Share Your Story

Every step you take and dollar you raise brings us closer to a future without breast cancer. Because you’re taking those steps with a team, you’re multiplying your impact on the cause.

Whose Life Are You Running For?

Please email Komen Chattanooga at info@komenchattanooga.org to share your story. We want to share with our communities why being a part of the Race isn’t just a life changing event, but a life saving one as well.

Tricia’s Warriors Rose

On Saturday, September 27, 2008, only one day prior to that year’s Chattanooga Race for the Cure, Dr. Patricia Britt Chastain lost her life to inflammatory breast cancer at the age of35. She had received confirmation of her diagnosis on her 34th birthday, only five weeks after the birth of her son. With a 21-month-old daughter as well, she was determined to fight hard, and began chemo immediately. Following a double mastectomy, she learned that the cancer had spread to her brain, and she also underwent radiation. Ultimately she traveled to Stanford University in California for risky brain surgery in her quest for the treatment that would give her more time with her family. Throughout her illness, her journal on the Caringbridge website inspired hundreds of readers. The journal entries gave a frank account of her experience but, most importantly, showed that in the midst of fighting a terminal illness she always maintained her humor, positive attitude, strong spirit, and unwavering faith.

Tricia’s friend, Lolli Allen formed a team to participate in the 2008 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®. Lolli designed the bright green and pink shirts identifying their wearers as “Tricia’s Warriors,” incorporating the three crosses that Tricia suggested. From her room at Siskin Rehabilitation Center, Tricia monitored the mounting number of registrants and donations in her honor and marveled at the love and support being demonstrated by her family, friends, and admirers. That Sunday found a huge gathering of grief-stricken participants and observers at the arena with only one goal–to show their love for a special young woman and to honor her memory. That year the team came in 2nd in Team Fund-raising with $12,700, 1st in Largest Team Family/Community, 1st in Individual fund raiser, and 3rd in Most Creative Team.

A dear friend saw the pink long-stemmed roses being given to breast cancer survivors at the finish line and somehow obtained one for Tricia’s mom, Jennifer Morris. As soon as the event wrapped up, family and friends rushed to Dunlap, Tennessee, for visitation at the funeral home. Devastated by her loss, Jennifer carelessly laid the rose in the floorboard of her car and readied herself to face the next hurdle in a long, emotionally-charged day. That evening, she retrieved the rose and put it in a vase, where it remained beautiful for over two weeks. One day Jennifer noticed that new leaves were beginning to grow on the stem. All the roses received in the past had grown limp and died within days; however, she was amazed when this one continued not only to flourish, but to grow roots.

In the spring of2009, Jennifer planted the rose in a small flower pot and placed it on her porch. On two separate occasions, she almost lost it to something feeding on the leaves, but it survived and thrived through the winter. This year, she replanted it near her patio, where it continues to stand tall. Honoring the memory of her beloved daughter, she named it the “Tricia’s Warriors Rose.” This beautiful rosebush continues to remind the Morrison family and friends on a daily basis of the strength and resilience so many admired in Trisha Chastain.

“Isn’t it amazing that the symbol given to survivors is a survivor itself? I think it wants to live on for my Tricia.”

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I’ll never forget that very first Komen Race For The Cure here in Chattanooga.. each of us had high expectations, and we were not disappointed.. hundreds came, then hundreds more, so amazing… it was a sea of pink that morning, on the riverfront.. none of us knew each other, but that didn’t stop us from smiling, nodding, touching, hugging.. there were tents to set up, trash cans to empty, pictures to be taken – and still we smiled, nodded, touched, hugged… i was there simply to make a difference, perhaps to leave the world a slightly better place… a decade later,  i, too, got that life-changing phonecall.. “we see something on your mammogram”.. that was in april of 2011… three operations later, i am cancer-free, and more determined than ever to uphold the mission of Komen For The Cure.. a world without breast cancer…. Patti Sanders / chattanooga, tn

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Our 2012 Honorary Survivor Chair’s Inspiring Story!

