Celebration Of Life Profiles
As always this is the most touching, emotional, and cherished shoot for all of us at the Women’s Journal, and I hope to continue having this shoot for many more years. The women are beautiful, both inside and out, and their stories both break your heart, but give you encouragement to continue the awareness of these horrible diseases. Help make a difference in both breast cancer and ovarian cancer awareness. Donate to these organizations or volunteer to help spread awareness, which will help save lives.
When asked to give my testimony after my first diagnosis, I said I always knew God would heal me one of 3 ways: by a miracule, by medical treatment, or by death! Many congratulate me for surviving breast cancer three times. Even Dr. Fox, head of UPenn’s Rena Rowan Breast Center, said he’s only seen 3 people in 30 years survive breast cancer in 3 sites. I really am a walking, talking miracle!
My grandmother died of breast cancer when I was 12, so I went early for a baseline mammogram resulting in a first diagnosis at age 37. With children ages 12, 9 and 7, my prayer was to see my grandchildren grown and married. Despite a “cyst” on ultrasound, my radiologist said “Just do your routine mammogram next year.” I had an uneasy feeling and two months later I found another lump. I asked the surgeon to remove both the lump and cyst. While too deep to remove in his office, surgery could “remove all fibrocystic tissue.” I woke up to the news of breast cancer under the cyst—not visible on mammogram or ultrasound.
Since my breasts were too dense for technology back then, I requested a full mastectomy. My plastic surgeon specialized in breast reconstruction and said tram flap reconstruction was my best option. Surgery was difficult and chemo chemically exhausted me for months. I thought my ordeal was over, but 10 years later (2007) I needed a hysterectomy for metastatic breast cancer in my ovary. Incorrect pathology started a year of chemo for a new type of cancer I didn’t actually have. And a follow-up CAT scan found malignant breast cancer in my lung also.
The oncologist suggested chemo for the rest of my life. I said “I don’t think God would want me to feel like a dishrag forever!” A second opinion at MD Anderson in Houston determined I couldn’t have that type of cancer or I would have been dead. They re-ran pathology to find it was the original cancer that spread to my ovary and lung. The next week they removed the as yet untreated lung lesion. “When should I come back?” The specialist answered, “I hope never!” Now I’m on a drug to suppress estrogen and stop new tumors from forming, and I thank God for my health. Whether I’m helping clients with financial situations or helping breast cancer survivors, I know every day I live and breathe, God has a plan for me!
Mary Jo Chandler
My journey began eight years ago. I was 59 years old. I remember the phone call to my cell phone. I was in Monterey California visiting my daughter and her family. It was the nurse from the Breast Center. She said I needed to come back in and discuss my recent mammogram with the doctor. Her voice sounded urgent- I knew this call would be a defining moment in my life.
I returned home to doctor’s visits, biopsies, and then the phone call from the breast surgeon requesting that I bring my husband to my upcoming appointment. Wow, this was for real. Terror was probably the best way to describe my feelings at that time, what would I look like without hair? Could it spread?
The diagnosis was DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ- no I would not need chemo or radiation- no it had not spread- yes I would need a total mastectomy because it was in most of the milk ducts of my left breast.
I remember the night before the surgery. I knew part of me would be gone the next day, and I would never look the same. I also knew God would take care of me. I had total faith and let go and let God take control. I had decided to have reconstruction via a tram flap, and this was not an easy operation. I’m not sure I would recommend it but I would encourage having some sort of reconstruction.
Well fast forward eight years and I remember going through all of the above, it was an important part of my life, but it did not stop me from living a full life. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband. We have been married for 45 years. We have four beautiful daughters, four terrific son in laws and eight fabulous grandchildren. I have recently retired from my part time job of 32 years as a Museum Guide at Winterthur Museum. I enjoy playing duplicate bridge, tennis, golf and squash.
Breast cancer was a small blip in my journey of life. I try to focus on my blessings and not the blips along the way.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in May of 2006 when I went for my annual mammogram. By the end of my appointment it was pouring “tears”, my tears. I was told I had breast cancer. My life was now headed down a different path. A path that was totally foreign to me. I could not believe this was happening to me. No one in my family had cancer. That just did not happen.
My tears continued to flow until one day I decided that either the cancer was going to get me or I was going to get it! Those who know me, also know I am a fighter and my fighting spirit resurfaced. Once I became proactive and took a stand against this disease, things started to fall into place. My life became a whirlwind of tests, biopsies, two lumpectomies and finally a mastectomy. Follow up treatment ensued and today I am living a happy, full and productive life cancer free!
