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Mary Beth White: 31 Survivors in 31 Days

Name: Mary Beth White

Diagnosed At Age: 47

Status: In remission since August 2012

My Story: In February 2012, I went in for my yearly mammogram check-up. Heading into my appointment I was confident, as I have no family history or symptoms that would lead me to believe I had anything to worry about. After the test, my physician found a suspicious lump in my right breast he was concerned about, and he wanted to perform a surgical biopsy.

At the time of my biopsy procedure I also had a DNA test (called know error system) to ensure that the diagnosis was truly my own. Prior to my biopsy examination, my physician relayed that in some instances biopsy samples can be mislabeled, contaminated or switched and cause patients to receive an incorrect diagnosis. After learning this I did not want to take any chances. The test was a simple cheek swab to collect my DNA and send it along to the lab with my biopsy sample. The cheek swab is compared against a cancerous biopsy sample to ensure the identity of the patient before diagnosis and treatment is discussed.

A few days later, I went to go see my physician and he diagnosed me with Stage 1 breast cancer. Knowing that my physician used the know error system to make sure the DNA of the cancerous tissue matched the DNA sample I provided helped silence any nagging fears I had that there was some sort of mistake, and it allowed me to be more confident in my treatment plan.

After my diagnosis, I underwent a partial mastectomy, a short round of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and reconstruction in both my right and left breast.

The day I was cleared of breast cancer, my family threw a huge surprise party for me after we completed a 5k fundraising event at our local cancer center. It was such a liberating experience, and I really appreciated the support my family had shown me by walking with me. It was so much fun, we plan on doing it again this year.

My treatment process: During my treatment, I took everything one step at a time – getting through my surgery, then chemo and lastly radiation. Not getting ahead of myself kept me grounded and able to deal with my situation.

My reaction when I was first diagnosed: When I was first diagnosed, I never panicked. I knew the diagnosis was mine, and I remember feeling oddly calm. I never doubted that I would be OK. For me, there was no other option. I knew that I had to be strong to ease the worry my family would have once I told them the news and for my own ability to beat my disease.

How I’m feeling now: Today, I feel grateful for the support and positivity that surrounded me throughout my treatment process. I appreciate every day, no matter what it brings, and I’m living my life to its fullest. I have also become active in supporting the pink cause. I created an online jewelry business (Whim-originals.com) where I sell individual Breast Cancer Awareness bracelets. Fifty percent of the proceeds of each sale go to different local breast cancer charities that helped me when I was going through treatment.

My inspirations: I am inspired by women who fight every day against this disease.

My support system: From the day I was diagnosed until the last day of my treatment, my family and fellow police officers have been a huge support system for me. In fact, one of my good friends and colleagues at the Shelton Police Department gave me a military bracelet called a “survival strap”. The bracelet has pink woven through it for breast cancer awareness. When someone asks about my bracelet, I proudly share my survival story with them.

I’m proud of: Myself! I am proud that I beat this disease and can help others by sharing my story.

I’m afraid of: I can’t say I’m afraid of anything. Perhaps, I should fear a recurrence, but that would give the disease power over me that I will not allow.

I’ve learned: Surround yourself with only positive influences. Negativity can be devastating during treatment.

My advice to new patients: I believe that it’s important to have a medical team that you connect with. If you don’t click with your doctor, find someone new. Put together a plan for treatment and take it one day at a time. Reach out to resources for support and information. They are there for you and are a very important part of treatment.

To see more of our 31 Survivors in 31 Days stories, click here!