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LYNNE – BREAST CANCER

Lynne - Bodies of Courage Bodypainted Cancer Survivors

My story begins with a move to the Tampa Bay area in 1998.
My husband and I had just moved from Ohio.
I had a mammogram in late November 1998, and the doctor’s office refused to give me the results without speaking to the doctor directly, even though I explained I was moving.
As I settled into our apartment in North Tampa, I received a Fed-X from the radiologist’s stating “abnormal results, follow-up required.”

Since it was very close to the holidays, it was difficult to find a doctor to see me.
Fortunately, I found a wonderful nurse practitioner who advised me to have another mammogram and ultrasound.
Her words were, “don’t worry, it’s probably nothing, just some calcifications.
Have a nice holiday!”

Missing my family and friends in Ohio- especially my children – I set off on a new journey of getting appointments, a biopsy and waiting for results.
I kept a positive attitude even though I felt that the news probably wasn’t going to be good.

In Feb 1999 I had my biopsy at Moffitt Cancer Institute and I was one of the first to have the sentinel node biopsy done.
The results were “intraductal carcinoma”.

My action plan was to think about this carefully, research it, and then make my decision.
I decided on a mastectomy because the research I had read at that time was that 19% of women who had undergone radiation- had a recurrence of breast cancer in 10 years.

So facing this bravely and with a positive attitude, I had the surgery with reconstruction and also met other women who had breast cancer.
During my time of the several weeks of getting injections of saline into the chest expander.
I had the privilege of volunteering for Shriner’s Hospital.
I worked with the children in the lobby waiting room as a play therapist.
This was a perfect volunteer job for me!

Also I carried the trays in the dining room for the kids in the cafeteria.
These kids were waiting for their new prostheses, but full of energy and not a bit shy or intimidated to be walking around with missing arms or legs.
This inspired me greatly, even though “my amputation” wasn’t visible to the public eye, they were strong examples of not letting anything get you down or make you feel like giving up.

Since I was not able to work during this time period, I discovered belly dancing and threw myself wholeheartedly into this ancient art form.
I was hooked to this healthy way of self expression that made me feel beautiful as well as getting in shape.
This feminine dance form led me to make many friends – female friends who touched my life.
It also led to costume making and performing.
This was my transformation period, a true metamorphosis for me. I evolved and I am constantly evolving.

I won’t bore you with the details of the many surgeries, my first two reconstruction’s had to be redone because of a failed skin graft and a ruptured implant.
I want to focus on positive things that have come out of my experience.
One of the most positive things besides becoming closer to my family and friends, is making new friends such as Lehua Lin and Peggie Sherry.
My life has truly changed and I am ever grateful for their friendship, support, and guidance.

Lehua is originally from Hawaii and is such a beautiful inspiring spirit.
She is fortunate to know Peggie Sherry through her work at TBCN (Tampa Bay Community Network) .
Peggie Sherry has touched so many lives by her work with Faces of Courage and the Womans’ Cancer Survivor Camp.

This is so important for us cancer survivors to take part in this yearly 3 day event of being truly pampered and spoiled.
The many varied activities from crafts, drumming, massage, 3 full meals a day, tie-dying, canoeing, hair and face make over, and “death by chocolate” and I do mean CHOCOLATE !!
Sleeping in air conditioned cabins with your best buddy and making new friends and contacts to be cherished.

The last night ends with a costume contest, dance and music.
All these wonderful things are donated and given to us by people who want to improve our lives by giving us some joy for all the heartache and pain we have dealt with on our journeys.
The best day for me was the final event of releasing butterflies in the garden.
This is very symbolic for me by not only remembering The women who lost their battle with cancer but represents metamorphosis -our lives being transformed into new beings with a purpose of passing on encouragement, support, friendship, and passion for life.
I recently also had the honor of being painted by Lisa Scholder for “Bodies of Courage”.
This is an unforgettable experience that made me feel beautiful and admired. It’s like having a ”skintight” costume on.
I felt like a character from Cirque Soleil! In fact I requested that the music from Cirque de Soleil be played as well as Hawaiian music which helped me relax while being transformed.
I felt like a creature, a spirit of the sea and woods!

We continue to fight for a cure and improve lives for those who may encounter this disease and to inspire others.
I hope my experience gives others insight and helps our cause.
The fund-raising is a very important part of “Faces of Courage” that provides the camp experience and all the other wonderful things that we have had an opportunity to take part in.
So please pass on our message of hope and recovery and enjoy our stories of courage, our photos, and works of art.

Thank you Peggie Sherry,Lisa Scholder, Jim Webb and all the wonderful volunteers and contributors.
We honor you and YOU have helped us more than words can ever express.

By Lynne: 13 year survivor.