I give a lot of credit to my doctors, friends and family that were my core support and were by my side every step of the way. However, there was another group of people just as important and supportive that became my new friends. These ladies were cancer survivors too and were more than willing to share their experiences, encouragement and support. The saying “been there, done that” truly applied and it was comforting to know these ladies made it and so could I. To any woman struggling with a recent diagnosis or undergoing treatment, please reach out to a fellow survivor. You don’t have to travel this road alone.
Today I am employed full time as a Community Relations Liaison with MeadowWood Hospital. Working in the mental health field, helping others has opened many doors for me. My after hours are spent volunteering with organizations that help and support those who have experienced a traumatic event in their lives.
To me, it is all about being grateful, giving back and helping others… just as my wonderful husband, two daughters, grandson and many others gave back to me.
I consider myself a very lucky woman. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990 at the age of 46, I fortunately had discovered it early. As ductal carcinoma in situ, my great surgeon, Dr. Balin, was able to remove all traces of the cancer. No radiation treatment or chemotherapy was necessary and wonderful care was provided to me by the Women’s Center at St. Francis Hospital. I did have a bit of a scare the following year when another lump was detected, but it was benign. Now approaching my 70th birthday, I continue to have an annual mammogram and check up with my doctor. An annual visit to my dermatologist for a scan for possible skin cancer is also done. As a result of the latter, a basal cell cancer on my nose was detected which was surgically removed. With this history, and discovering the mission of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, I was happy to get involved by volunteering at the Great Stuff Home Store.
I have also been lucky in my private and professional life. I was married to a wonderful man for 32 years who unfortunately died at the age of 56. We did not have children of our own, but teaching in elementary schools for 31 years, provided me with the opportunity to work with many wonderful children! After retiring from active teaching, I continued to work as a coordinator in environmental education and as a grant coordinator for the Delaware Department of Education.
Having now fully retired, I enjoy attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, Fish (driving seniors to medical appointments), Arasapha Garden Club, and serve on the board of the New Castle Library Friends. Also, I have met another wonderful man and we spend time biking, hiking, traveling and enjoying our friends and relatives. Life has been and is good!
I am a 5-year breast cancer survivor as of Memorial Day 2014! My goal is to inspire others with my story of advanced Stage 3 cancer and give them hope.
I was 47 yrs. old when I noticed my right breast nipple and areola was darker than the left side. I did a breast exam and felt many cysts from my having fibrocystic breast disease. I called my doctor and after an exam, he felt a large cyst and ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a mass and the looks on the faces of the radiologist and the technicians made me worry. I had seen those looks before, when my daughter was three she was diagnosed with liver cancer.
I knew a biopsy was my first step. Being a nurse, a surgeon I used to work with was wonderful about getting me in. After the biopsy, he took my hand and said, “It’s cancer but this type of cancer responds very well to chemotherapy and you will be fine.” Wow– the two dreaded “C” words- cancer and chemo! I smiled and thanked him, then walked to the dark parking lot alone on Thanksgiving eve. I called my husband, close friends, and family and the tears started. Thinking about how much I loved being a mom to my 14 year-old daughter (my cancer survivor) and my 16 year-old son; fear consumed me for weeks. I knew I must stay positive but the survival stories I had heard were all early stage cancer. I prayed that I would be filled with the hope and promise that Jesus gives. Then, the darkness began to lift- my faith, my loving family, and my friends kept me strong.
I had 7 months of chemotherapy at Helen Graham to shrink the 5cm tumor. The tumor didn’t seem to be shrinking, but my surgeon told me that it was probably dying from the inside. I stayed hopeful because I knew I had the best possible care. I decided to use Hopkins for the surgery because they are amazing, they did my daughter’s liver resection 18 years ago that saved her life. I had a right mastectomy and then radiation.
After this treatment, a mammogram on my left breast showed a possible mass. I couldn’t believe it… I was just getting my hair back and they tell me I need another biopsy! I decided that I wanted a mastectomy no matter what the results. 13 lymph nodes were removed, 9 were positive. Then had bilateral reconstruction and tattooing a few months after that. I’m very happy with the results and it’s so nice not to have to buy bras anymore! It was fun to experiment with the wigs and scarves. I had more compliments on my wig than I ever had on my own hair! A nice side effect- the chemotherapy helped my complexion! I’m now on hormone blocking therapy for a few more years.
