We went looking for faces of survival. We found inspiration.
Patch asked Michigan women and men who have fought breast cancer to share their struggles, tears and triumphs with us during October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer survivor Cynde Lebert, 59, of Canton, tells newly diagnosed women: “You'll be fine. You're alive and that's the most important thing.”
Farmington Hills resident Dick Jaeger, 70, is one of the approximately 2,140 men diagnosed each year with breast cancer. "The answer is know your body and don't take anything for granted," Jaeger said.
"Every day, I'm a cancer survivor," said Jean Bean, a 58-year-old mom, wife and interior designer from Rochester. "I don't obsess about it, but it's always there."
Nancy Armstrong of Royal Oak was 37 when she was learned she had stage 2 breast cancer in 2008. “I want people to know breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence and that maybe we don’t have hair, but we still see beauty in ourselves.”
These are Our Neighbors
While their stories are profound, it was also striking how realtively easy it was for Patch editors to find women and men touched by the disease in Patch communities across southeast Michigan.
Cancer is so pervasive. These survivors are our sisters, mothers, daughters, grandmas, aunts, friends, uncles, husbands, dads, brothers and neighbors.
“Be positive, be happy, embrace life and don’t look back. Dance in the rain as the cool raindrops bounce off your bald head. Umbrellas are for nonbelievers.”
We invite you to scroll through the photo gallery, read their stories and get involved in the fight against breast cancer. Join us in congratulating these women and men on their bravery, and thank them for sharing their stories with all of us. You can do so in the comments area below.
Also, if you are a survivor or know someone who is, add their picture to the gallery or their story to comments.
'Never Too Much Awareness'
Deb Dumler, 59, of Birmingham, learned she had breast cancer in March 2010. “Be positive, be happy, embrace life and don’t look back,” Dumler said. “Dance in the rain as the cool raindrops bounce off your bald head. Umbrellas are for nonbelievers.”
Jennifer Arapoff of Plymouth discovered a lump on her breast while on a family vacation for her 39th birthday three years ago. “You can never have too much awareness,” she said. “The good news is that it’s a 98 percent recovery rate if treated early.”
New Baltimore resident Betsey Facione discovered she had breast cancer at age 54. "With breast cancer, there's an immediate sisterhood," she said. "It's just an immediate bonding that you had. I could ask anybody for anything."
Hiam Hamade is the supervisor of Cancer Programs at ACCESS in Dearborn, and she’s a survivor. “No matter how much you’re educated and how much you know, when you’re diagnosed, you will be different,” she said.
Kris Rice, a married mother of two boys in St. Clair Shores, had just had a mammogram a couple of months before she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 48. "The best thing that ever happened to me was getting cancer," said Rice, who now works tirelessly with on behalf of others. "This is my calling in life."
White Lake resident Adrienne Kiger, 64, battled breast cancer while going through a divorce and came out all the better. "The diagnosis, treatment and reconstructive surgery probably took almost two years out of my life, but that’s OK, because I feel I have a lifetime ahead of me.”
Joanne Mozuras, 55, of Macomb Township, is a two-time breast cancer survivor. “Do you understand I can now live to see my hair grow gray or my grandchildren grow up?” she said. “You just look at life differently. You take in the colors outside or the sky. I look at my son, my husband, and you’re just so grateful for what you have anymore.”
Carri DeMaggio, 42, of Trenton, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was around 38 years old. "Take people up on their offer to help," DeMaggio said. "Don't do it alone and be honest and let people know exactly how you are really feeling."
Mary Beth Bloom of Novi said she found a closer relationship with God after her August 2007 diagnosis. “I just relied a lot on my faith and family and friends,” the Novi resident said.
It's been 14 years since Brighton librarian Mary Johnson was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. “"You go through a lot of 'why me?' sort of thoughts when you get that diagnosis," she said. "I was the first in the family … it was a huge surprise for all of us."
Michelle Haywood, 35, of Dexter, was diagnosed with stage 2-B breast cancer in December 2007. “You have to stay positive,” the mom of two girls said. “I have good days and bad days, but you can’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself."
Ruth Osterberg of West Bloomfield is nearing the 16-year anniversary of her diagnosis of breast cancer. "On the surface, it appeared that my life was very normal. But underneath, emotionally, it was very devastating,” she said.
Patty Williams, 35, a Clawson native, was celebrating a new life when her baby, Ainsley, was born. Then she discovered a tumor. In September, friends and former classmates raised $7,000 at a special benefit to help cover Williams' rising medical bills. “Her fight is just so strong, but it's shocking,” lifelong friend Jenna Fennelly said.
Hartland area resident Dawn Becker, 44, says women should not think it can't happen to them. The emergency room nurse didn't have a history or risk factors but was surprised to learn she had breast cancer after treatment following a freak accident. "That one little checkup can save your life," she says.