STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – Lisa Sikora’s fiance, Jim, was out of town when she met with her doctor to get biopsy results.
Jim had found the lump just two weeks after the couple got engaged. Lisa said she did not expect the bad news that she was about to hear.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only one or two women out of every 100 women who are 40 will get breast cancer by the age of 50. Lisa was one of them.
“That’s when they told me the one on the left, that they weren’t going to check, actually was two different kinds of cancer,” the 44-year-old said of her breast cancer diagnosis on April 10, 2014.
Lisa was shocked, and she still gets emotional talking about the moment now. Since that day, Jim has not left her side.
“He went to every doctor’s appointment with me from that point on. Every chemo treatment, every follow up,” she said, crying.
Jim was there when Lisa told her sons Daniel and Benjamin — who were only 11 and 14 at the time.
“That was hard, but they, they’re tough boys,” she said.
And those boys have been forced to grow up quickly in the last 18 months.
“My boys have gotten a lesson that they were never planning on getting,” Lisa said.
And Lisa got a lesson in love — and hope for the future.
“I think if he stuck with me through that, he can stick with me forever,” she said of her husband.
In sickness and in health, and throughout recovery.
Lisa has not worked since getting a double mastectomy last May. But, she has plenty on her plate.
“You’d be surprised how little time I have. I feel like I’m always busy doing something,” she said. “If it’s not for my fiance, it’s for the kids. I’m team mom at football.”
Her support network also includes family and friends, who are always there to lend a helping hand.
“Just hearing them say, ‘You’re going to be okay,’ kind of changed my whole attitude on it,” she said.
Through the chemotherapy and hair loss that came with it, Lisa conquered her darkest days with this mantra:
“This isn’t me. This wasn’t going to have me. It was just something I had to get through.”
Lisa is now cancer-free and just had her final reconstructive surgery last month — on September 10, 2015. But she knows so many others are just beginning this journey.
“You definitely can do it. It’s not a life sentence,” she said. “It’s just a hurdle — a hurdle you have to overcome.”
And pinned to her wrist is a tattoo of a pink ribbon — a permanent reminder of that hurdle, and one she is not alone in facing.
“I thank God that there’s other people that have had it, so they knew how to treat me,” she said. “They knew what to do with me, and they could get me back to my kids.”
Lisa said her diagnosis was completely out of the blue. Her mother was one of seven girls, and her grandmother was also one of seven girls — all of them had daughters, and no one has had breast cancer.
Lisa said it all comes down to knowing your body and what is normal. Despite regular mammograms after a benign lump in 2003, Lisa said it is still important to do monthly self breast exams.
“Because, if we wouldn’t have found it, like I said, it wasn’t on a mammogram,” she said. “So even if I had gone for a mammogram, if I didn’t know that lump was there, it probably still wouldn’t have been found.”
That is what WKBN’s initiative, Buddy Check 27, is about. You can sign up on the website with an email address to get a reminder on the 27th of every month to conduct a self breast exam.
October 27 marked the first day for those who have signed up for Buddy Check to get the email. It says, “This is your monthly reminder to do a self breast exam.”
If you haven’t signed up, it is not too late.
Earlier this month, Suzanne Zupko, a registered nurse who works with breast cancer patients, walked WKBN through how to do a proper self breast exam. If you need a refresher, that video is posted on our website. You can follow along to learn the correct form and technique.
Also online, you will find the rest of WKBN’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month coverage, under the “Community” tab on the homepage.
Remember to put your health first, because it really could save your life.