Survivor, Advocate, Believer! My story starts with who I thought I was and now who I know I am! For many years I’ve put together workplace wellness programs and advocated for the health and wellness of others, you could say I have a passion for it. Since I was seven years old, I’ve been a very active advocate for many non-profit foundations and charities on many levels. A strong fearless fighter and leader, there really wasn’t any task to small or great for me. I would fund raise, to taking the reins to be the event creator & implementer, or rolling up my sleeves from start to finish in each and every challenge and endeavor. I work in homeless & abused women shelters, participating in a broad array of events, for instance running events, to holding a seat as a Director at Large for a children’s dental foundation. All this while being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I was the positive person who fought for the cause and spoke on behalf of others, was the liaison sort of speak. I thought I was fearless and strong, not invincible but had the strength to carry the burden for those who could not. Boy what an eye opening day in April following my yearly wellness physical, which included an annual mammogram when I was told something looks suspicious in my left breast and I would need to go for a 3D mammogram, which led to a biopsy. It took 3 business days following the weekend for the results to come back, and let me say those where one of the most stressful days I ever experienced…fearless no more! My new advocacy and battle started April, 2015, a few weeks before my birthday; this is the day that time stopped for a few minutes and will forever be embedded in my memory. I received the call from my gynecologist with the news…it was cancer! I had stage one Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER/PR positive and was told it was penetrating through into the ductal and not sure if it had spread to the lymph nodes. My life stopped for a brief moment, the news took my breath away, I was somewhat in shock…not because I felt I was immune from it, but just because I never felt a lump, or tenderness and felt good overall, the same way I typically do each year I go in for my annual physical with great results. My surgeon was amazing caring & knowledgeable, she gave me the options to have a lumpectomy with radiation/boost or a mastectomy, and I choose the lumpectomy w/radiation. From that point everything went really quick, my surgeon wanted to schedule surgery on April 29th, my birthday! Heck no, I said, can we please schedule it for May 1st; my surgeon complied after hearing my silly reasoning. This may sound silly and morbid, but I didn’t want to have surgery on my birthday for fear I didn’t make it out of the antiseptic or something horribly went wrong. I didn’t want to be born and possibly die on the same day…who’s fearless now!! My fear grew the closer I got to the surgery date of May 1st, which to me, now is my new birthday, go figure. 🙂 This is when my advocacy shifted to focus on my battle! I turned my fear and weakness to strength with knowledge by researching and the support of family, friends, and survivors…my new “Sisters”, who helped me believe I can beat this and to be a strong fighter. My radiation team was also a great support, they know how tiring radiation therapy is, they are upbeat, positive and keep you motivated to keep going. Surgery and radiation therapy are done, I’m tired but the positive news is, I am cancer free…I kicked cancers ass! My physical strength is getting better each day, I’m not always patient but know that it will come in time, my true strength now is advocating and supporting my new sisters and future sisters as they did for me. I was once asked, what three words come to mind when thinking back, I say awareness, strength, and believe. I encourage each woman of all ages to be pro-active, have an annual mammogram and physical exam, early detection truly makes the difference in the outcome. Be a fighter, use the support of others to be strong and never stop believing that you too can kick cancers ass! Yes, I now know who I am…I’m a “strong believer and advocate” that walks with my new sisters and holds their hands to fight through their battle!