final weeks were together, it was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. I could have lived in those weeks forever.
 

clickforhope | chicago story teller mourning_1035.jpg

What does "grieving" mean to you?

This is a hard question to answer. As strange as this sounds, I'm not sure I exactly know what grieving is. As one would expect, earlier on my grief came in the form of tears, sadness, and disbelief. But those moments don't really describe how I've felt over the past few months. The best way to describe what grieving means to me is the feeling of "being off". It's like I'm navigating through life trying to get my footing on shaky ground. I'm less consumed with sadness or depression, I'm not sure if my personality allows me to sit in those mental states for very long. Instead, what I'm left with is a feeling of void that I can't quite explain. So maybe it's less about what grief means to me and more about how my mind has chosen to deal with it. Either way, my hope is that the grieving process will get better as I find my balance again. Until then, I'll just keep pushing forward.

What's been your source of courage and strength during this season?

My wife and my son. The explicit promise that I made to my wife is that I would be okay, and the implicit promise that I made to my son is that I will always be there for him. I've never broken a promise to Jennifer, and I have no plans on starting now. Living with cancer is hard and my wife made the best attempt at life, the least I can do is match her will.

I noticed you started a Facebook Page in honor of Jennifer, can you share more with what you are hoping to do with it?

Jennifer was more than a woman with breast cancer. She had breast cancer for about three of the 33 years on Earth. Even when she was diagnosed, she went on being a mother, wife, friend, daughter, sibling, aunt, teacher, student, and scholar. Jennifer and I had so many conversations about her passions in life. My goal is to make sure that these things are never forgotten. That people remember her less by how she died, and more for how she lived. I'm going to use every medium I can possibly think of to push forward her memory and advance the causes that she was passionate about. I'm currently working on a few projects, including a website called LivedLovedHere.com, that will help me properly memorialize her legacy. Whether it takes me months, years, or the rest of my life, that is what I plan on doing. That brings me happiness.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who has recently lost a loved one to cancer?

Eventually, the pain slowly fades and what it's replaced with is beautiful memories. Jenny would always say, no one loses a battle to cancer. As if trying harder would have provided a different result. When it comes to cancer, it's not the ultimate outcome that defines success. Success is defined by who that person was, and how they lived; no different than anyone still blessed to be breathing right now. What helps me is that through the loneliness, I'm never really alone. For anyone who has recently lost anyone to cancer, know that you are not alone.

To read Jennifer's story click here: http://www.clickforhope.net/blog/2016/10/21/jennifers-story

The fear of Cancer....

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez3 Comments

Please share your story: : In March 2016 I went for my yearly gynecology visit. I was handed a mammogram script and told not to go until I turned 40 (which was going to be in a month and half) otherwise insurance would not pay for it. On April 7th I found a lump in my right breast and called my gynecologist the next day (I still do not know what made me feel my breast that day). I made an appointment at the breast center and everything from there happened so quickly. Mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy the next day. The following week I received the call on my cell phone at work that I had cancer. As they explained things over the phone and made appointments on my behalf I cried so hard I couldn't speak. I immediately left work and text my husband the news. We met with the team of doctors on April 29th, same day was my MRI and were told at that time it was stage 2 triple negative, 95% aggressive and I would have to get a port put in and start chemo right away. Genetic testing also showed that I carry the RAD51C gene mutation which is related to ovarian cancer. (I lost my mom to a 5.5 year battle with ovarian cancer 2.5 years ago). The gynecologist oncologist recommended I receive a hysterectomy, which I will be having once I recover from the breast cancer. My Port was placed May 11th, first AC treatment May 16th (4 of these every other week). AC was rough and I ended up in the hospital with a fever due to my white count being too high from the nuelasta shot. Im currently on weekly Taxol for 12 weeks with 7 left. Recent MRI showed both tumors have responded well to chemo. I will meet with the surgeon October 11th to discuss my options. I am not certain I agree with the initial suggested lumpectomy but I fear the pain and recovery of the double mastectomy. This is a very serious and difficult decision I will have to make.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: The fear is real! Whether newly diagnosed or receiving your last chemo or 2 years in remission, the fear never goes away for some of us. I watched my mother fight so hard with countless surgeries and non stop chemo treatments and side effects and hospital stays that I feared the worst when starting my treatment. Every day cancer is what I wake up to and fall asleep with and there is no escaping it. The fear of the cancer coming back after all this is over will always be inside me. I wonder if I will ever be able to escape cancer or this fear and live life happily and normal again. PTSD affects a lot of cancer patients and it has affected me. Cancer changed my mind and my body in so many ways.

