When faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer, many women don’t know what to expect. Three women — two survivors and one woman currently battling Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer — shared their stories with Joan Lunden, special correspondent during TODAY's Pink Power week.
“I was scared, I thought I was gonna die,” Charron Walker told TODAY. “It really hit home that I was 32 and my mom died from breast cancer at 34.”
Walker had recently finished graduate school when she discovered the lump in the shower.
“I said, 'No, this is not really happening.’"
She visited an oncologist and learned she had Stage 1 breast cancer. The doctors removed the lump and followed it with chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy.
She used her experience surviving cancer to help others. In 2006 she founded the Young Survivors Network, a support group for young women with breast cancer. Her strength and positivity have helped her.
“I tell every woman that’s going through this journey you’re not just a survivor, you are a conqueror,” she said. “It’s a mindset and you gotta have that mindset to get through this journey.”
In December of 2012, Carlin Hafiz tried putting her hand behind her back for a simple twist during her Bikram yoga class, but felt too much pain in her armpit. Soon, she noticed she couldn’t walk with her arm comfortably by her side.
She visited a doctor and learned she had triple-negative breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. A positive outlook helped Hafiz through her experience.
“There may not be a cure for cancer, but you can beat it," Hafiz said. "I mean, there’s not a cure for the common cold either and that’s how I look at it."
She tells people all the time that Bikram yoga saved her life — because of it, she found the lump. But it also keeps her physically and mentally strong.
“I honestly believe positivity, spirituality together is undeniable that you can walk away being cancer-free and living a long, healthy, prosperous life,” Hafiz said.
Jen Campisano has been battling cancer since 2011. After the birth of her son, Quinn, she noticed a lump in her breast. After a biopsy, she learned she had Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her lungs, spleen, chest wall and the periportal duct of her liver.
“I felt like I was gonna vomit, like I had been punched in the gut,” she told TODAY. “We were shocked and devastated. I was so young and a new mom and my whole world was consumed with this baby and being ‘Mom.’”
She completed six rounds of chemo and before Christmas of 2011, she learned her scans were clear. But, her treatment wasn’t over. In January of 2012, she had a bilateral mastectomy and five weeks of radiation. Six weeks later she learned she still had cancer in her chest wall and spleen again. She started broad-spectrum chemotherapy, which she responded to well. But in May 2013, a routine scan showed the cancer had returned. She started a new chemo regime that directly targets her cancer cells.
“If it had been addressed earlier whether it might have been caught before it was Stage 4 and I really try so hard not to go down that path,” she said. “You have to push. If you know something isn’t right for your body, you have to push for what you know is best.”
While Campisano has grappled with anger and frustration, she remains hopeful and positive.
“I try to remember all of the things that people have done for me.”
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