Each and every breast cancer survivor has a unique story of strength and hope to tell. Some are forced to tell their story through diaries or family and friends after they are gone, but this does not mean their battle has been lost. They are survivors. They lived courageously and fought to the end... and their legacy lives on through the women who not only beat cancer, but who choose to spend the rest of their lives empowering others to do the same; women like Vernicko Seraphin.
While vacationing in Orlando, FL with family, Verinicko's husband noticed a lump on her breast. Upon her return home, she sought the medical expertise of her family physician who conducted an exam and also found the lump. Everyone agreed that Vernicko was too young and there was no way it could be breast cancer, but thankfully the doctor chose to do order a mammogram anyhow.
"When they told me we needed to wait for the radiologist to give me my results... I just knew it was breast cancer."
Vernicko's diagnosis was not confirmed until after the biopsy came back. It was, indeed, breast cancer.
"At 40 years old I had carcinoma in situ, which meant I had breast cancer in the left breast."
Following six moths of chemo therapy, 7 weeks of radiation, the devastating loss of her hair, a bilateral mastectomy, the removal of 20 lymph nodes and countless hours of physical therapy, Vernicko chose to not only survive, but to aid in the survival of others.
"In 2006, I started to do the breast cancer walk to raise money and awareness. I do two walks every year, in addition to the Race For The Cure and Making Strides."
Vernicko is also an advocate for the American Cancer Society, allowing her contact information to be given to women struggling with breast cancer and seeking support and guidance. She speaks to about two women per year; sends them goodies, visits them and sometimes they do the walks with her.
"I remember when I needed someone to talk to and I'm going to give back in that same way. I can relate to how they're feeling and want to help them through this."
Vernicko has also brought confidence back into the lives of many women who have undergone a bilateral mastectomy as she did. She chose not to replace her left breast and instead, wore a special bra that a form fits into and was eventually fitted for a form that adhered to her chest.
"When I ordered my form, I discovered they did not make them in brown. They only had them in white. I made them aware that a brown skin colored prosthesis was needed, and there is now a global order for that type."
It has been almost ten years since Vernicko's diagnosis and though her strength, hope, faith, family and friends were a key to overcoming her battle with breast cancer, she knows early detection played a part in her survival story. In fact, Vernicko visits her daughter's high school cheer squad each year to talk to the young girls about breast cancer, her experiences and how to do a self exam. "It's never to early to start," she always tells them.
When asked what her advice would be to other women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Vernicko said,
"I would tell them to have a positive attitude. It's hard... especially when you're going through chemo. Talk to people. It doesn't do good to keep it all in. Let it out. Lean on people. Let people help you. It has always helped me to talk it out and tell my story."