Carrie Coombes found the lump while performing a self-exam two weeks after her 35th birthday. Three days later, the diagnosis was confirmed…breast cancer. Things continued to happen fast from there (the cancer was too aggressive to go at any other pace). She wanted to wait until after her sister’s wedding a few weeks later to have surgery, as she was to be the maid of honor. The doctor said, “Absolutely not, it cannot wait.” Shortly thereafter, she had surgery to remove the fast-growing tumor. The drains that were in place did not deter her from performing her maid of honor duties, however. You see, Carrie is just that kind of person…thoughtful, dependable, and determined.

As if one bout with breast cancer was not enough, Carrie was diagnosed with it two more times. She endured the rounds of chemo and radiation and is now cancer-free. Her life as she knew it, however, has forever changed.

There are many lessons to be learned from Carrie’s struggle. One of the most important is that support is critical. Carrie was fortunate to find an organization known as The Pink Ribbon Riders, made up of both survivors and caregivers, that was a great resource for both Carrie and her husband. Support was available by phone or online chat, which was a bonus given Carrie’s remote location (the nearest breast cancer support group and hospital was 75 miles away). Being so far from support groups and her hospital treatment was a challenge, but the tips that The Pink Ribbon Riders shared, as well as their caring attention, really helped to ease the burden.

Carrie also shares that dealing with the effects of cancer treatment on one’s appearance can be a challenge. After enduring a double mastectomy, she opted not to have reconstruction or prosthetics.  She found, however, that it was not as much of an adjustment as one would think. What was more of a challenge was losing her hair, but fortunately it was only temporary. Besides, she collected a fabulous selection of hats/accessories. While Carrie didn’t mind so much going “bald,” she did find that others were at times uncomfortable with it at work, so she opted for the accessories during her first round of chemo. In the midst of the second round, however, Carrie felt she became bolder, and changed her mindset. “I was on a journey and had nothing to be ashamed of. I was fortunate enough to participate in the Look Good Feel Better program where I received a bag full of makeup and personal care supplies. A wonderful cosmetologist helped me figure out a few different things that I could do to bring more attention to my face and not my head”. Carrie re-discovered the beauty and depth of her eyes and really played them up. Just look at them in the photo above. They are captivating!

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from Carrie is the value of a positive outlook.  “I am a stronger person than before….my mental outlook is healthier.” She finds it important to stand up for herself and others, when previously she might have backed down. She ALWAYS looks for the silver lining in any situation. In fact, she is still dealing with some fairly significant health issues; but she doesn’t let it run her life. “There are going to be bad days,” she says, “but ultimately, it is your outlook that determines how your days go.”

So, there you have it, some marvelous lessons.

Be thoughtful, be dependable, be determined.

Find the silver lining.

Be you.

Xxx ooo ~ Carol

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