What compelled you to share your story?: I want to let other women know they are not alone with their fears, it is real and it is normal to feel this way. Our spouses and loved ones will not understand what we are truly going through. Finding my support group for triple negative breast cancer has been such a blessing and has helped me so much.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Fill in your eyebrows, put on a little blush, accent your eyes, don't worry about your missing hair. Enjoy the days or even hours that you feel good and always rest when you need it! Don't feel guilty about putting yourself and your needs first.

Life before and after Breast Cancer

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : It was a Saturday in May of 2014. I was laying on my couch watching tv when my little pup climbed up on my chest. Where he stepped on me hurt, like someone pressing deep on a bruise. I touched the area and instinctively pushed around. Then I placed my hand on my other breast. All I can say is they felt different. Because I was only 33 years old, I talked myself out of it meaning anything. Until I noticed it was uncomfortable to sleep on my belly. I looked up how to properly do a self breast exam, and did one. And felt the same lump on my right side. Standing there in the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, I called my gynecologist. I had to wait 4 days to get in. I researched like crazy and found so many encouraging things. Things like 80% of lumps aren't cancerous. Cancer doesn't cause pain. Risk factors of obesity, drinking and smoking...none of those applied to me. Check, check, check. It must be a cyst. I saw the PA at my gynecologists office, and she said she wanted me to get an ultrasound, and then a mammogram if they felt it was necessary. 2 more days of waiting. As I laid there on the ultrasound table, I knew that I had cancer. She was taking way too long. And were those tears in her eyes? She knows. I know. I have CANCER. I had the mammogram, and got called in to the radiologist. He told me I needed a biopsy. That is all I remember. I called the surgeon who operated on my mother, and the fastest appointment they would give me was the following week. More waiting. Until my gynecologist called the next morning and asked when I got scheduled for a biopsy, I told her, and she then said words I will never forget. She said "the radiologist called and he's very concerned, and I am very concerned. I want you to have the biopsy today". I knew it...I knew it in my head but now I knew it in my heart. I had cancer. How could I possibly have cancer? My surgeon excused my mother and boyfriend from the room when doing the biopsy. It was just him and me. I asked him point blank if he thought it was cancer. I was ready for the crappy response of "let's wait and see". But he didn't say that. He touched my arm gently and said "yes, I do. But I am going to take care of you". When my cancer was confirmed days later, I was ready for the news. Ready to fight like hell. But I cared most about 1 thing. I hadn't had the chance to have kids yet. In 1 month, I had a mastectomy, genetic testing, underwent fertility preservation and started chemo. I was officially diagnosed with stage 2B ER+ Sentinel node positive axillary node negative breast cancer. I was very open about my battle, creating a private Facebook group for people to follow my story and encourage me along the way. It was my own personal army. I blogged weekly, pouring my heart out for anyone who cared to read it. And I kept moving forward. I went back to work when I was cleared to (I'm a pediatric physical therapist). It was then I shocked my team of doctors by asking if I could run in the Chicago Marathon, which would take place in between my 6th and 7th rounds of chemo. I had already signed up to run in honor of a patient of mine who lost his battle with a brain tumor. I knew I may only be able to get across the start line, but I didn't care. I just wanted permission to try. My oncologist said I could do as much as I wanted to do. And that gave me another purpose to fight on for during my treatment. I'm proud to say I finished 14 miles of the marathon that year, making Charity a Row my finish line. Every step out on the street that day made me forget that I was a cancer patient. I may not have crossed the finish line, but I will always think of that race as my best race of all time. I proved to everyone around me, and myself, that cancer may have chosen me but I chose to fight back and refuse to let it own who I am.
I went back and ran the marathon again in 2015, celebrating 1 year cancer free, and crossed that finish line.
I sit here now, just over 2 years cancer free, reflecting on how much life has changed for me since that May weekend back in 2014. Life will never be the same after you've been told you have cancer...but it reminds you that the time you have left is a gift.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: I found a strength, a passion and courage in myself that I never would have known I had, had I not been faced with cancer. Cancer has helped me relate to the children and families whom I work with on a different level now. I am open about my story, my journey, and I think it helps to know that they are working with someone who has "been there too".

