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Get up, Stand up

Hello Survivor Fam and welcome to 2021! We're super excited to celebrate not one but two amazing Survivors with you to kick off the year.

Meet Myriam Joseph and Pam Hodge our January and February Survivors, respectively.

While each journey is unique, one thing these ladies share is resilience, that's for sure!

For one thing, Myriam's journey began while she was 4 months pregnant. And it took Pam nearly six months to even get a diagnosis.

So you can tell off the bat both of these women had challenges to say the least.

But let's start with Myriam. She tells us that once she learned her diagnosis she went into "full mommy-mode" carefully monitoring her diet, stress and anxiety. On top of pregnancy and learning she had breast cancer, she was also dealing with gestational diabetes which required her to take insulin injections four times a day. This was more than a lot to deal with and yet Myriam forged ahead. She had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer and then started chemotherapy during her second trimester of pregnancy. Whoa!

In order to continue chemotherapy she had to deliver her daughter almost four weeks early. Thankfully her daughter arrived into this world healthy and without any side effects from the chemo. After resuming and completing her chemo, Myriam began radiation.

As if this all isn't enough to deal with, Myriam was still working as a Nurse Manager, taking off when needed. The silver lining there is, she was able to schedule most of her treatment within the same hospital she worked. After she was done with treatment, she began taking tamoxifen which is a common estrogen modulator used to treat breast cancer. We've discussed this type of medicine before but as a refresher, it basically attaches to hormone receptors in a cancer cell then blocks estrogen from attaching to the receptor which stops or at least slows any tumor growth. Essentially, it blocks the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need in order to grow and spread.

In Myriam's case, her treatments proved successful and she shares her story with us today as a Survivor.

"Five years later and after frequent ultrasounds, MRIs, and mammograms, I am proud to say I am a five-year breast cancer Survivor!" she said.

How incredible that Myriam's daughter Morgan came into this world with a fierce, loving, warrior as a mother! Some of us know what that's like and Morgan, you're so blessed and loved! You guys undoubtedly provided, and will continue to provide, each other with strength and love!

Clearly Myriam is in great company at home and in this network here with Pam being yet another incredible force of strength and inspiration.

Pam's journey began six months before it could begin. Confused? Pam's resilience reminds us to trust our own bodies and how, sadly, doctors don't always listen to the patient, leaving it up to the patient to advocate for herself and be relentless in her pursuit.

Thankfully for Pam, though time was lost at their hands, the cancer had not spread further and she was able to turn the tables after eight rounds of chemo and 35 rounds of radiation.

Still, to take nearly six months to get a diagnosis is upsetting, discouraging, and runs the risk of certain cancers advancing in that time span.

In Pam's experience, a holistic physician spotted a troubled area which led Pam to see her regular gynecologist who suggested a mammogram and ultrasound. Inconveniently, his office closed without warning and Pam was left to fend for herself. She began to search new doctors and though finding and meeting with two, neither could detect the lump, one even suggesting to return in six more months to retest. Pam attributes this to having dense breasts and some older machines unable to detect through denser tissue.

"Still determined not to give up, I found a third physician, who was an actual breast surgeon," she said.

This was the pivotal point. This doctor prescribed a cyst aspiration. Now, that alone was certainly not the remedy but this was the step toward actual diagnosis.

But even that didn't come easily. In another challenge to even get an appointment - a horrible reality that truly hinders so many in their journeys - Pam finally got an appointment.

"The doctor was expecting to do a cyst aspiration but when I disrobed, she took one look at me and asked, 'What the hell is going on?'," Pam recalled. "She saw that my breast was swollen, my nipple inverted and there was leakage."

As Pam began to explain her ordeal, the doctor proceeded with a biopsy.

"She then took a look on the ultrasound and answered my question by saying, 'Yes, it's malignant.' She was livid," Pam recalled.

That definitely sped things up as needed, with Pam encouraged to come back the next day for an MRI and scheduled for a radical right breast mastectomy two weeks later.

Like Myriam, Pam's story is one of resilience and inspiration for sure!

We are honored to share their stories with all of you and hope each brings you encouragement and inspiration to continue on your journey, knowing you are not alone!

Until next time, keep up with us on Instagram, and always keep your Eye on Strength!

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