You Are Not Alone!

The Dfly Community’s Breast Cancer Stories





We know each and everyone of you has been affected by this disease in some way and we are sharing your stories to show we don’t have to go through this alone! We hope these beautiful stories give you strength during a time of hardship. Remember, we are in this life together!

Please join us June 29 for our FREE Breast Cancer Survivor’s Class >

Please stop by the studio this week for our charity raffle and donation-based classes! All proceeds go to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. On Saturday, October 5th, 2013, Madison will hold it’s first Making Strides walk and our goal is to raise $5,000 for the event, starting with Week of the Dragonflies! Every Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is a powerful and inspiring opportunity to unite together to honor breast cancer survivors, raise awareness about steps we can take to reduce our risk of getting breast cancer, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight the disease with breast cancer research, information and services, and access to mammograms for women who need them.

Our Stories

“My experience: 10 years Cancer Free

I recall it like it was yesterday. 10 years ago I went in for a repeat mammogram and the receptionist said, “You’re here for a mammogram and ultrasound”. I knew something was wrong. My heart sank at the moment and I just knew this meant they would be looking for a cyst, lump or tumor in my right breast. After the exam the head radiologist came in to speak to me. He was the most kind but also the most straight forward. He told me that he was 99% certain the lump seen in the ultrasound was cancer and that I needed to see a surgeon as soon as possible. Later when I was home, I called my PCP who made a call to refer me to a local surgeon. Within the next week I had a tissue biopsy. A close friend of mine came with me to find out about the results. The doctor confirmed that the biopsy revealed cancer and he was teary-eyed. He said that he had lost his mother years ago to breast cancer and that he was sorry. My girlfriend cried but I was numb. I recall that it was a beautiful day. When I returned home I lied on my bed but couldn’t cry. It was as if my entire life passed through my mind and thoughts. My daughter came home and finally there were tears. We cried together, holding each other until we fell asleep.

After a surgery consult at U.W. for a second opinion, I was encouraged by the PCP and local surgeon. I then was directed to a reconstruction surgeon and from there my TRAM surgery was scheduled. This is the procedure where they remove the cancer lump and surrounding breast tissue and then take fat tissue from the abdomen to fill in the empty breast cavity. The Mastectomy and reconstruction surgery lasted for 5 hours. It went better than expected. My wonderful daughter stayed with me those first couple nights. She was in junior high at the time. My doctor told me at my discharge that the best medicine I could take was to accept others support and help when it was offered. So when friends offered to bring over a meal I simply said, “Thank you”.

I went back to work within 3 weeks in the office of an independent Nursing group. We did staffing in nearby area hospitals and did teaching and intravenous therapy in most of the Wisconsin nursing homes. Though I had 6 Jackson Pratt drainage tubes (3 from the breast and 3 from the abdomen), I wore loose pants with an elastic waist, pinned my drains at the waist and wore longer t-shirts. After the drains were removed I then traveled throughout the state to start IV’s and to teach other nurses how to start and care for them. I would always introduce myself as a cancer survivor, what can I say I was proud. I would inform the staff of my unique surgery involving a right breast mastectomy with reconstruction and briefly explain implant replacement options. After the class was resumed I would then ask if anyone was interested in seeing my surgical results or really “do you want to see my breast?” I wanted every woman I encountered to be cognizant of the power of routine self exams, mammograms, what the surgery was like and options for reconstruction. Also to see first-hand how amazing the results can be!

I am truly one of the lucky ones to have survived. I had very competent and caring physicians, wonderful family and friends who supported me and my strong Christian faith. I told God that if he would spare my daughter from ever having cancer, I would gladly go through it again without hesitation. She has been my main reason to not give up or give in to cancer. Every day is a true blessing. I strive to find the good in people, I try and be there for my friends and meet them at least half way. I make it a point to know and help my neighbors. I tell my daughter every day how much I love her. I call my sibling and parents every each week. I tell my 2 cats numerous times how much they mean to me. I try to be kind, loving and respectful of others. I have truly learned that life is precious and each moment is a gift.”

Beth Rataczak

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“Growing up I remember saying to my friends, “I bet I’ll have cancer”. As a daughter to a 32 year old woman who was going through chemotherapy, hair loss, nausea, wig selection, and a double mastectomy, from an early age I knew what a mammogram was and I knew my mom had cancer, so I might one day too.

My mom was a healthy and active young woman when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She did not feel ill or different, rather simply noticed a lump in her breast one month during a self exam. After she went in for tests, poking, and prodding, it was determined while detected early, she had a very rapid form of cancer.

I remember the day I came home from a friend’s house to find my mom crying in the bathroom, shaving what was left of her hair. I remember when I helped her glue on fake eye lashes, since she lost hers in chemotherapy. I remember the first time she didn’t wear a wig in public, and wasn’t ashamed to show other she was battling cancer.

I’m proud to say I also remember when she received her first “Survivor” medal at a breast cancer awareness event. That medal signified more to my mom than just being a survivor. After that day, she began mentoring newly diagnosed women. Over the past 15 years, she has continued to be an inspiration for myself and others. She advocated for women before the wave of awareness events took place, and now she attends these events, decked in pink, and proud to be a survivor.

I still wonder if I will have cancer one day, but unlike my 12 year old self, I’m not so afraid. My mom has taught me courage, compassion, diligence, and knowledge to not fear this disease, rather work to find a cure.”

Cheers,
Samantha Tiller

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“I remember when my youngest sister called to ask to meet for a glass, or 3, of wine. She sat across the table from me and could not come up with the words so she wrote them down on a napkin and passed it across the table to me. It said…”I have breast cancer”. She was 48 years old at the time.

Because it was caught early, she is now 54 years old and cancer free although she takes Tamoxifen. She has become an inspiration and even though she would rather be on her bike than do yoga, she lives the “yoga lifestyle”.

