In 2017, it is estimated that 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancer, and that roughly 1 in 8 women will develop the disease during the course of her lifetime.
But behind these breast cancer statistics are real people with real stories.
This breast cancer awareness month, we spotlighted the faces of breast cancer, from patients to caregivers, who each share a unique yet common connection, and who together are fearless in their journeys with breast cancer.
Susan Sayles, MS, RN, OCN
“You must remember who you are; you must come to grips with self-care to be able to make it through this journey. You have to get in touch with how you feel, what you think, where you are, to be able to make it through. What helped me most through my journey was my family. My daughter and my sister just stayed with me. My sons did not let me have chemo by myself. They gathered around, just like you would hope that they would. Meditation is also key. During my breast cancer journey, I had a yoga practice that I was absorbed in and I exercised every day. I walked five miles a day. I was just absolutely determined that I was not going to lie down. And I would have to tell you: cream of potato soup. When I could not eat anything else, I could eat cream of potato soup.” —Susan Sayles, MS, RN, OCN, manager of the Cvetko Patient Resource Center at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center and a breast cancer survivor
“I was an art major before I became a counselor by trade, so I have 24 hours of art in school. I started with this [painting], then I’m going to do a picture of me and my dogs. It was kind of funny to be able to come back after battling breast cancer and go, ‘Okay, can I get into this again?’ When going through cancer, it’s like you’re in an alternate universe, so I was fortunate to have my doggies who kept me company — and they were more than thrilled to have mommy home all the time after treatment ended.” —Dorene Fox, a breast cancer survivor
Shannon Poppito, PhD
“I think one of the most important things breast cancer patients have taught me is that it’s very, very important for them to state how they’ve been caregivers all their lives. Many women will say, ‘From the moment I was born, I’ve been taking care of people. I’ve been taking care of my siblings, family members and friends, and that’s where I find my greatest sense of identity — it’s taking care of others.’ What is so impactful for me is to explore the essence of self-care with them, because all of their lives they’ve been giving care to others. The biggest challenge for them is to stop and reevaluate their lives and realize they absolutely must prioritize taking care of themselves.” —Shannon Poppito, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas
“I’m a Christian and a believer, and I believe everything has to do with faith. If you are going to believe it, you have to live it. Anytime I was low, I knew I had to stay and I still had to trust. So that’s why I say I influence myself. I, personally, never let anyone go to chemo with me except me and my God. I didn’t need anyone to go to chemo with me, asking if I was ‘okay,’ because I knew I was okay the whole time. I never feared death, then or now. I did what I needed to do to keep me there. And this is what I’m working on now — it’s my journey. This was an egg carton, and I was getting ready to throw it in the trash but then I saw art in it. ” —Barbara Edwards, a breast cancer survivor
“My position is to help keep cancer patients active and motivated and help them with a positive outlook. You have people coming in losing their hair or having a hard day, but I remind them that they’re getting better because they are getting treatment. It gets hard sometimes. My mom, who’s an oncology nurse, reminded me that even though it’s hard, you’re giving them so much and they’re giving so much more back to you. I think I can handle some down times just to know that I’m there for them. I can put myself aside for this. I get more life advice in one day here than anywhere else.” —Dillon Magee, FitSTEPS trainer at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas
“What I’ve really learned through my breast cancer journey is what is important, what are my priorities. Your health is your wealth. The career, the money, all those things are necessary — you just have to put them in the right perspective and the right place. It’s like when you’re flying on an airplane and they tell you to put your mask on first and then you can help others, the same rule applies to your everyday health. Remember to always take care of yourself first.” —Dorothy Nelson, a breast cancer survivor
“When you’re going through chemo and you look at yourself in the mirror and you don’t have any hair, you don’t feel good and you don’t look good…but you always have to have hope. Focus on the positive. I started counting down the days of my treatment from the beginning. If you get one treatment out of the way and the second out of the way, you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel from day one. It’s one less treatment ahead of you.” —Kristi Hall, a breast cancer survivor
For more inspiring testimonials from the Faces of Breast Cancer series, follow Baylor Scott & White Health on Instagram.