New Orleans restaurants rally for a cause as NOLA Goes Pink _lowres

 

Breast cancer survivors can be inspiring and uplifting.

They can teach us how to confront the unexpected and to rely on faith to get through life-changing events.

Many of the women who have faced the diagnosis wrestle with job disruptions and changes in their physical appearance. Daily schedules grow to include chemotherapy and radiation treatments in addition to normal responsibilities, such as caring for children.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which begins Thursday, women have a platform to share their journeys about a disease that affects about one in eight women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

Social networks are one way they can talk about it. Through SurviveDat, women younger than 45 diagnosed with breast cancer can connect with others.

“SurviveDat is amazing,” said Alyssa Eilers, 29, a breast cancer survivor who said the journey can feel lonely. “I started using the network last year and we (breast cancer survivors) talk to each other regularly, and we message and text all day, everyday.”

Eilers had a double mastectomy and is cancer-free, but will remain on medications for about 10 years.

“There is no more normal. It’s a new normal and it takes time,” said Eilers, referring to some of the changes and adjustments she has made in her life.

Breast cancer survivor Patricia Ray Carter understands.

“Before I had cancer, I’d make plans and say, we’ll do this or that at sometime or another,” she said. “Now, I say, ‘How about next week,’ because life is so unexpected.”

Louisiana has the second highest breast-cancer rate in the country, and large numbers of women who don’t have access to health care and screenings, said Laura Ricks, communications coordinator for Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs. So it’s imperative that women have access to programs, such as the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program, which provides no-cost mammograms and pap tests to women who qualify, she said.

Breast cancer survivor Sarah Holliday-James offers resources for women wrestling with the disease. From losing her hair to undergoing physical therapy treatments for lymphedema, which causes swelling in her arms, she has chronicled her experiences on YouTube, Facebook and on her show on Channel 21. Her advice: find strength in your faith, “inspire and motivate others” and watch your health.

“You need a strong body to go through it,” she said.

She also encourages women to “decide how you want to cope” and maintain a positive outlook.

“You can always turn your lemons into lemonade,” she said.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. Reach her at chantewriter@hotmail.com.