Though the treatments were challenging, I wake up knowing my life is so blessed and has been enriched by my having gone through this cancer experience. The wonderful staff and patients I met through my journey, my husband, and friends who kept me positive and cheered me on over the years. Each day is a gift that I cherish! – Jodi Sheats 52
I am 50 years old, and was born in Costa Rica. I have lived in the United States half of my life and am a proud citizen of the USA. I am a divorced, single mother of a 20 year old amazing daughter, a Dean’s List Student at UD.
I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in October of 2010. That day was probably the saddest day of my life – for about 3 hours – it didn’t last long because I decided with the help of God my life would be positive and healthy. I had a series of biopsies and then a week before Christmas my chemotherapy began. It lasted for 16 weeks. Christmas day of 2010 I began loosing my hair (which was one of my best attributes and still is). I decided to call friend of mine, a hair dresser, she came to my home and cut it short- instead of waiting for it all to fall out. Surprisingly, it didn’t fall out completely, but I had to wear wigs to work. I actually had fun with the wigs, and why not, some women wear them for fun. Another surprise was that I didn’t get sick with my chemo sessions, instead, I got insomnia. So, the days that I had my 5-hour chemo sessions (always on a Friday), I went out with my friends and danced all night long. I also went to the gym 5 times a week and did pretty hard cardio, my belief – the stronger I made the blood running through my veins the faster the Cancer would be eliminated (my theory only, but one my Oncologist loved). In April of 2011, I had my Lumpectomy, which came back clear, no Cancer, God is amazing! Lymph Nodes were also clear and “clean” ;). About a week later my radiation sessions began, I was told that the skin around my breast would burn, well, it didn’t happen, another plus. But, I sure got tan! I wanted to tan the other breast but the radiologist didn’t allow me.
My experience with Cancer was “a blessing in disguise”, it made me see how precious life is, that people that do really care, and it made me appreciate my family and friends much more. I began telling everyone how much I love them, we shouldn’t waste time not saying those beautiful words. I felt God with me even more, how He is always with us, at ALL times- I pray more now. Cancer touches us deeply in a way that no one else can understand. God has more for me to do; including things for others.
I have a boyfriend who understands how life with me works and how we all can love with such pure love. Now that, is just plain amazing. We should thank the Lord every day to be alive – I believe this regardless of having had Cancer, though maybe I understand it better because I had Cancer. Life is wonderful, three years cancer free; living each day to the fullest – helping others and loving everyone.
I am an Ovarian Cancer Survivor and I wear this label now as part of my life, part of my Journey and it is part of the new me.
I started this phase of my life very unsuspectingly in 2012. My Hereditary did not warn me nor did any of my life’s circumstances or personal habits. Ovarian cancer is a quiet disease that once you tally the symptoms it is usually in a later stage.
I have been married for 56 years, a mother of three children, one is deceased, and I have four wonderful grandchildren.
I was a nurse during my career and even though I have found technology has advanced beyond my working days, I have a keen understanding on how one should feel. When you look at the symptoms of early ovarian cancer, even collectively, it is not enough to cause alarm. My symptoms persisted and I went to the doctor with digestive issues, bloating and some mild pain similar to menstrual cramps. Some blood values fluctuated which did not fit a pattern either. It wasn’t until I went for a virtual colonoscopy, in the evaluation process, that the doctor saw shadows in areas around the right ovary area. A virtual colonoscopy can only diagnose colon issues but the blurs and surrounding area can be observed in the background as a warning to seek further investigation.
Since there is no test that can definitively diagnose ovarian cancer other than a CAT scan, my family doctor ordered one, which confirmed my diagnosis. He, in turn sent me to Dr. Rashid, GYN who put me “on the fast track” to surgery, chemo and remission: all done at the Helen Graham Center under Dr. Browosky’s care.
I could hardly face the uphill climb of recovery from such devastating surgery and then tear down my strength again in chemotherapy. This persistent disease needed eight months of problematic chemotherapy. My Journey began with little sunshine and definitely no rainbows. But what kept me strong was a reconnection with friends, survivors and family. It was a time of renewal of life, a new beginning and a fresh start. All that was important suddenly isn’t. Your goals and zest for life changes. You finally understand the philosophy of day to day and the importance of celebration.
Fresh out of chemo, I joined the first Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation 3k walk, to begin my newfound life, in remission. As luck would have it, I also reconnected with Dorianne Short, who I knew years ago, under different circumstances, who started the foundation, and has become “my sister survivor”!
For over a decade, Dorianne Short has dedicated her time and efforts to raising awareness of ovarian cancer with an emphasis on raising funds for research to discover a reliable diagnostic test.
