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A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

Posted Oct 17 2008 2:23pm

For Breast Cancer Awareness month I wanted to showcase a story of a breast cancer survivor. I think it’s important to keep these courageous women in the spotlight to be a beacon of hope to others who may have just been diagnosed or are actively being treated for the disease. It should be a word of warning to women everywhere that no matter who you are or how old you are, cancer does not discriminate. You can learn some facts about the disease with the Total Beauty Total Cure breast cancer awareness campaign this month.

My survivor to spotlight today is Kristen Nelson, although no relation to me, I have to say, us “Nelson’s” sure have something in common. We want women to be informed.

Shannon Nelson:Can you share with my readers a little bit about yourself?

Kristen Nelson Thibeault: I’m 42. Married with 2 step daughters (Cassandra 9 and Katrina 12), I have 2 dogs (Stanley and Ernie). When I’m not evangelizing for Total Beauty in NY or LA, I live on the water on a small island called Plum Island. It’s 45 minutes north of Boston on a 2 acre hobby farm adjacent to a wildlife preserve.

I am the spokesperson and VP of Brands and Social Media for Total Beauty. I was the 1st employee after our CEO and President and have been with the company since the incubation phase. I’ve been in the beauty industry for years. I love my life!

Shannon: Is breast cancer a disease that has affected other women in your family?

Kristen: Yes. My cousin died of breast and ovarian cancer when she was 36 yrs old and my mother died at 59 from breast and lung cancer.

Shannon: How old were you when you discovered something suspicious?

Kristen: I was diagnosed on June 27th, the day before my 42nd birthday. I never found anything suspicious, it was detected in a mammogram- under my left armpit, not somewhere I would have thought to check in my self-exam.

Shannon: Had you always done monthly self breast exams?

Kristen: Yes. I started doing both self exams and getting mammograms when I was 36, just after my mom died.

Shannon: When the doctor’s confirmed that you had breast cancer, how did you mentally deal with that diagnosis to remain positive that you would be a survivor?

Kristen: It is certainly not something you can ever be prepared for. I remember, I had just gotten home from an amazing trip to NY, where I had met with Evelyn Lauder and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation team to finalize Total Beauty’s PINK campaign, one that I had been working on with Estee Lauder for over 6 months. I was totally inspired and excited to be a part of such an incredible and impactful fund and awareness raising effort. I was unpacking my work suitcase and repacking for my birthday weekend trip to Puerto Rico (a surprise b-day gift from my husband and best friends) when I got the call.

To tell you that I wanted to crawl out of my skin would not be an exaggeration. I could not escape myself and the overwhelming fear that raced through my body as the doctor’s words filled my head with blah blah blah… cancer.. blah blah blah… mastectomy… All I could think was “what about my hair?”

Once I got over the initial shock, which took about 2 days, a powerful sense of calm and resolve came over me and while I was not certain I would survive, I was certain I would make the most of this and make a conscious effort to do what I could to make sure I had the best possible chance of surviving and to help those who would follow behind me.

Throwing myself into Fashion Week and our recent Paris beauty tour, as well as TB’s PINK campaign, kept me positive and focused on surviving. (I had my bilateral mastectomy scheduled between Fashion Week and the Paris Beauty tour.) I also surrounded myself with friends and family, started going back to the gym immediately to keep my spirits up and continually visualize living a healthy and long life.

Shannon: You recently had a double mastectomy, does this make you in remission or are there any chances that the cancer can come back?

Kristen: I am at this point breast cancer free. They did find cancer cells in my lymph nodes when they did a sentinel node biopsy, so I will be under going hormone therapy as a follow-up treatment to minimize the change of recurrence. I have a good prognosis, despite a mid-stage diagnosis.

Through the process of full body testing just prior to my surgery, I was also diagnosed with uterine cancer. I am just in the process of meeting with a new team of oncologists to map my plan of treatment so stay tuned. I’m not cancer free yet or 100% out of the woods, but I’m trusting that this to will have a good prognosis.

Shannon: Can you tell my readers how the Breast Cancer Research Foundation had a direct impact on you?

Kristen: I was blessed to be cared for by an amazing team at Dana Farber. BCRF is a major funding source of research at Dana Farber Cancer Center. Both my oncologist and plastic surgeon received funding via these programs. In addition, Dana Farber’s Young Women’s Cancer program is funded in part by BCRF and I would not have had such a positive outlook, had I not had the support of a team who understands the challenges facing younger women with breast cancer.

Shannon: If there is any one pierce of advice you can share now that you have battled this disease, what would it be?

Kristen: I’m not much for advice, but this has been my reflection and mantra:

When faced with the possibility of getting stuck with the “crib notes” version of your life, rather than the full-length novel, you realize pretty quickly how precious every moment, experience and loved one really is. As cliché as it sounds, this is IT- it ain’t no dress rehearsal. No matter what you face and trust me when I say we all will eventually face something that rocks our world or possible even crumbles it, just make your life count. Rather than get stuck in what can’t happen or what should have happened, flow through what can. Live in the possibility. Do what you love. Live your life to its fullest, so that when you take that final breath, it’s in honor of a life well lived.

Other advice:

* Do regular self exams and DO NOT wait if you find something- early detection= 98% survival rate

* Get a mammogram ASAP!

* Don’t eat too much soy.

* Find a way to feel beautiful and sexy everyday.

* Laugh until your gut aches and cry when you need to.

I don’t know about you guys, but I need a box of Kleenex right now. Kristen is such a strong woman and there are so many women out there like her— 1 every 3 minutes —that are being diagnosed with breast cancer as you read this. Please consider making a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation today to help those women who need it. The paypal button for it is right in my sidebar. Your money, no matter $1 or $100, will go into a pool of money being raised by the beauty bloggers participating in the Total Beauty Total Cure campaign this month. In November that money will be sent to the BCRF. It is my goal to try to reach $1000, I’d love to meet that goal with your help.

Are you a breast cancer survivor? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to email me if you’d like to share your story with my readers.

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