At 38 years old, the last thing she expected was to be diagnosed with breast cancer. First, it was just a small lump in her breast but a trip to the doctor's office and a biopsy revealed it was worse than anticipated. With her doctors reassuring her that the lump was probably nothing to be worried about, the next day she received the call, that small lump was actually breast cancer.
Almost immediately the aggressive treatment plan went into effect. She received a lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. The cancer was one millimeter smaller than what the doctor recommended chemo for, causing him to initially disagree that chemotherapy would be the best option but she didn't agree. With one simple question, she was able to put her fears into perspective by asking the doctor, “If I was your wife would you want me to take the chemo?” After the doctor put himself in her shoes he responded with, “Yes”, from there chemotherapy started.
For nine years she was in what she thought was remission but unfortunately, more cancer cells were found on her other breast. This time it was an even larger area so she opted for a double mastectomy. Although hindsight is 20/20, she wishes this had been her decision when she was initially diagnosed but had no hesitation making it the second time around.
This story is all too common and could be anyone's mother, sister, or even brother or father. This was the reality for breast cancer survivor Lisa Stiff. Lisa is a newly retired grade school teacher from Louisville, KY. When she was first diagnosed 21 years ago she was teaching and said that her kids were a huge support system for her. She found strength in them and the amount of love they showed during her battle helped her stay encouraged through the thick of her aggressive cancer treatment. She used her experience for good by including lessons on a variety of cancers from testicular to skin cancer and also spoke of life issues in her science classes to teach the kids the risks and signs involved in these types of cancers and explained how to screen themselves.
Along with teaching her students, Lisa also mentors others who are battling cancer. Her advice to those diagnosed is to have a strong support system with people you can talk to, have a doctor that you trust, and be proactive. When asked about being a survivor she said that “It wasn’t because I was strong, I just got really lucky… and those who don’t survive, it wasn’t because they weren’t strong.”
Our special edition WARRIōR tee was made with folks like Lisa in mind. You can find it here, 10% goes to social justice causes like the Breast Cancer Research Fund.