In 2000, the beginning of the new millennium, my life took a great turn. At the time, it felt like a turn for the worse. At age 32, I was married with 2 children, Javon 12 and Jade 6. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What made this extremely hard to grasp was that my best friend, Renee, had been diagnosed the previous year. I am sad to say that in 2002, she lost her fight. Shortly after my diagnosis, I quickly became a single parent of two children. At this point, I not only would have to fight for my life but for the future of my children.

Komen will always be close to my heart. 2000 was the first year the Race was held in Chattanooga. I was in the middle of chemo treatment and with the support of my fellow Erlanger employees and dear friends, I decided to take on the adventure of the Race for the Cure. By the grace of God, I made it through the walk. Even with ending up in the wrong line and therefore missing the all the Survivor Activities by the time I made it back to the park,  I survived. Since my struggle began, I have sent one child off to college, another one has just finished high school and I have added an addition to my family tree, Eliyah, my youngest child who arrived three years after Chemo, is soon to be nine.

Wow! This has been a journey. Without that first walk in 2000 which gave me the desire to push myself and not give up, I am not sure where I would be today. I currently have served on the Komen Chattanooga Race Committee for six years and am so honored that my fellow committee members chose me as the 2012 Honorary Survivor Chair. I am grateful for this opportunity to give back and be an encouragement to old and new Survivors. My prayer is that I pass on my determination to my girls but not the fear of the disease. I have been cancer free for 12 years!  My hope is that through sharing a small part of my story, it will encourage other not to give up.

Suzette Carlisle

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My story is a probably one of the same of young survivors. I was 29 years old, at the time my son was 9 and I had just had my daughter, she was only 3 months old. I had finally gotten to get some sleep one night, when I had rolled over and felt pain in my right breast. So I did a self breast exam and found a lump about the size of a golf ball. It was pretty painful to touch it even. I went to my husband to tell him about it and he said, ” well, its probably not cancer because I heard cancer dont hurt.” I still called my doctor the next day and went to see her that next Friday. She sent me to have a mammogram the next day. I was a little worried but was thinking it was just a clogged milk duct since I had just had my daughter. I was called back to have an ultrasound before I had even made it home from the mammogram, that made me a little more worried.  The next day my doctor called and told me that she had scheduled me an appointment to see a surgeon to take a sample of the lump. That was scheduled for a week later and I was beginning to get a little nervous but I just kept thinking that I am young and its probably just nothing. I continued on with my life, working and taking care of my kids. I was expecting the call from my doctor at work but was not expecting bad news. Dr Witherspoon called me at work and told me that my biopsy came back cancerous. I picked up my purse and walked out the door at work. It was about a 40 minute drive but I do not remember driving home. I just remember crying constantly. I was scared. My husband was not a very good husband, he wouldnt hold down a job, and had a drinking problem. I didnt know what I was going to do. I carried the insurance so I had to make up my mind that I was a strong person and I was going to be there for my kids. I started seeing my team of doctors to get my treatment plan. I started with Chemo……………. ughhhh. I will never never forget the RED DEVIL!! I was so sick that my doctor wouldnt let me work because I worked with children and my counts were so low. I ran out of sick time and lost my insurance as well.  I did all my chemo treatments, the chemo miracously had shrunk the tumor and so I had a lumpectomy. The tubes were horrible!!! Then off to radiation I went. After thirty three treatments I felt like I had been scalded on the right side of my body. I was so scared that I would never feel good again. Eight years later, I am a healthy single mom living my life with my kids like there is no tomorrow! Today my kids are almost 18 and almost 9, I thank God that I am here today to take care of my children. Raising money for breast cancer research is so near and dear to my heart. I do not want my daughter to experience what I have gone through. WE WILL FIND A CURE!!!!!

Thank you for reading my story…..

Leanna Driggers

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My Story

by Missi McMillan

Let’s say you’re younger than 40 (the recommended age for your first mammogram), you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t know anyone who has been affected and you have heard that the test is painful. So why should you consider getting a mammogram?