I am the only child, out of 4, that has not been diagnosed with some type of cancer. Both of my parents also died of cancer. Yoga has kept me in touch with my body, inside and out. It has strengthens my mind and my spirit and helps me to be aware that there is a reason for everything.

Sometimes really bad things can result in something good. Cancer has drawn us all very close together as a family.

We are blessed.”

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“In light of what is going on at Dragonfly, I wanted to share my breast cancer story.

My sister was diagnosed in May 2007 with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 37. She went through surgery, chemo, and radiation and is in remission! In July 2008 we started Golf for a Cure, which we later renamed Golf for a Cause. This year will be our 6th Annual Golf Outing! We have raised over $30,000 in our fight. This year all proceeds will be donated to the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

I think it is fantastic that you as an organization get involved in charities as well. It makes me want to go to Dragonfly even more for yoga (which I love anyway).

I have attached a flyer (click below to view) for out Golf Outing in case you are interested in donating, golfing, or just knowing more about us.”

Chelle Walton



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“Like everyone, I have had breast cancer touch people that I have loved, that I have known only in passing and people I have known only tangentially.

Recently, my sister was diagnosed with an operable form of breast cancer. Her doctor caught it in time for her to develop a treatment plan and almost complete it all before her scheduled physical this summer.

Her strength, courage and faith have been such an inspiration to me. When everyone else around her was scared, she became proactive – wanting to know EVERY option available to her. She would not allow this diagnosis to define her.

When everyone around her was crying, worried, praying and asking “why”, she smiled and gave thanks for each glorious day.

And although she was always the one who supported others, she learned to lean on all of us that came to her side. We’ve supported each other on this journey, but it has always been her at the lead.

It is with love and light that I dedicate my yoga practices to her.”

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“My grandmother survived breast cancer twice; she discovered a lump in 1984, and it was removed. It then recurred, and she had a modified radical mastectomy. She had no reconstructive surgery. I wasn’t old enough to remember when she had it. It was one of the things that had marked her — cancer, the early death of a child, rheumatoid arthritis — in various visible and invisible ways. She covered the physical reminders of these scars as best she could. She wore a breast form, she kept her son’s baby bracelet tucked away in a small box (I only saw it once — she never talked about him), and she always wore 3/4 sleeve shirts to cover the bumps on her elbows from the arthritis. It’s a truism that our experiences shape who we are; when I got old enough to think about it, I always thought that in my grandmother’s case, this was literally true. She lived in a body literally shaped by pain, love and loss — and she went on living in that body.

One of the blessings of my yoga practice has been the reminder that my own body — with all its scars, visible and invisible, from growing, bearing and nursing three children — is a beautiful thing. It is the physical expression of my experience, of my own pain, love and loss. It continues to carry me through my life, and its strength daily surprises and amazes me. My grandmother passed away many years ago from a stroke (a potential side effect of the chemotherapy drug that she took to prevent another recurrence), but the grace with which she lived in her body — with her body and its history — continues to inspire me.”

Beth Wolfe

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“I have two amazing women in my life that have battled (and are currently battling) breast cancer. My grandmother was victorious in 1982 after a mastectomy, and my mother (her daughter) was diagnosed in May of this year. I firmly believe that individuals can face their battles and use them as ways to make them stronger, better people. I always considered my mother as someone who tended to be more dependent on others to help her through tough times. I was very scared when she was diagnosed because I feared she would give up and not have the strength to be a fighter. Our family has faced many hardships, and I was terrified that she just might not have enough fight left in her.

Things were finally going well for our family – she had 2 new grandbabies, my 5 year anniversary from my stage 2b Melanoma is just around the corner (December!). She conquered some tough times – she raised my sister who was constantly battling seizures and comas from her Juvenile Diabetes, and then had to face watching my sister pass away when she was in college. Through this all, she maintained an amazing relationship with my dad. But what I saw from mother literally took my breath away. She researched. She asked questions. She pulled together her girlfriends and created her immediate support group. They enlisted into her battle and went to her doctor appointments, her surgery, and now they take turns bringing her dinner and taking her to radiation. My mom has taken on this challenge like a true warrior.

My mother became this amazing fighter. Her resilience and courage have literally blown me away.

One of the most spectacular things I have witnessed through her experience is watching how women come together so quickly to help one another out. It’s like a call to arms, having these loving, generous, strong women appear ready to help her battle.

My mother has taken on her battle with courage and grace. Her friends have it made it their battle. It’s amazing to see how women can come together and selflessly just BE THERE for one another.

Hopefully this story will end just like my grandmother’s story (she rocked it into her 90s, dancing and singing until the very end)!”

Gretchen E. Flueckiger

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“Two months ago my friend Jennifer who in only her late 30s discovered a lump in her left breast. One self-exam in the shower lead to a doctor’s appointment which lead to another doctor’s appointment and then tests and more appointments and then more doctors, surgeons and an oncologist. Within a matter of only weeks, her world changed rapidly as she was given a diagnosis of breast cancer. Now it’s June and she’s home recovering from a mastectomy and reconstructive plastic surgery . The good news is her doctors have told her they caught it early and feel her surgery is a success. Because of this, her outcome is very encouraging, however, she is facing chemotherapy later this summer. You wouldn’t know by looking at her that she has cancer, and prior to her surgery she felt well. Her own actions helped discover her cancer. Since her diagnosis, she’s been very open to sharing her story and encourages women and men to be proactive about their own breast health. I admire her courage and openness. She is a good reminder as to how vulnerable we all can be. In the meantime, she’s keeping her spirits high. When she’s feeling better, she wants to go skydiving!”

Thanks for letting me share this.

Karen Tiedt

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