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Breast cancer survivor stories: 'I reassure myself that I am BLESSED!'

Editor’s note: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Chicago Sun-Times invited breast cancer survivors to share their stories. We’ll share these first-person accounts throughout the month.

I was 49 when I first found out that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was so upset!

It all started when my fiance discovered a lump in my breast. I then went to my doctor and he sent me to get an ultrasound. Once I got the ultrasound I was sent to UIC for a biopsy. The biopsy came back positive. I was so sad and depressed, I cried for days.

I thank god for my fiance; he was there for me throughout the entire time. My doctor and I set a surgery date for the following week. Once I had chemo and radiation, I was very sick. The best thing that chemo did was take the taste of smoking cigarettes right out of my mouth. Then I noticed that my hair started coming out. About a week later the doctor called me, saying that some of the cancer was still in my breast. I made the difficult decision to have a mastectomy of my right breast.

Once it was removed, all the cancer was gone. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulder. It was as if I was reborn. I was a new woman who could start over being cancer-free.

As time progressed, I was feeling better every day. Even though chemo took my sense of taste away, I had to build up the strength to make myself eat. I then felt strong enough to go back to work.

I now feel better than ever. I still stay up to date with my breast exams every year. Sometimes I do feel sad, but then I reassure myself that I am BLESSED! I have been cancer-free for 12 years and counting! I would like to thank God, my family and friends. They gave me the love and support that I needed.

Rosa Martin, Chicago