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Sisterhood of West Suburban Breast Cancer Survivors: Share Your Story

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we asked west suburban women to share their breast-cancer experiences with us. We gathered their wisdom here. Share your story in the comments or upload a photo of an inspirational survivor in your life.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One of the greatest challenges for those who have been newly diagnosed is finding sources of support. Patients are eager for information on everything from enduring surgery and chemotherapy to how to deal with hair loss.

While there are many local resources and support groups available in DuPage County and Kane County, women can also find comfort in a sisterhood of survivors who have already been in their shoes.

Best selling author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Delinsky has gathered the wisdom of hundreds of breast cancer survivors who are eager to inspire those who are new to the “breast cancer sisterhood.” She shares all of the stories and tidbits she found in her book "Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors."

To tap into a similar vein of local wisdom, we asked women in DuPage and Kane counties to share their experiences with breast cancer.

Here's what they said helped them keep their heads up and get through their darkest days:

Kimberly Folkerts McBride: My husband, a sense of humor, my friends and family... — Elmhurst Patch Facebook

JoAnn Alvis Gust: Having family by my side every step of the way!!! — Wheaton Patch Facebook

Tina Koral: Something that helped me get through a year of breast cancer treatment was to envision the life I wanted after cancer. I wanted kids, I wanted my own business. I hoped it would just be a crappy period in a long life, and started making plans for when treatment was over. It gave me the motivation to get through the bad days. — Glen Ellyn Patch Facebook

Debbie Sieloff Mason: My very first Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk was in support of a friend of a friend and to honor a recenly diagnosed Aunt. I had no idea at the time of the walk that I too had breast cancer until three weeks later when I received my mammogram results. I was 41. What got me through: Staying upbeat about the fact that it could always be worse, blogging to keep the many people in life updated so I didn't have to repeat every detail which reduced stress and was also therapeutic, the many wonderful family members/friends/colleagues that checked in regularly whether it be an email, card or prepared meal. Few standouts: My Aunt kept me informed based on what she learned through her process and encouraged me to be a strong advocate of my own, my husband was by my side every step of the way, my brother provided much needed levity at just the right time. I'm walking in the DuPage Making Strides on 10/21 for the first time since I was diagnosed in 2009 and expect it to be an emotional celebration! — Naperville Patch Facebook

Tammy Churchill Pesenti: My best friend, Susan Reif, is a breast cancer survivor. As a writer, she wanted to put together what got her through and she wrote a book. Unfortunately, I've had to use the book as a tool all too often as several friends have been diagnosed since she released the book. For more information, you can go to the Facebook page. The book is well-written and a useful tool. — Elmhurst Patch Facebook

Terri Hein: I am a survivor of 14yrs! I had the mindset that I need to fight to stay alive. My family and my friends were and still are instrumental in staying strong. When times were dark and hard I would cry, talk, and journal. I went into counseling to learn coping skills. Cancer changes your life but it is up to the woman how it changes. I am now a counselor working with kids with substance use issues. If I hadn't had cancer I wouldn't be what I am now. Positive Mental Attitude! I wish all of you battling to stay as strong as you can. — Downers Grove Patch Facebook

TELL US: Do you have an experience with breast cancer that you would like to share? Honor the sisterhood of survivors in the western suburbs by uploading a photo to the gallery above or sharing your story in the comment section below.

Susan Hinz October 17, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Good luck to all those facing this disease, you will endure! I was diagnosed 8 years ago when I was 45yrs old. My faith, family and friends were my support, and they were awesome. My Doctors and the level of medical care I received made me feel very fortunate. There will be a day when it is not the first thing on your mind. I tried to stay as normal as possible, having 4 children in grammar school helped to take the focus off me! Exercise was very important to me so I kept working out and even sported different work out wigs. Your hair will grow back and mine came back darker with no grey!!Bonus! All is well.
Loretta Alonzo October 17, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I am a 8 year survivor. I can't emphasize enough for women to get their annual check ups. I one year, I am perfectly clear and the next year I have a large mass. This disease changed my attitude about life--don't sweat the little stuff--and it's all little stuff. I truly believe attitude is 99% of the battle. I would say "I have cancer, cancer doesn't have me." To all the survivors and those still fighting--hurray for your bravery.
Cari Barcas October 17, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Amazing stories. Thank you ladies for sharing so generously. Keep the great advice coming!
Deborah Donna October 18, 2012 at 05:59 PM
National Cancer Institute reports that DuPage County's breast cancer rate is "falling" and the cancer rate no longer exceeds the US and State cancer rate. About 10 yrs ago, the breast cancer rate in DuPage County was about 20% higher than the State average. http://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/cgi-bin/ratetrendbycancer/rtcancer.pl?055&2&17&17&1&0&1 Susan G Komen Foundation reports that Cook and DuPage Co have the highest rate of breast cancer mortality in Illinois. So while the rate or occurances of breast cancer in DuPage Co seem to be falling, the breast cancer death rate remains highest in the State.

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