We want to thank all of the breast cancer survivors who shared their story and celebrated their survival in the Cups of Courage exhibit at The Oaks Shopping Center on October 2, 2018.
Part of the annual Paint the Town Pink fundraiser to benefit CSCVVSB, this exhibit gave local breast cancer survivors a spotlight to tell our community about their experience and create a uniquely decorated bra in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read on for two stories from the Cups of Courage exhibit.
Almost 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage I Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer. Shortly after, I was informed that I had the BRCA2 suppressor gene mutation. This means that along with a high risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, I also have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer and melanoma.
I had a bilateral mastectomy, breast reconstructive surgeries as well as surgery to remove my ovaries and tubes all within 11 months. I was very fortunate that I did not need chemo or radiation. Although my recovery was long and difficult, I discovered that I was so much stronger than I knew. Throughout my surgeries and recovery, I envisioned Hawaii, our favorite place to travel. Remembering the feel of the trade winds, the smell of the wonderful tropical flowers and slow pace of life there, gave me peace of mind and helped me to relax. The bra I decorated this year is reminiscent of Hawaii and the wonderful sense of peace I feel thinking about it.
I believe that I got breast cancer so that I can help others. I am active in several online support groups, lending an ear and encouraging newly diagnosed women or women suffering from the side effects of treatments, metastasis or just trying to get used to their “new normal.” I am part of a wonderful group of women called Pink Ribbon Partners at Los Robles Hospital. We are paired with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to provide support and the benefit of our experiences. I also volunteer at the Cancer Support Community and enjoy the opportunity to talk to other survivors.
Another passion I have found since I had breast cancer is being involved with P-ink.org (Personal Ink) I have beautiful, colorful floral tattoos and a butterfly hiding my mastectomy scars. I am now the local leader of P.ink Day Los Angeles, part of a program throughout North America where as many as 50 women will get transformative mastectomy tattoos. This year 6 women will get their tattoos, free of charge, at Clear Vision tattoo, a wonderful tattoo studio in Moorpark
Two times fighting for survival from breast cancer required a lot of support from my medical team, family, friends, and The Cancer Support Community. The medical team helped me to SURVIVE and the Cancer Support Community helped me to THRIVE. No wonder my bra is smiling all over the place. I’m ALIVE and very happy about it.
In 2012, I was lucky to have my breast cancer diagnosed in the early stages. Even though I had no symptoms, it thankfully showed up on my annual mammogram. The treatment included surgery, followed by seven weeks of radiation. The radiation was scheduled to end the week before Christmas. I always loved the preparations and anticipation leading up to Christmas, but in 2012 I was especially counting the days until Christmas arrived! That is why I chose to decorate with an evergreen tree theme, a symbol of Life, and of the Joy of the Christmas season!
I’m so thankful for all the support I received during this time, including the wonderful professional healthcare community in Thousand Oaks/Westlake, and the loving support of friends and family.
In May of 2017, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 26. As expected, this news came as a shock to me, my family, and my friends. Thanks to technology, science, and medicine, doctors were optimistic for my future. After 6 rounds of intense chemo, a left mastectomy, 25 radiation treatments, and 18 doses of Herceptin, I am now CANCER-FREE! Throughout my whole cancer journey, I channeled my inner Olivia Pope from Scandal and lived by the mantra: “Gladiators don’t run, they fight. They slay dragons. They wipe off the blood. They stitch up their wounds, and they live to fight another day.” This motto got me through some tough times and encouraged me to keep pushing through. This is what inspired my gladiator-themed bra and I hope this can inspire and encourage other women in similar situations to fight to live another day.
Since being diagnosed, I am braver because I fought a giant and won. I am stronger because I had to be. I am happier because I learned what matters, and I stand taller because I’m a survivor. Never again will the simple act of waking up to a normal, boring day as a healthy woman be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated.
Now, the only thing standing in my way of putting cancer behind me are two surgeries. I am now engaged, thrilled to begin the wedding planning process, and can’t wait to see what the future holds! This time, without cancer!
This is not a typical story. Mine began over one year ago, when a kindly physician mentioned to me that my red blood count was high. Not very high, not alarmingly, just suspiciously, and thus, as such warranted an investigation. So off to a medical oncologist I went. (Note, at that time, I refused to acknowledge the fact that I might have cancer! Always referring to the doctor as a hematologist!!) So, at my first visit she stated, that we would look everywhere. We may find nothing, that doesn’t mean that a tumor isn’t the cause. So, ten months later, with multiple negative tests, I decided to have my well woman exam and mammograms five months early. While the physician did not feel any lumps, the 3D mammogram revealed a suspicious mass. The subsequent mammograms as well as the biopsy did confirm stage one breast cancer of the left breast, small at under one cm, but logistically challenging as it was very close to the chest wall. So I underwent a partial mastectomy, with intraoperative radiation treatment on July,12, 2018. On August 10, 2018, I am happy to announce that I successfully underwent a revision of the partial mastectomy, and the necessary “clean margins” were obtained. My best suggestion is to gather together with a new group of friends and try something different together. That is exactly where I spent my evening before surgery, decorating bras, in my local mall, having fun!
The theme I chose, A butterfly garden, is significant to me for a few reasons. Initially, the vast changes that the body deals with during the discovery, surgeries and treatments for Cancer. Secondly, in religions, the butterfly also represents change, especially referencing Christ and spiritual changes. Lastly, to me, the butterfly represents communication via the Spirit. I have had my Mother, Father, and Great Aunts all succumb to Cancer, some even to breast Cancer. One Sunday, between church and fellowship on the patio, a butterfly flew across my path, and found nectar in the flowers of the garden. It was just one butterfly, whose flight path drew me closer to the garden, and as it found more flowers upon which to feed, I was able to take my camera out and take a photograph of it. The peace of the moment moved my soul in such a way, that I knew I needed to change the theme of my “Cups of Courage” away from my former idea and create a piece of artwork to reflect the beauty one exposes when drastic changes are undertaken.
My name is Shelley Benson and I am a 25-year Breast Cancer Survivor. My diagnosis was called IDC (Invasive ductal carsoma, stage 2). Over a 9-month period, I underwent 3 lumpectomy’s, Chemo and radiation therapies. At the conclusion of my treatment, I went on Tamoxifen for 5 years. The theme for my bra is baseball. I am a lifelong Dodger fan, and baseball fan. When I was going through treatment both of my sons were in little league. I was the team mom and scorekeeper for both of their teams. Their baseball games were a huge diversion during my treatment, and being at the baseball field always gave me a lift. When my appetite permitted, I could eat all the hot dogs and snacks I could keep down. The encouragement of my baseball family was a big step in getting me through a difficult time.
I am a native of Los Angeles as is my extended family. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from CSUN with a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Education. I have been married for 41 years to my loving and supportive husband, Steele, who is a CPA. We have two handsome and intelligent sons, Blake 38 years old and Jeremy 33 years old. I am recently retired as a librarian and now enjoying my time playing Mah Jongg, going to yoga and art classes.
I am aware of how blessed I have been to be Cancer free for 25 years, and I hope to remain Cancer free for the rest of my life. I am delighted to be part of this project and the wonderful services provided by the American Cancer support groups.
Our mission at Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara is to ensure that adults and children impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and supported by community. Learn about all of our programs here, and learn how you can help here.