Monday, December 22, 2014

Holly Strayer

  • Chambersburg
  • Art teacher
  • No family history of breast cancer

I started getting my mammograms at 40, when you are supposed to start getting them.

I’ve always been very healthy - I rarely even took Tylenol. Getting a mammogram every year was just something that was necessary for good health, like brushing your teeth. For three years, my mammograms were clear.

Then, when I was 44…

I had scheduled several doctor’s appointments in the summer before the school year started. One of my doctors ordered my yearly mammogram, and I made an appointment for August 13 at Rhonda Brake Shreiner Women’s Center. They saw something suspicious in my mammogram. That same day, a radiologist came out and talked to me, and I had an ultrasound and needle biopsy done.

Two days later I found out…breast cancer.

The floor drops away when you hear that word. It’s very overwhelming and surreal, and on top of it all school started in a week!

It was a very emotional time, but the support I received from family, friends, and the community was unbelievable. The Chambersburg Area School District was so supportive. On my last day before starting chemo, everyone was in pink! Past students called me, other breast cancer survivors called me – the support was so helpful in my treatment. I am blessed to be surrounded by loving, caring friends and family and fortunate to live in a small town. I was strengthened and lifted up by these people and by their kindness.

Do you have advice for other women?

Screening mammograms find things. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t have a family history. I’m here today because of a mammogram. Don’t wait!

If you have a family history – get tested. If you don’t – get tested.

Also, ladies, we need to educate ourselves. If you have dense breast tissue, ask for an ultrasound. If you don’t know – ask your doctor. Be vigilant and use the detection methods available to you.

If financial reasons are stopping you, there are ways to get mammograms. Resources are available right her in our community – like the Cumberland Valley Breast Care Alliance. If you feel something or have a hunch – you just can’t wait around. Act now before it’s too late.

I also want to encourage women to go to any meetings they can that provide education on breast cancer and the issue of breast density, mammograms and self-exams. We can educate ourselves and start talking to our kids and grandkids about this issue now.

Breast cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It’s treatable and survivable.

Keep a fighting spirit & positive attitude. You are strong, fierce, tough and beautiful!

Holly chronicled her cancer journey on a facebook page called The Power of Pink.

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