An 18-Year Survivor of Breast Cancer Shares Her Story

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My name is Valerie Smart. I’m a wife and mother with three beautiful children, two boys and a girl. And I am an 18 year breast cancer survivor. This is my story.

I was diagnosed with a stage II ductal carcinoma (a type of breast cancer) in August of 2000. I had eight cycles of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation followed by Tamoxifin. I lost all my hair and had some nausea, but that was controlled by medication. Later, I had a lumpectomy (a surgery of my breast to remove only the tumor and surrounding tissue), and I had 15 lymph nodes removed from under my arm and right breast.

I found a lump in my breast one day while doing an exercise while lying on my stomach. There was a pain in my breast, but it was very different from the normal pain I had experienced during my monthly cycles. I ignored the lump and the pain at first, not really making a connection at the time to breast cancer. After some months, I called my OB-GYN, who wanted me to come in for an exam.

I was then sent to do a mammogram, which confirmed all my fears - it looked like cancer. I then had a biopsy and that confirmed it.

Everything after this built up to have a snowball effect on my life. Every week thereafter, I had appointments and other things that needed to be done. While seeing all these different doctors and office visits, reality began to sink in.

I remember the first time I actually cried was going home after meeting with several doctors. I told all my neighbors, teachers, my mailman, and anyone who would listen and the outpouring of support was amazing. The feedback was uplifting. I even told the cashier at my favorite grocery store who hugged me and said it would be okay. I was lucky to have so many people praying for me.

In my heart, I knew I was ready to deal with my breast cancer. My husband being a vegetarian was a great help to me, as it kept me on a healthy diet. Everyone in my community helped out by taking my kids to school. I even had a neighbor who would prepare a meal every morning and bring it over.

I just couldn’t allow breast cancer to beat me. I accepted the journey I had to go through. I did a lot of reading and reached out to a lot of cancer organizations because they say knowledge is power, and I used it to my advantage. You should always try and remember “this too shall pass.” Now, I am 18 years cancer free and remembering to enjoy life to the fullest.

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