What compelled you to share your story?: If I could get one message out, it's that I wish for all women who are faced with this terrible diagnosis to know that they are brave. They are strong. They will continue on, they will fight the beast and they can be the one in control. I took control when I somehow managed to run 14 miles of a marathon in the middle of my chemo treatments. I missed only 1 day of work because of pink eye. Otherwise I got up everyday, and lived my life exactly as I wanted to live it. I decided how I was going to feel that day and what I was going to do. And I wish the same for anyone who is in the same shoes.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: There are good days, and there are bad days but every day you get up and keep going, you win.

Tshirts: Hope 25

Blush Skirts: Marsymo

Stage IV is not a death sentence...

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : I'm pretty guarded when it comes to intensely emotional situations, my instinct is always to protect other people and shield them from the emotional avalanche that occurs when the world turns your life upside down. I'm also a control freak and if I can talk myself out of truly feeling sad or broken, I will. The only way that I'm going to traverse this new life path is to acknowledge it, feel it, and feel it again, so here I am making myself vulnerable and trying not to be angry at myself for being vulnerable. I'm a champion at burying emotions into a deep dark tunnel, but this time is different. So here it is. On July 17, 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, on September 5, 2013 my cancer was upgraded to Stage 4 after test results confirmed that the breast cancer has traveled to my liver and bones. Was I scared? Yes, terrified really, this wasn't part of the plan. I was 31 and I had an 18-month-old son at home who needed his mommy. Who has time for cancer? Unfortunately, I had to make time for cancer, it found a home in my body, more recently in my brain as well, and I have to make sure it doesn't get too comfortable. I have to fight it for my son, for my husband, for my family, and for myself. I'm prepping for the battle ahead, trying to give myself the best chance to beat this. I owe it to myself. I keep thinking about how many things I still need to do and see, but mostly I think of my son. I keep having visions of his first day of kindergarten, his first bike ride, his first date, his college graduation, his wedding, and I need to make sure that I'm around to experience these things in real time and not just in my imagination.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: I always tell my students that there is a lesson in everything, everyday life teaches you something new and you have to decide how this information will help you grow. For me, this cancer journey has given me a greater appreciation for the circle of love that I have around me through my family, my friends, my coworkers, my students, my medical team, and even the random strangers that I have met as a result of it. You never know how your story will touch someone else so I have learned to be more open and honest about my experiences in hopes that it will help and encourage others.

What compelled you to share your story?: You don't often hear stories about women my age going through Stage IV cancer. Our journey is different and often times we feel like other breast cancer fighters don't quite understand the path that we have to follow. I will live with this cancer for the rest of my life, there will be no remission, that reality is a difficult one to face and I hope my story can provide support and encouragement to others who are dealing with the unique complications that a Stage IV diagnosis brings.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: You are alive, so LIVE. Stage IV is not a death sentence, you do not have an expiration date. Take everyday as it comes and fill it with the people and things that you love. If you take nothing else away from this experience, know and understand that each moment is a gift and you have the power to choose how to use it, not cancer.