I had those same excuses when my former employer scheduled Memorial’s Mobile Health Coach to come provide mammograms to our workplace.

The test was a little uncomfortable, but not painful like I had heard. The entire process took less than 15 minutes, and I left feeling good about taking a healthy step to protect myself.  Little did I know that those brief 15-minutes would be a life-changing event for me and my family.

I received a message from Memorial Hospital and there were some abnormalities in my films, and they recommended a more thorough mammogram. I went for testing at the Mary Ellen Locher Breast Center here in Chattanooga where I received another mammogram and an ultrasound. The doctors were concerned with what they saw; they referred me to a surgical oncologist. After meeting with the surgeon, we decided I needed to undergo a needle core biopsy. When the nurse called me with the results, she prefaced the call saying “It’s not really cancer, but…” Well, we know that little three letter word is usually followed by unsettling news. She told me I had Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) – a somewhat uncommon diagnosis – which meant absolutely nothing to me at that point, but it would very quickly consume my every thought. The doctor recommended I have a lumpectomy to remove the diseased tissue.

I went home and researched all weekend. If this wasn’t cancer, then what was it? Why did it need to be removed? Carcinoma means cancer, so how could this not be cancer? Many websites referred to it as a “stage 0” non-invasive cancer, and the treatment options ranged from doing nothing to having a double mastectomy. Most of the studies were performed on post menopausal women age 40 or older – that wasn’t me, so what did that mean for me?

Later I found that LCIS is a marker for cancer. I was eight times more likely to develop cancer than the typical female. With this information, the surgeon said a lumpectomy was no longer an option and my new options were medication for five years that might reduce my risk of cancer or a double mastectomy. After consulting with my oncologist I decided initially to give the medication a try – even though the list of side effects was longer than the benefits, and it still wasn’t a guaranteed cure. A week or so into taking the medication, I began experiencing hot flashes and various other side effects. I realized that I could take this medication for a full 5 years, endure these side effects and still not be protected from cancer. I am a single parent of two girls; I wanted to be there for them physically and emotionally, so I began praying about my decision and researching information regarding the double mastectomy. Almost immediately I felt at peace; surgery was the route I needed to take.

After multiple appointments with the surgical oncologist and a plastic surgeon and scheduling surgery around work and home life, I had a double mastectomy in July of 2007. I have since had reconstructive surgery. It has been almost five years since I visited the mobile unit, and although I can’t say it has been an easy road, I can say that I will be forever grateful that I took the step to participate in that screening.

The year following my surgery my family and I participated in the Chattanooga Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I was so impressed with the magnitude of participation, how organized this event was and the great things this organization does, that the next year I became a team captain and we have participated each year since.

I wanted to share my story with you to let you know cancer can happen to anyone. If you fall within the guidelines for the screening, please take a few minutes and do it. It could be the most important 15 minutes of your life.

Did I mention that my type of cancer is only detectable by mammogram and that I would have never felt a lump? Another great reason to participate in the screening!

Missi McMillan

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September 25, 2011 was a day that would change my life forever.  That day my daughter Hannah Kate Holbrook, along with her teammates on the Soddy Daisy High School cheer squad, would spend the day volunteering at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  This was Hannah’s first year on the squad and our first time attending, but the SDHS cheerleaders have been supporting this special event for the last five years.   This year the girls spent the day handing out literature and cheering for the runners who participated in the race.  It wasn’t necessary that the parents attend, but early that morning I felt compelled to go.  Just a few years earlier my daughter had lost her Nana, who we both adored, to breast cancer.  I thought that maybe there would be something I could do to help and to honor her memory.  It was an amazing experience!  I was overwhelmed to see the thousands whose lives were, in one way or another, impacted by breast cancer.  My heart swelled with love and admiration for all the beautiful women who were proudly wearing their “warrior” and “survivor” t-shirts.  I remember thinking how brave those women were who walked around with their bald heads held high.  Something I knew I would never have the guts to do.  I remember thinking that these women seemed so empowered and strong and that they appeared to share such a bond.  I prayed that if ever I was in their shoes, I too could be that brave. Eighteen days later, I was in their shoes.

