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“Strength of a woman”, it is tested; at many stages, in many ways and some times, with a brand new challenge every day.

Isn‘t it a mystery that how a woman could carry a precious life in her womb for 9 months and go through arduous, painful labor and give birth, which I presume a man may not be able handle no matter how tough they say they are. And yet again a woman can go through so much misery and come out of it tougher; for her nature of patience and forgivingness. Sadly some women forget that they are blessed with such uniqueness and let fate take control of their lives and act cowardly but most in our gender make us proud since they still beat all odds…. round of applause to them …

I’m bringing you stories of three such women, who could inspire most of us. While you read their stories just one more thing to remember; Prevention s better than cure, so be aware of yourself, physically and mentally;

The greatest wealth is health” they say.


15th POST

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

A breast cancer diagnosis can cause a woman’s life to come to a temporary standstill. The hustle and bustle of jobs, families and friends fade into the background while she considers her best options, takes a deep breath, and proceeds.

Then she keeps on living her life, the best way she knows how.

For many women, the diagnosis also crystallizes a determination inside of them that they always felt, but couldn’t articulate. They march forward with more confidence, more assurance that they will do what they have to do.


Amy Siroky, Judith Leong and Kristin Graham are three breast cancer survivors. They also have something else in common—they are all actively living their lives. Cancer has changed them, certainly, but they will not let it define them.

“You don’t want to make it a rounding of your personality,” Siroky said. Obviously its part of you and you can’t ever let it go. It’s a part of your soul that helps to define you but doesn’t define you.”

Leong said that cancer’s impact all depends on attitude and how a person decides to approach her life. “Your life changes, and you either change with it, honey, or you might as well give up. You cannot go through life the same way you did before. You just can’t.”


Amy’s story

Amy Siroky, 48, is from Arroyo Grande, California. She was diagnosed with ductal cancer in situ (DCIS) eight years ago. Due to a large number of lumps without clear edges in her breast, she needed to have a mastectomy. Since the cancer had spread to some lymph nodes, she underwent chemotherapy of several months, too.

“I would have done anything to not have had my last chemo treatment. I would have sold my soul to devil to not have to do that,” she said wryly. “Chemo is just not fun. It runs cold through your body.”

Despite the difficulty, she never paused in her determination to make it past her cancer diagnosis and treatment. At the time of her diagnosis, her son Grant was one year old and she knew that if she didn’t do everything she could to prevent her cancer from coming back, it would haunt her. She wanted her son to know and remember her, which strengthened her resolve.

“I took it as, ‘What do I need to do to get better?’” she said.

After treatment, Siroky had reconstructive surgery and then she decided to take on another big task: the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk from Santa Barbara to Malibu, California. She viewed it as a way to get back in shape and to move forward. She prepared for weeks, and when the big event rolled around, just a year after her surgery, she held up just fine.

“You felt like you were finishing the marathon at the Olympics,” she remembered. “You were walking through a tunnel of people who were cheering for you and slapping you on the back and giving you high-fives. It was really rewarding.”

Today, few people even know that Siroky is a breast cancer survivor. Her life is full. She has a new job as a mortgage loan officer, and her son is now in school. She recently took a trip to Ireland, and she manages two properties on the big island of Hawaii. Although her body is different, she doesn’t think about the cancer much anymore.

“It’s not to say that I’m glib about life or the gift that God has given me. I certainly appreciate it,” she said. “But I guess…this is what I’m doing to move forward.”


Judith’s story

Judith Leong, 58, will mark her ninth year of surviving breast cancer in January. She was diagnosed with a Stage I, grade 3 cancer at an annual mammogram appointment. She underwent two lumpectomies, the removal of 12 lymph nodes, medications, chemotherapy and radiation treatments—and the subsequent nausea and other side effects.

“They decided to throw the kitchen sink at me,” she said of her treatment. “I didn’t ever want to go through life saying, ‘What if?’ It was a little tough to take but I was up for whatever it took.”

As the process took its toll, Leong searched for something to help her. An epiphany came when she began to explore traditional Eastern medicine. At the time of her diagnosis, she had been practicing martial arts. But as her energy flagged during treatment, she switched to tai chi and met a friend who was also a shiatsu practitioner.

“It literally reduced the side effects of the nausea and helped me recover a lot of my energy,” she said. “I really do believe that’s what made the difference.”

It also changed the direction of her life.

Leong became such a believer in the benefits of shiatsu, a Japanese hands-on pressure therapy, that she decided to study complementary therapies, too. She still practices tai chi, but she is now also a Reiki master and certified to practice shiatsu. She opened her own shiatsu practice about two years ago and has about ten regular clients.

Leong also became a justice of the peace in her home state of Massachusetts so she can perform wedding ceremonies—as many as 50 or 60 per year. “I was looking for ways to be happy and to be around other people who are happy,” she said.

Leong got married a few years ago, as well, and remains grateful that she is alive and has had the chance to take her life in a new direction. She stays busy—“If I don’t, my mind wanders”—and she works hard to spread a message of hope to other people with cancer.

Just this year Leong became a representative for the American Cancer Society’s Reach for Recovery program. She felt compelled to give back to the society that helped fund the research behind her treatment. As a representative, she tells people that cancer is not a death sentence and there are alternatives out there to help them through it.

“I feel it’s my job to spread this joy and gratitude to others,” she said. “I guess it all just stems from my being alive.”


Kristin’s story

San Diego resident Kristin Graham, 42, was completely shocked when a 1.9 cm lump was found in her breast when she was 39 years old.

“It was completely out of left field,” she said. “I come from no history of breast cancer and literally a family with no diseases…I was the last person you’d expect this to happen to, so it was a major shocker.”

Suddenly she was confronting a Stage II cancer. Despite the shock, Graham knew exactly what she wanted to do, since two of her friends had had cancer and told her about their experiences. She opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction.

“I wanted to look as normal as possible,” said Graham, noting that she was young and single. “I am very happy that I did that. The outcome was fantastic.”

Like many breast cancer survivors, Graham sought out a support group. When she looked around the room, however, she realized how little she had in common with the rest of the women.

“It was me and a bunch of 60-year-olds,” she said. “The only thing we had in common was breast cancer, but our concerns were so different. I was concerned about whether I going to be able to have kids…dating, and all that.”

So when she learned that two other young women with breast cancer were starting up a local chapter of the Young Survivor Coalition (YSC) in San Diego County, she jumped at the chance to participate. It gave her a sense of purpose—helping other young women find answers to their questions and support from someone who knew what they were going through.

“I can help someone else going through this,” she said.

The coalition sponsors events and speakers that target the issues young women worry about but may not know who to ask, topics like sexuality, fertility and career issues.

“It’s all geared toward young women,” Graham said. “We just want to provide the platform for it.”

Working as a founding member of the YSC chapter, Graham has found that she, too, wants to take her life in a different direction. She is doing some soul-searching, figuring out what kind of career she wants to pursue and what kind of life she wants to have. She knows she doesn’t want to return to the career she once had, a business she owned that dominated almost every waking hour and put a great deal of stress on her.

“Now it’s about quality of life,” she said. “It’s about friends and family and living life, realizing everything could be taken away tomorrow. You have to live that way. It’s about being happy.”

Graham will continue to spread the word about the coalition, in the hopes that she can reach other young women, just like herself.

“We are our own best advocates,” she said.



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