Makeup: http://www.jacquelinegamache.com/

T-shirts: https://hope25.com/

Blush Skirts: https://marsymo.myshopify.com/

When Cancer hits home (Part 1)

Cancer, Family, Marriage, Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez1 Comment
clickforhope give back cancer story

Please share your story:

Early last year my husband was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma.  As a family we were devastated.  We have two small children & a lot going on in our busy lives already, taking on cancer treatment was going to be a hefty task & we clearly worried about the impact it may have on our children.  Thankfully he handled treatment well with minimal side effects & we were able to get through without ever saying the dreaded “C” word to our kids who were two & four at the time.  He was in remission as of August of 2015 & we grew stronger from the process.  I believe now, that it was God’s way of preparing us for my cancer.

I noticed a lump in my left breast in November of 2015.  But after all that my family had just been through, I wanted them to get through the holidays stress free so I opted not to call my physician until January.  A decision I later worried may cost me my life.  In February I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  My surgeon estimated the tumor had been growing for approximately two years & treatment needed to start ASAP.  

clickforhope_breastcancershoot-22.jpg

I had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (tram flap) in March.  I did 8 rounds of chemotherapy, starting in April & completed that in August.  Following chemo, I completed 33 rounds of radiation.  I’ll be on hormone therapy for ten years going forward & have one surgery remaining to complete reconstruction which I am safely waiting until next year to tackle.

Meanwhile, while I was going through chemo my husband became concerned that his lymphoma may be returning. Seriously, right??  Following some tests, his doctors confirmed that he had relapsed or possibly the cancer was never fully gone in the first place as we had thought.  He began treatment again this month (Oct) & will continue treatment for the next three years. 

It’s been a crazy long road & certainly a lot more than we had ever anticipated when it all began last year.  Cancer has given us a plethora of challenges, but it’s made us stronger & we appreciate life & one another now more than ever.  Most would consider us unlucky to both have gotten cancer, we would say that we’re blessed to have one another for support as we face these battles together.

 How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It's changed my life completely! I don't spend time now worrying about the future or things I can't change, it's wasted energy. Instead I focus on today & making it the best it can be. My focus is on positivity & the things that I can work to change for the better. 

 What compelled you to share your story on our blog?: 

Through it all my focus has been to remain positive.  I was encouraged by my friends, family & even my physicians to share my story, so I started a website, positivelysurvivingcancer.com. It's been amazing so far & I've had so many people reach out to me personally through the blog & Instagram. It's just so wonderful to take something so terrible & make something positive out of it. Stress is an ugly thing that can really slow down our body’s healing process, so it important to train ourselves to focus on positivity. I also really believe that if we look our best, we feel our best. Feeling our best is so important through cancer treatment because it allows our bodies to fight that much harder!  I would love to help continue to spread the word about my site & help more fellow cancer warriors out there as they make their way through this journey.

 What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Take it all one day at a time, one question at a time. Be strong & positive, don't let worries or negative thoughts take your strength!

Make Today Great T-Shirt: Hope 25

Blush Maxi Skirt: Marsymo

Inspiring Friends | Hope 25

Inspiring Business, Clickforhope, Breast Cancer, Inspiring FriendsJasmine LopezComment

I'm so excited to start a new series on the blog! I'm featuring inspiring creative entrepreneurs that are doing amazing things in Chicago or beyond, either through giving back or using their story as a way to help others. 

Today, I'm introducing you to Melissa of Hope 25! She's been a dear friend of mine, and this last year I got to watch her fight for her life and punch not only fear in the face, but Cancer. She is now cancer-free and started a shop to inspire and encourage other Cancer fighters.  I'm so inspired by her that I want a boxing glove necklace she sells for myself....I mean, who doesn't need to punch fear in the face?!? 