An 11 year survivor herself, Dorianne is the founder and President of the Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation (DOCF), founded in 2009 as the premier ovarian cancer organization serving Delaware and the surrounding vicinity. Dorianne formerly served as Delaware Chapter President of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) from 2005-2009. Under her leadership, the DOCF has raised over $250,000 and she has dedicated more than 10,000 hours of volunteer time to raise awareness and help women with ovarian cancer. In addition, she was instrumental in raising well over $100,000 for NOCC during her tenure. Through her efforts of donating funds raised to various research grants, DOCF has become ‘a Partner in Science’ with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. In 2013, Dorianne was the recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award.
Dorianne oversees two annual DOCF fundraisers: the Teal Ribbon 5K to Fight Ovarian Cancer in May and the ‘On the Wings of Hope’ Teal Ribbon Luncheon and Silent Auction in September. With a small group of dedicated volunteers, other awareness activities and projects are organized throughout the year with an emphasis on September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Some of these activities include: exhibiting at various local health fairs and women’s events, mailings to ob/gyn offices throughout Delaware, a Salon Awareness Program (distributing information and awareness baskets to hair salons), Turn the Towns Teal (a national initiative placing teal bows in various locations to promote awareness in September) and a new upcoming project of providing ‘new patient bags’ to newly diagnosed women.
Dorianne truly lives her passion, which is ‘Hope for the Present, a Cure for the Future’. This passion has transformed her personal illness of ovarian cancer into a healthy, vital, supportive and expanding all-volunteer organization. She urges all women to learn the symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer because, currently, the only prevention is early detection.
For more information on the Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation, visit deovariancancer.org and our Facebook page.
Thanks to Our Location…. The University and Whist Club
The University and Whist Club is Delaware’s premier fine dining club with a rich history dating back to 1891. The Club offers a unique environment for Members, their families and guests to dine, socialize, and entertain.
Throughout the year Members enjoy a wide array of benefits and special events ranging from in-home catering services to complimentary room rentals and special dining menus. The legacy of the Club is built upon family and your membership extends to spouse and children under the age of 23. Children under the age of 12 are extended an extra benefit of eating for free when ordering from the children’s menu in the a la carte dining rooms.
We invite you to contact the University and Whist Club’s Member Services Coordinator, Kelly Caloway at 302-658-5168 ext. 100 or visit our web site and fill out the form to arrange a tour or to inquire about membership.
Many of the participants’ clothing was provided by Great Stuff Savvy Resale
The mission of Great Stuff Savvy Resale is to generate revenue for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition by providing the community with high quality women’s clothing, shoes and accessories as well as home furnishings and home accent pieces at a fraction of the original price.
All proceeds from the shop benefit DBCC’s programs which work to increase breast cancer awareness, promote the importance of early detection, provide access to mammograms, and provide support and resources to women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in our local community. Great Stuff Savvy Resale, is located in the Talleyville Center, 3619-A Silverside Road, Wilmington, DE, (302) 478-7890
Thanks to Our Photographer Roy McDowell
Royal Photography’s owner, Roy McDowell, brings a wealth of experience, both creative and business, along with an unmatched ability to put people at ease, to every occasion he photographs.Over the past 18 years, Roy McDowell has captured “that” moment for more than 300 brides and grooms and preserved high school memories too numerous to count. Such exposure has led Roy to become one of the most recognizable photographers in Delaware. He creates a lasting impression, not only of an event, but of himself. The pride, precision, and passion he exudes has compelled brides-to-be to track down, “the photographer who took their senior portrait years before”. Roy exhibits this same commitment and customer service when working with the many schools and businesses with whom he’s managed contracts. “The consumer drives the product I provide; not the other way around”. With the help and support of family, friends, and business associates, Roy McDowell strives to achieve his goal of providing an unforgettable experience with superior photographs, exceptional customer focus, and lasting relationships.
Thanks to Our Stylist J. Christian Studio
J. Christian is a Master Artist with more than 30 years experience in the beauty industry. Together with his wife Marcy, they own and operate J. Christian Studio, an upscale salon located in Hockessin, DE. As an International Platform Artist and Master Educator for Sexy Hair Concepts, J. Christian travels here and abroad teaching other Stylists about hair fashion. He regularly teaches at the Institute of Courage, a hair academy established by Michael O’Rourke, founder of Sexy Hair Concepts located in the Topanga Canyon just outside Los Angeles as well as at the Paul Mitchell School in Delaware.
Owner of J. Christian Studio
7465 Lancaster Pike
302 235 2306