With this being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), Valerie Stafford wanted to make sure her testimony of will power, determination and prayer was relayed to others who are fighting this type of cancer.
“I want everyone to be aware of this disease and to make sure they are getting their examinations on a regular basis,” Stafford explained. “It is very critical they do this because any changes in their body they may feel are minor, could be something more.”
Stafford was a stickler when it came to her yearly mammograms. When she found out she had breast cancer, she immediately felt overwhelmed.
“In May of 2012, I noticed a lump on my breast, so I went to Dr. (Erica) Noyes to have it checked out,” Stafford said. “She told me since I was having so many problems with the cyst, to go see Dr. William Johnson, a surgeon, and he diagnosed me with breast cancer. I immediately went into denial.”
As with most patients who hear their diagnosis for the first time, Stafford said she went into a panic as the doctor started to explain the options available to her.
“I felt like my world was collapsing and my life was flashing before me,” said Stafford. “You start thinking about your kids and grandkids, and it was just so emotional I didn't know if I could handle it.”
However, she did handle it. With the help and support of her family, she was able to overcome those initial feelings of desperation and turn them into feelings of triumph. Stafford said her husband, friends, neighbors and co-workers at Ayrshire Electronics all played a vital role in her ability to get through this life changing event.
“I came to grips with my diagnosis and decided I was going to defeat this, with the help of the Lord, along with all the people in my life,” Stafford said. “My husband was great and everyone was so supportive. I knew I could defeat this cancer.”
Stafford's support system and her will to survive proved to be enough for her to rise above her doubts and fears she first experienced. She is now cancer free after getting a double mastectomy and re-constructive surgery. She is determined to make sure others end up with the same success story.
“I just want everyone to just be aware of the risk and to understand that even though they may get diagnosed with breast cancer, they can still get past it and have a good life,” Stafford added. “Just make sure you give yourself self-examinations and don’t be scared to report anything suspicious. Because the earlier you can catch it, the better your chances will be.”
Everyday is a battle and a struggle for all of those who are going through the fight to overcome breast cancer. Stafford said it’s the ones who keep their thoughts positive, and stay determined to defeat it, can continue to show others that life isn’t over just because one is told they have breast cancer.
“Just keep your head up and win the mental battle,” Stafford said. “When you are cancer free, you can just smile with the understanding that life is precious. We need to make every moment count.”