In recognition of October being breast cancer awareness month Durango Boots set out on a mission to collect real stories from those affected by this terrible disease. 1 in 8 US Women develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. At Durango, this is a cause they are passionate about. Through the years, Durango has donated over a quarter of a million dollars to breast cancer research. They want to continue to fight for a cure. Along with their annual “Pink Ribbon Boot” campaign (an effort to raise money for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, read about it HERE), Durango launched a campaign to spread breast cancer awareness through the telling of first hand experiences with breast cancer. We have shared here, some of the stories that Durango has received and shared this October.
This is Erica’s story
“My story is one that is long, sad and I tell with a really heavy heart. My story is about my incredible and inspirational mom, who almost a year ago lost her long battle with breast cancer. My mom battled for over 8 years, she never let anyone know it was getting the best of her. When my mom was first diagnosed they told her she was going to be fine, that the medicine would easily fix this and she would not die. She went through her first battle. My mom was in remission for a while following. I was about to move out of state to college when my moms back crumbled because of a tumor from her breast cancer that had metastasized. From then she fought many battles, tumors, and surgeries. Through this time my mom broke her back, her hip, etc. but it never broke her spirit. I had never seen someone smile so much and continually tell us that, “Someone had to go through it, and everyone has their battle, this is mine.” It’s hard for me to even write this because of the pain that I feel. But I also feel a sense of light, because for the first time in so many years my mom is not in pain anymore. Cancer took my mom away at 55 years old, what I would give to have her back. It’s selfish of me to wish her back, I have grown to wish her easy resting. They say it’s the hardest for the people you leave behind and that is absolutely true. My mother passed away on her father’s birthday, he also passed away from cancer. Truly a birthday smile was put on my grandfather’s face when he got to see her once again.”
This is Darlene’s Story
“What does the pink ribbon mean to me? When I think of the pink ribbon it means heartache, courage, strength, and bravery. At the young age of 43 my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Her identical twin was diagnosed a year prior at an early enough stage where it was treated. Nothing anyone could say could prepare us for the journey God had planned for our mom and our family. You hear people get cancer but you never think it’s going to happen to you. During the time my mom was diagnosed, my son was due within weeks. My mom was determined to help me with her grandson and not allow this cancer to dictate her life. So there goes my brave mom putting her life on hold for me.Mom’s journey lasted a long 7 years. But in between those 7 years we had some pretty good years of enjoying life. My mom was truly a gift, she literally loved hard and had the biggest heart and compassion of them all. Sick and weak, unable to walk and barely hold up her own weight she would smile, hug, and hold my kids. Thinking about her surgeries now hurt my soul because I can only imagine how tired she was, but continued to fight for us. Her courage and strength is what makes me the proudest daughter ever. The day my mom left for heaven was July 12, 2016. She looked so peaceful. As much as we all wanted her here with us, we didn’t want her suffering anymore. That pink ribbon doesn’t mean cancer to me, it means BRAVE!”
This is Michele’s Story
“My mother was one of a kind. She had a passion for life and everyone in it. She was country to her core and lived a life of liking goats and loving the farm life. She was misdiagnosed after having a burning sensation in her breast. Once the tumor grew in size she went back in and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought a good fight but it spread into her brain and she lost her battle. We remember her every year at our county fair and present an award to the champion goat. She was a mother of 9 children and has been missed by all.”
This is Tiffany’s Story
“I was diagnosed at the age of 24. At the time I had 2 and 3 year old boys and was doing in home daycare. It rocked my world. I continued my daily life while completing my treatments and my husband working 12-15 hours a day to make ends meet. There was lots of tears and a lot more humbling moments. God carried me many days. Today I am happy to say I am 14 years CANCER FREE. I enjoy every moment of my now 17 and 18 year old boys! I am a youth pastor and fixing to go back to school to get my PhD! I have a lot of life to still live and a story of hope for those beginning their fight!”
This is Brenna’s Story
“Last fall I was laying in bed when I felt a lump in my right breast. I thought it was nothing, but it kept growing. By Thanksgiving it had doubled in size then by Christmas I was in constant pain. So, I made an appointment (Jan 9th), and then, yikes! The doc wants to schedule me a mammogram. And then an ultrasound..Then a biopsy a couple days later. At my mammogram appointment the doctor tells me he believes it’s cancer, I’m in denial it can’t be anything. Everyone told me that if it’s mobile or if it hurts it cannot be cancer. Cancer doesn’t hurt. Afterwards I go home and start to freak a little bit. I do a little research: less than 5% of women my age get breast cancer; 80% of lumps are benign. I’m going to be fine. But then February 2nd my whole life changed. I got that call that no one ever wants to get. “Brenna we got your biopsy results back, you have cancer. The tumor is cancerous and the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes” They quickly tell you what they think may happen as part of your treatment. Although, they do not really know they just assume from past patients. He continues to say “you will more than likely have a lumpectomy and do some radiation for a few weeks. I believe that we caught it in time. We are all here to help you schedule your appointments with a Cancer Surgeon to know more in detail what your plan will be. Brenna, just know we are here for you every step of the way and you will beat this” Feb 5th I meet with my cancer surgeon. He tells me he cannot operate on me because how aggressive the cancer looks. He stages my cancer at stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. He says I will have to do chemo therapy first. He sends me for a PET scan (Feb 7th) then a MRI (Feb 9th) Also, He refers me to a chemo doctor. My brain went to blank immediately. A series of panicked thoughts and feelings quickly followed.
