Breast cancer affects millions of women each year, and it leaves a lasting impact on each woman’s life long after it is gone. The impact touches women of all ages in all different ways.
You might be a wife, a mother, or a daughter battling the disease herself. You might be a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, or close friend of someone going through it.
Each woman leaves more of a legacy than she may ever know in the lives of those who love her. Few legacies show the strength and determination that shine through in the fight against breast cancer. As we all work together in raising breast cancer awareness, we also hope for a future that knows nothing of breast cancer and its impact on the lives of women everywhere.
It is with great honor and respect that we share the stories of these women we know as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and most importantly -- as survivors.
For our past, our present, and our future … Every Woman Counts.
When Corene Chittum went in for her routine mammogram, she wasn’t surprised when she was called back about suspicious findings in the results. “I got called back all the time,” she recalls. “I’ve always had cysts in my breasts and they had never turned cancerous before, but extra precautions were usually taken just to be sure. When they called me, I assumed it was nothing. But this time, I was wrong.”
Corene’s breast cancer was diagnosed as Stage 1, found in its earliest form at the best possible time. But she attributes that to having her regular mammograms and making sure she listened to her physician’s advice. “I never knew this, but they told me during the process that it’s possible to have cancer present for 10 years before it may be detected through a mammogram. Once it gets detected, that usually means it can grow quickly, which is why I believe regular mammograms are so important,” she says. “That’s still where they will catch it and then they can act fast once they do.”
As Dr. Hall explained to Corene the type of breast cancer she had, he also explained her options for treatment that were available here. “I didn’t know what I would experience, but I knew I didn’t want to need chemo,” comments Corene. “But Dr. Hall told me that I had options and they would have the same treatment effect on my breast cancer. I could have my breast removed to get rid of the cancer, or I could keep it and take the chemo, radiation, and hormone blockers. I chose to keep my breast, and persevere through chemo,” she says.
“The oncologist explained further that because my type of cancer was hormonal, chemo was even more necessary. I went numb when he said that, because I didn’t expect it,” explains Corene. “We have minimized the chemo to 6 total treatments. From there, I will have radiation for 31 days and then take hormones for 10 years after this.”
With the support of close family and friends, it was convenient that Corene could get the treatment she needed close to home. “Most of my family is in Kokomo, and my friends are a great support group for me here in Peru,” she says. “I didn’t tell my kids and grandkids at first. My husband was with me when I found out, and then I called my best girlfriend shortly after that to deliver the news. Once I did share it with several people, I couldn’t believe the support! Through prayers, help, and continued participation in my favorite activities, like quilting, I knew I was not alone in this fight. And I never would be.”
Corene says that she will not truly consider herself a survivor until she has reached her five year mark of being cancer-free. But as she looks to those five years and beyond, she wants to share her story in any way that she can, to help spread breast cancer awareness. “If someone reads my story and is inspired by it to get their mammogram, I will consider that a success,” she says.
“Cancer is a scary experience for everyone involved. I told my family, my friends, and even myself that it’s okay to be scared and angry. But you can’t let it consume you, because things could always be worse. Keep your joy and let nothing and no one ever take that from you. Joy is the best legacy I could hope to leave someday with those I know and love.” We have no doubt that Corene will do just that.