By Amy Pearson
Inge Buchholz had never had a mammogram before the one she did which would indicate that she had breast cancer. She had always been in good health but during a regular check-up with Dr. McCrea, he insisted on scheduling a mammogram which she could do or not do. On the day of the appointment, Inge thought she’d cancelled the mammogram via text, but instead she cancelled her gastrology appointment.
“I was already there so I thought, oh what the hell, I’ll do the mammogram,” Inge says.
A week later, Dr. McCrea called to tell her she had breast cancer. She was shocked and just one month later was undergoing surgery to remove the cancer. In addition to the surgery, Inge underwent fifteen radiation treatments which left her badly burned.
“It was my time to learn that I’m not invincible,” Inge notes. “It always happens to someone else, right? I was fortunate though; it could’ve been in my lymph nodes but it wasn’t.” Inge is now a firm believer in the necessity of mammograms. She says that she believes in God and she believes in mammograms.
“I wish there was no cancer ever,” Inge says. “But upon diagnosis you just have to take one day at a time and take care of yourself.”
Gretchen Swift says her breast cancer was an itch that she accidentally scratched. She found a lump and called her OB-GYN who performed an ultrasound the next day and found two spots.
“I was in the mall walking with my husband when I got the call,” Gretchen says. “I just stopped. It’s a scary thing to have breast cancer.” Gretchen says she was diagnosed with what they call triple negative breast cancer which tends to grow and spread faster than other types. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, twenty-eight rounds of radiation, and a mastectomy on one side.
In addition to breast cancer, Gretchen has also dealt with uterine, skin and lung cancer. So how does she continue to persevere? “Like Suzanne Somers said, it is the hard times in life that make you realize the good times,” Gretchen says. “Looking for the positive in the situation makes it easier to deal with. For instance, you’re gonna go bald, but your hair will grow back.”
Gretchen notes that she has continued living a life full of family, friends, work, and volunteering through every diagnosis. She believes that having a positive attitude and a supportive group of people around you are key to getting through.
Hope Good’s mother had a radical mastectomy for breast cancer in 1975. Hope notes that at that time in society, people didn’t really speak openly about their medical conditions. She has taken a different approach to dealing with her own cancer.
“How did I get through two bouts of breast cancer? I wrote a book about it,” Hope says. She also started her local non- profit called Breast Cancer Awareness which hosts fundraising events geared towards the dissemination of knowledge about the disease.
“If anything, having breast cancer has made me stronger,” Hope says. “I have gained a sisterhood of women and a connection through this experience that is unbreakable.”
Like many women, Hope’s cancer was discovered on accident. She went in for a routine mammogram to take advantage of her medical insurance when they found cancer in two places. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
“There’s a lot of focus from some organizations for women to have breast reconstruction,” Hope notes. “When I couldn’t be reconstructed after my second round of cancer, I realized that I’m not less of a woman without breasts. But it should be a personal choice.”
Hope is extremely dedicated to sharing information about breast cancer and supporting the women who are affected. “I call these women warriors,” she says. “We are breast sisters. I didn’t want this experience to define me; and ultimately, I hope I did some good with this situation I was given.”