August 17, 2018

Calling All Sistahs August Reminder

3 years ago today I discovered a lump that turned out to be malignant in my left breast while doing a routine self exam. I had suddenly become 1 in 8. I wish they would post another number for survivorship. My gut tells me the number is way better than 1 in 8 and I'd really like to be part of that statistic instead!
This blog, and the Calling All Sistahs line of stamps and dies, designed to be able to donate 50% of its profits, was born while I was dealing with the decision making process of my diagnosis. 
It can be daunting but if you catch it early, I promise you that you'll want this task because choices go away with each stage.
Because of this, I have been so blessed with the friendship and support of a few truly amazing women who join me each month to help spread the word about awareness and the importance of early detection. 
They are my Sistahs. And they are your Sistahs too! 
I am not the only one with a story to tell. I simply started this platform.
I've invited our sistahs to tell their stories too hoping it will resonate with you. 
Are you doing your monthly self exams? 
Are you up to date on your mammogram? 
Have you taken time to take care of you and book a doctor's appointment?
Did you even know you need to do these things??
You matter! I can't stress that enough. 
Please read this story...she's here to tell it because she caught it early too!!

"For the better part of 2013 I spent my time between home and driving two hours to be with my mother at least once a week as she was under the care of Hospice. Many trips back and forth, back and forth. 

On October 16th while in the shower, I found a hard lump on my right breast. Did I immediately call the doctor…. no. I waited a couple of days because basically I didn’t want to deal with it. I had more important things to take care of…like my mom. 

A couple of days later I see my doctor. She did an ultrasound in the office and said it looked like nothing. Whew…what a relief! However, just to make sure, she wrote an order for a more thorough ultrasound. This is where the fun begins getting the insurance to approve this test and that test. What a nightmare! There is no sense of urgency with insurance companies. 

The extensive ultrasound was finally performed, and you guessed it, they found something unusual. Next, they wanted a biopsy…of course more waiting around because of the insurance. Into week three now I finally get the biopsy where I was in one of the fanciest Breast Cancer centers in Tampa Bay. They give you plush robes and slippers…I mean really, what could be so bad?!? While I am laying on this table with soft lighting above and a nurse holding my hand, the doctor performs the procedure. I walked out of there scared to death and now more waiting. 

Remember my mother? I am running to these appointments between making trips to see her. I was a wreck. We are now into the third week of November and mom is comatose and not expected to live through the weekend. Then while making dinner for my parents I get the dreaded phone call from my doctor…yes her personally, not a nurse, so of course you know it’s bad news. She wants to see me the following day to make some decisions. I drive two hours to see her, make the decision to do a bilateral mastectomy (because I am not going through this again), then call my dad who puts me on the speaker phone so the whole family can hear what I have to say. 

I am now a statistic. I am 1 in 8. 

One in eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The next morning, I put on my big girl panties and drove back to be with my mom and hold her hand as she passed away that night. I felt CHEATED! I may have been 53 when this happened to me, but I wanted my mama to see me through this. 

The rest of my story is like many other women who have walked this walk. Surgery, then meeting with Oncologists until you find one you absolutely love because let’s face it…this is the person that is going to get all that cancer out of your body and you will be like best friends for the next few years. The initial treatment of chemo lasts about four months, but because I was HER2 positive that meant I received yet another treatment that lasted 12 months. Then a maintenance drug. At my four year check-up, we discussed all the great percentages of women living longer who take the maintenance drug beyond the fifth year, so we have decided to continue with that treatment. 

I chose not to do reconstruction…Flat is fabulous and that’s my new normal. My curly hair came in straight (what the hell?), but that’s my new normal. I still have chemo brain after four years, but that’s my new normal. I am just thankful that I am here today, loving my family, watching my grandsons play soccer and living my life knowing that each day is a blessing. 

I am a survivor because my mother taught me how to check my sistahs in the shower. I caught it early. She saved my life."  
-Penny Ward

Come back tomorrow to join us for a new Encouragement Challenge!


  1. Loved hearing your story again Penny and What beautiful cards. Xo kelly booth

  2. Penny you are an inspiration. You supported me in my journey as well. Your support as well as Butch's meant a great deal to me. Seeing your talent used to inspire others shows even more what an amazing woman you are. Sistah!

  3. Penny you are truly an amazing woman! To go through so much with your Mom and to have to deal with breast cancer is just too much for a woman to endure. But you handled it all with grace and strength! You continued on with your Design Team responsibilities! Your are my hero and inspiration!!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging us to become empowered!

  5. Penny, Thank you for sharing your story. You are a strong woman to deal with all of this at the same time sd your mom was dying.