“You think that if you have cancer you would have other symptoms.”
While a fair thought, this is not always the case as our December Survivor learned.
See, “other symptoms” are not needed when you already have one (a lump!) and in many other cases, there are no symptoms at all (which is why we encourage early detection screenings). But at 34, Kimaya Salaskar Thakrar indeed had a symptom.
“The lump did not hurt so how bad could it be?” she recalled thinking.
However, after ignoring it for months, a mammogram and ultrasound soon revealed that even painless lumps, or seemingly harmless symptoms, are indeed still symptoms. Kimaya was diagnosed with HER2 Positive breast cancer.
As the American Cancer Society explains it, HER2 is a growth-promoting protein layered on the exterior of all breast cells and breast cancer cells with higher than normal levels of the protein are called HER2-positive. But this breast cancer diagnosis packs a bit of two-edged irony because while these cancer cells tend to develop and multiply faster than other breast cancers, they are also much more likely to respond to treatment with drugs targeting the HER2 protein, providing some silver lining to what otherwise would be an ominous dark cloud. (Information on some of these drugs can be found here.)
But breast cancer wasn’t Kimaya’s only worry before beginning treatment.
“I was scared, I told the doctor that I did not have kids yet, at the age of 34 I thought I was young, we were just about to start to plan for kids.”
Kimaya’s doctor eased her concerns informing her that she could freeze eggs or embryos prior to any treatment. With this, Kimaya began her journey which included 6 months of chemo, a lumpectomy, and 7 weeks of radiation.
During this time Kimaya continued to work at the boutique she owns in New Jersey, and credits her husband for being a pillar of strength and her community and local customers for their support.
“I had a lot of my customers come in and tell me that they were survivors too, this was very encouraging because it makes you feel that at some point your life will get back to being normal.” (Yes! Exactly our aim here at EOTS, too ☺)
Sharing stories of survival is almost as enlightening as the journey itself, causing Kimaya to see so much in a new light, including her own merchandise.
“When I lost all my hair during chemotherapy I would wrap my head in the soft scarves which gave me the idea of donating a scarf for every scarf sold.”
As we wind down 2019, we look back with such gratitude for our network of Survivors and inspiration. Women like Kimaya. Men like Al Hughes. It's been such a year here at EOTS and each Survivor brings a unique story and insight. And comfort. And hope. Strength. Faith. Example. Just so many things. We learn something new from each and every person here.
So giving them some love once again, we thank our 2019 calendar survivors for another great year and celebrate their survival!
January - Celeste M. Munford
February - Al Hughes
March - Jackie Catalina
April - Shirley Washington
May - Kamilah Brewington
June - Tina Sharma
July - Tonya Richburg-Wilson
August - Olga L. Morales
September - Maria A. Del Rio
October - Arcelida Rodriguez
November - Leslie R. Peters
December - Kimaya Salaskar Thakrar
And warmest wishes to Olga as she celebrates her birthday this month!
We are excited to move into the year ahead and our 2020 calendar marks our FIFTH run which we are also pretty excited about. We couldn’t do it without our Survivors, without Reggy (our founder and photographer) and definitely without our partners in pink at AAngelsNJ. And if you haven't purchased a calendar yet head over to their site right away. Give the gift of a good cause this season or decorate your own walls with some inspiration and beauty.
We can’t wait to see you in 2020 but in the meantime keep up with us on Instagram and always keep your Eye on Strength!