Hope Among Us: Three Young Breast Cancer Survivors

Hope Among Us: Three Young Breast Cancer Survivors

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Nine years ago, Rhonda Eyzaguirre met Mari Guzman when their sons started preschool in the same class.

Rhonda met Jennifer Dresser five years ago when their daughters started kindergarten together. They became friends through their children and have many shared experiences, including their diagnoses of breast cancer. All three of them were diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer, estrogen and progesterone positive (ER+ PR+), HER2 negative (HER2-) invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). They were all diagnosed at the same hospital at a young age (between 37 and 42). In addition, they are also all daughters of breast cancer survivors.

Despite their similarities, the three women have unique challenges in their breast cancer journeys.

Rhonda had a Variant of Uncertain Significance (VUS) on her BRCA2 gene and also had thirteen tumors. Jennifer was diagnosed in 2012 and had a recurrence in 2019. Mari had eleven positive lymph nodes and also dealt with treatment delivery during COVID-19. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rhonda met with Jennifer and Mari to provide support and encouragement since Jennifer and Mari were still going through treatment. As young breast cancer survivors, they decided to collaborate and document their experiences on paper.

The authors share their unique perspectives while exploring their experiences battling breast cancer through  an optimistic and inspirational lens of hope.

The authors present their experiences through different lenses of time (one month, six months, and three years in survivorship).  They write raw, honest accounts of their breast cancer journeys.  They also interviewed their mothers to understand their experiences as breast cancer survivors.  In addition, they interviewed their spouses and children for their perspectives on how cancer affects the family.  The authors also share resources that can be utilized during the treatment and survivorship periods.

Specifically, the authors’ stories of hope and triumph are told in five chronological parts:

  1. Our Lives Before Cancer,
  2. Our Diagnoses,
  3. Treatment,
  4. Interviews,
  5. Survivorship and Resources.

Part I, Our Lives Before Cancer, introduces the authors’ personal backgrounds and shares key experiences from their lives before cancer. It focuses on major life events, family composition and medical history that help form their backstories.

Part II, Our Diagnoses, recounts in detail each author’s specific experience of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and her decision-making process.

Part III, Active Treatment, covers their treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, and hormone therapy. One of Jennifer’s surgeries, and part of Mari’s chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries, occurred during COVID-19, which greatly impacted the experience of their treatments. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the authors in several ways. Mari  aptly named the term C-squared, for experiencing Cancer during COVID-19. 

Part IV, Interviews, explores the authors’ breast cancer diagnoses and treatment through the eyes of family members. The authors interviewed their mothers as breast cancer survivors to obtain their unique perspectives. They also interviewed their spouses to understand the experience of cancer from family members. In addition, they interviewed their eight children, ranging in age 7 to 22, and captured a wide developmental perspective.

The final part, Survivorship and Resources, addresses how the authors are navigating the survivorship phase and provides relevant resources. The first two chapters provide two unique lenses of survivorship (social or spiritual) that can be utilized to foster resilience in survivorship. Rhonda’s two main survivorship programs coincided with COVID-19. The final two chapters conclude with recommended resources during treatment and final thoughts.

Reviews

Marquina Iliev-Piseli, a breast cancer survivor and author in New York, shared this review:

I love this book. Thanks to the three women who are profiled in these stories. They show the entire journey through all the phases of dealing with a cancer journey and recovery…and sometimes recurrence. This book is a great gift for anyone going through breast cancer diagnosis for the first, or perhaps the second time. Big love and hugs to anyone touched by cancer.

Elaine Stralen, a teacher in California, gave this review:

The women in this story are brave, kind, inspiring and courageous for sharing their stories. It was very interesting to read the interviews with family members. As a teacher, it helped me to understand what I can do to offer support and encouragement to students that are going through the same experience. I truly admire them. I highly recommend this book.

Gloria Ng, an author in California, provided this review:

Besides the amazing voices of the coauthors in this book, what I found most wonderful about the book is the plethora of resources available for other people who may be experiencing the effects of breast cancer on family life. Their stories also include braving treatment and travel during the global pandemic brought about by  COVID-19. In essence, I highly recommend this book for newly diagnosed patients and survivors and their families and allies and anyone who is interested in understanding how breast cancer affects people and their families. Even if you are in a profession that works with cancer survivors directly or indirectly, you will benefit from this uplifting read. To conclude, decades ago when I had volunteered at a walk to benefit breast cancer research, I witnessed deafening applause thundering as a survivor walked with bare head and bare chest, head held high and a bright smile spanning from ear to ear. Unhurried yet on stride, at her own self-determined pace she made it to the finish line. I can hear that applause even now for this page-turning book. They made it, and we’re here to witness their survivorship and spread hope to others. There certainly is Hope Among Us.”

Further reading

FREE Survivorship Tools for Life After Cancer From A Cancer Survivor

Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had Breast Cancer

Cancer Gift Packages For Women

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