Disbelief. “But my breast cancer is early stage. Surely chemo isn’t necessary!” “There is no way it’s Stage 4”
Denial. “Who needs chemo anyway? Isn’t the cure worse than the disease?”
Anger. “Why do I have to have to do chemo?! The docs said I probably wouldn’t have to when I was first diagnosed!?”
And then I was hit by something even bigger: fear.
Before I became a cancer patient, everything I knew of cancer I had learned in the movies. So when fear hit, it came in the form of a movie perspective. Every scary cancer scene I’d ever watched started to go through my head. I started to fear my future. Especially with hearing stage 4. What did this mean for my future? kids future? Benn’s future? Or my siblings future? Feb 12th I meet with my chemo doc. He tells me I will need chemo every other week for 8 total treatments. I’m shocked. 16 total weeks of Chemo. What? Whoa? What’s even happening right now? Feb 14th chemo class to get me ready for chemo. Feb 15th I’m getting my port placed in my chest. And then Feb 16th first round of chemo. Everything seemed to be moving slow, until now, when i looked back it actually all happened pretty fast. My chemo doc, after getting all my test results back, gives me my actual diagnosis- Stage 3B inflammatory breast cancer. Whew! We can work with stage 3B better than stage 4!! Which means I have cancer in the tumor, several lymph nodes, and my pectoral muscle, it has not spread into my blood or any other major organs. This is a good thing! During all these appointments I didn’t say much. I couldn’t stop the chemo scenes from running through my mind. Whenever I was alone I would just cry. I would cry on the way to work. I would cry in the bathroom at work. I would cry in the shower. I would cry any time I was alone. I cried because I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to keep my fear from my 9 and 10 year old kids. I cried because it all felt unfair. I cried because I was afraid of chemo. I cried because I didn’t want to be bald. I cried because, even though I wasn’t really sure what chemo mouth sores were, how bad the fatigue would be, how soon i would lose all my hair, or how sick I would actually get, I had to hear about it from everyone who either experienced themselves or that had a love one go through it. I cried because I didn’t know if I’d be able to continue working during chemo. I cried because I was afraid I’d not only be sick, but broke. I cried because I never planned on having cancer. And if I had to have cancer, I certainly didn’t plan on having chemo! I cried until I fell asleep at night. I cried for a few days, I think that allowing myself to do so it helped me. I came to a place. A mindset that my #1 job during this chemo journey would be managing my fear, staying positive, and keeping my life as “normal” as i possibly could. After all, even the bravest people feel afraid. It’s normal to be afraid. It’s ok to fear the unknown. I put my fears into a box. The last couple months, I have taken them out from time to time and would have another good cry. That’s normal. Right? But most days, I tried to focus on what was happening in the here and now. I tried not to think about what might happen in 1 week, 6 months, or 1 year. I focused on just what is in front of me. One fear at a time. One day at a time. One treatment at a time. I try to find at least one thing each day that makes me grateful, even on my not so good days. It could be the smallest thing, like walks with Been and the pups, walking around the lake with the kids and dogs, laughing with my family, FaceTiming my family, getting a special text from an old friend, getting my special room for chemo, getting my favorite chemo nurse for my treatment, no line at Starbucks when I am running late to work, and finding a good deal on my energy drinks (I mean finding them for $1 is a killer deal!) It helps me to remember why I am fighting cancer. That helps to keep my fear at minimal and stay positive.
I had a huge support team and I’ve very blessed by that!! At the end of the day, how you get through such a tragedy like Cancer is with the people around you supporting you, checking in on you, showing they care. And also by not letting fear take over and staying positive no matter what. Keeping looking at the end result. Look at the lesson it’s teaching you. I don’t think there’s ever a time when friends and family are needed more than in a time of crisis. Being diagnosed with cancer is certainly a crisis! It was for me. A huge crisis. I desperately needed my family to put their arms around me and tell me it would be OK. I needed my husband’s never-ending positivity and encouragement. I needed my Older sisters to comfort me like only they could, and I needed my Dad’s strength to see me through it. That’s what families do… they see you through it. They support you. That’s a big word, “support.” When you’re vulnerable it’s the support that lifts you out of the darkness and allows hope to shine through. When you share your burden, if even just a little, the weight gradually lifts from your shoulders. It did mine! I wrapped myself with their love and encouragement and gradually came to believe I really could do this. And I did. It wasn’t easy! I think it was a full-time job to boost my spirits sometimes, but they did it. Over and over they came through for me because I allowed them to. That’s the deal…. you can’t be a silent sufferer! Let others into your world and lean on them. They want to help; they want to make it better for you. They want to support you. A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family. I am forever thankful for this group of people. I am so lucky to have each of them in my life. And even luckier that I get to call them my family. And above all, remember those dearest to you have your back. They are there with their arms stretched out… all you have to do is grab on!
I know I will get through this. I’m a fighter. I’ve got this. I can and will do this. Of course fear breaks through once in a while, but it doesn’t paralyze me. And that allows me to save my energy to fight cancer with everything I have.”
Visit Durango Boots HERE to see how you can make a difference by purchasing a pair of Pink Ribbon boots!