“Whatever you are passionate about, whatever idea you have, you have to let go of the insecurities and just try it.” -Melissa

Who is Melissa Tang? : I am a 20-something year old graphic designer, photographer, breast cancer survivor, and now shop owner.

Love your last name, where does Tang come from?: I was born and raised here in the Chicago-land area, but I am of Puerto Rican descent. My husband is from Venezuela and is half Venezuelan, half Chinese. That's where Tang comes from!

What's your favorite drink? McDonalds Coke all the way.

What makes you laugh?: My three year old niece. She likes to joke around and it's hilarious. It's always been her personality to try and make people laugh.

What does a typical Sunday afternoon look like for you?: Every Sunday is a little different. The best kinds of Sundays are spent going to church and then hanging out with family. Sometimes if my husband is off we'll do something fun like go to the beach in the summer or we'll watch a movie. This year it's sort of different every week. This past Sunday consisted of a buffet brunch with the fam, and then a super long nap with my hubby.

How can we stalk/follow you?: You can stalk me anytime! You can always reach me at Hope25.com. I try and blog at least once a week there. My favorite social media platform is Instagram, but I am also on Facebook as well.
Hope25.com
Instagram.com/shop_hope25
Facebook.com/shophope25

Please share what your shop is all about?: In August of 2015, at 25 years old, I found myself sitting in a doctor's office hearing the words nobody thinks they'll hear:  "You have Breast Cancer." My world was flipped upside down. I sat there as the doctor talked and all I could pick up on were words like chemo, surgery, and radiation. Once I realized that I was going to lose my hair, I started to search for hats and wigs. I realized that a lot of the websites for cancer fighters made me feel old or out of place. The idea of opening up my own shop was born.

It took a little while to get started. I lost my dad during this time as well and the pain of everything I was going through was overwhelming. I can even say that during my darkest hour I cried because I had lost hope. My world went black, but once the dust settled a bit, I put one foot in front of the other. I realized God has a plan for my life and I can't give up.

What inspired you to start your shop?: I realized that I wanted to open up a store that was a little less pink ribbon and a little more punch fear in the face. I wanted to be a source of encouragement for those who face a cancer diagnosis or any other chronic illness.  Thus, Hope25.com was born.

What's your favorite item in your shop?: I sell a boxing glove necklace that comes with a print with my motto on it: Punch Fear in the Face.  It is meant to remind someone going through a hard time that you can do this. You are not alone in the battles you are facing. With the purchase of this necklace one will be donated to someone currently going through treatment for cancer.

How has your faith helped you through the journey of fighting cancer and then wanting to encourage others also fighting cancer?: I couldn't have done this without God. There has been a sense of peace in my life that can only come from Him. I heard a song at a conference and I found myself singing along. I sang, "Break my heart for what breaks yours." I started crying thinking of all the hurting people who are going through dark times because of Cancer. If people could see God's peace in my life through my shop, that would be amazing. I pray that God guides me through this and uses me to help others. I couldn't have gone through the dark storms in life without Him.

What was the scariest part in launching your store? The scariest part was failure. What if I invested all this money and it fails? What if people hate my designs? What if nobody buys anything? At some point you have to just do it. Whatever you are passionate about, whatever idea you have, you have to let go of the insecurities and just try it, because what if you succeed? The hardest part was just getting the energy to do it at first. Chemo left me so tired and weak towards the end, but I continued to plan and just took a leap of faith. I opened up and I haven't looked back. It's been so much fun.

What encouraging words would you tell someone who wants to start a shop with a purpose of inspiring others?: As I said before: JUST DO IT. Whatever is holding you back, let it go. I'm the type of person that if I want something to get done I have to go full force before I change my mind (or let's be honest before I get lazy-haha). My store wasn't 100% how I wanted it to be when I opened up, but I had to start somewhere. So that's my advice. Just start somewhere. Just do it. Don't let insecurities take over. There will be someone that loves your store. If your heart is in giving back or inspiring others, then focus on that.  When you get discouraged because you haven't made any sales, go back to the reason why you started in the first place and begin again.