On Sunday, thirteen days later, I picked up the literature that I had brought home with me that day.  As I began to read about the importance of mamograms and breast self-exams, (two topics I thought I knew everything about) I noticed something I had never read before.   It urged women to watch for a “dimpling or puckering of the skin” or “pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast.”  I sat paralized with fear.  Just the week before I had noticed an odd, sort of “thumbprint” indention in my right breast.  I dismissed it, knowing that just two months earlier I had a “clear” mamogram that showed “no signs of cancer.”   I went to my bathroom mirror to take a second look.  I poked and pressed, and discovered a lump.  First thing Monday morning I called my doctor.

Now, five months later I have completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and am preparing to have radical bilateral mastectomy surgery in the next couple of weeks.  I am completely bald, and have no eyebrows, but I am alive!

Just last month my daughter and the SDHS cheer squad and basketball teams held a “pink-out” game in my honor.  I’m so proud and thankful for our girls and the sacrifice of their time and energy that day in September.  I am thankful for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for getting the word out about breast cancer and for their tireless efforts to support those affected by this disease, and I thankful to God in heaven for urging me to participate that day.

Kimberly McPherson

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Me and my family have been doing the race for the cure for the past couple of years. And we will continue to do it for years to come. My mother, Kimberly Johnston, went in for a first mammogram on her 40th bithday. She found out then that she had breast cancer. The first in our family to ever have it. She had the genetic gene. They said they caught it just in time. After about a year of chemothearpy, her cancer went into remission. A few months later she was having some medical problems and come to find out she had a rare kidney cancer that usually only presented itself in males. Again she went through radiation and chemotherapy and within months it was gone. Then again a few months later she wasn’t feeling well again. She went back to the doctor to find out that her breast cancer had come back in her pancreas and had already spread to her brain. She went through several rounds of chemotherpy and radiation, but it all became overwhelming for her and her body. My mom was 43 years old when she passed away from breast cancer, leaving behind a husband of 25 years and 4 kids. It was just days before her youngest graduated from high school. My mom was diagnosed when she was 40 years old and within 3 years passed away. It was hard on us all and we all miss her very much. Because of that experience we all try to help out in any way possible when in comes to the Susan G. Koman Foundation. Which includes the race for the cure. Its a shame that we had to lose a loved one to realize we should be doing more to help the foundation so that more people can have help and hopeful have their cancer caught in time. And we know that we are helping with that now. Anyone who knew my mom knew that she was a loving and caring woman. She would give anyone the shirt off her back. If anyone ever needed help with anything, she was always there no matter how much it cost her. My mom was a strong woman and eventually this just over come her. I hope that more people are saved just by the contributions she made and all of our family and friends make now.

Ashley Johnston

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I would like to introduce myself, my name is Dianne Howe, I am one of the Catoosa County Ambassadors for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Chattanooga.

In December 2007 I gave birth to my third child, while nursing her in September 2008 I found a suspicious lump. My Dr. assumed it was a blocked duct. After a couple of weeks of it not getting any better I asked for a mammogram. After my mammogram I was sent for a biopsy of my lump. I had to wait three of the longest days of my life, when I received the call my life was forever changed.  I underwent twelve weeks of radiation and surgery to remove the lump, followed by six more weeks of radiation. In December 2008 my baby turned one on 12/6, my husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary on 12/7, and I had my cancer removed on 12/10/2008.  I credit my daughter with saving my life.

I want to be able to help other women who are facing the long battle ahead of them. I want them to know that they are not alone at a time in their lives when they do feel completely alone. I had wonderful friends to talk to in my time of need and I want to be there for other women to call on when they need someone.

I hope that this is what you are looking for. If not please let me know and I will make changes as needed.

Thank you

Dianne Howe

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