Breast Cancer | Melissa

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez2 Comments

Please share your story:  

On August 24th 2015 my world flipped upside down. I found myself at 25, in a doctors office, waiting for what would be very bad news. Deep down I already knew what the Dr. would say. Let me back up for just a minute. Two months before I was driving. I had an itch on my breast and noticed something funny. That stuck with me. A month later I remembered and my husband checked. He confirmed he felt something too. I remember crying and feeling so silly. A lump? No. It's nothing. Then sharp shooting pain started and the Dr's appointment I had was pushed up. Suddenly I was told to get an ultrasound done, then a mammogram, and then a Biopsy. So on August 24th, the doctor came in and sat down. She had the test results. “We have your results from the biopsy….Unfortunately, You have Breast Cancer”. Suddenly my life stopped. I soon learned that I have stage 2 ductal carcinoma Breast Cancer. That scary "C" word you always hear about but think you'll never get it. Followed by another "C" world. Chemo. My future became a blur with a giant red question mark that seems to haunt me. That week was one of the hardest times in my life filled with many doctors, tests, and fear. I said at the beginning of this year, that it was the year to fight fear in the face. I had no idea how many times that would ring true. It was like all my fears where thrown in my face. Cancer. Chemotherapy. Surgery. (Possible) Mastectomy. Fertility Issues (due to chemo). Hair Loss. How could I handle the thought of being boob-less and hair-less all at once? I can’t even begin to describe the pain and the fear that comes along with being diagnosed with Cancer. 

Without thinking to much I started on IVF treatments right away so that they can extract Eggs and freeze some embryos, so that I have a better chance at getting pregnant when this is over. Chemotherapy will start soon. I am so scared. I am scheduled to start on October 1st. When I sat down one night to read all the possible side effects to the drugs I will be on, I sat down and cried. My husband held me. He's been amazing though all of this. He's told me I'll be beautiful no matter what, even when I have a bald head. 

You're probably wondering how am I able to share this? I have to come to appreciate the little things. My family and my husband have my been rock. They are constantly checking in on me and asking how I'm doing. God has given me peace and strength. I have my good days and my bad days, but I believe that God is with me. Anytime I am scared I tell my husband and we bow or kneel in prayer and talk to God. For these reasons, I am able to smile. For these reasons, I have hope. I have no idea what the next year is going to be like, but I do know it will be the hardest year of my life. I don't always feel so confident, and if you are going through something tough I'm sure you know how hard it is to fight through it, but I will not give up hope. I will fight this. In God's name I will win this battle. If you find yourself feeling alone, I urge you to pray. You can also contact me and I would be happy to talk about the struggles that comes with being a cancer fighter.

If you'd like to read more, I've started blogging about my story at BreastCancerAt25.com.

How has your story shaped you into who you are today?: 

My story as a breast cancer fighter has just started. I'm not sure how it has shaped me, but what I do hope is this. I don't want to waste cancer. I believe that I have cancer for a reason. I don't know how God will use this in my life, but I pray that it will help me become a better person. I pray that it will help me help someone else. I don't know what that looks like now, only time will tell. 

On a much smaller scale, I do see that I value my time with people that I love more. I hold the memories I spend with family and friends so much closer to my heart now. I've also been praying and doing my best to lean onto God, so I pray that God's love will start shining through me.

Why were you compelled to share your story?: 

So that I can be someone's hope. So that anyone who stumbles on this knows, there is hope for a brighter future. You are not alone.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story? : 

You're not alone. Don't loose Hope. It is a daily fight for me to be positive and have Hope. It is so important when I'm feeling down or sad to tell someone. When the pain of what's happening physically and emotionally strikes me, I go back to this verse. Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.