Spin® for the Cure welcomes stories of hope from those diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to today’s advanced medical research and care, thousands of people are with us to share their stories. Their stories take you on a journey of struggle, hope and triumph.
Have a survivor story of your own to share? Please share it here and provide inspiration to others fighting breast cancer.
Josie M Shuler
Heather Ray In Memoriam
Josie M. Shuler
My name is Josie M. Shuler, and I am 54 years old. My life is a continuing medical miracle – as my physician, Dr. Joseph Palascak of the Barrett Cancer Center in UC Health, tells everyone.
I had battled with heart disease and a stroke that caused left-sided paralysis in 2002. A small residual weakness is still apparent. Through the years, the UC Physicians cardiac team has taken care of my heart.
At the same time, I was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder – only named in 2000 – called Antiphospholipid-Antibody Syndrome. My blood clots quicker than a normal person. This is a rare disease found in female Caucasians. Through the years, I’ve suffered from recurrent DVTs, blood clots, pulmonary emboli, left rectus muscle bleed from an EMG, and retroperitoneal bleeding in 2007 – where I almost died due to loss of blood. In one year, I was in trauma care at least five times. It’s in my genes, so I feared for my daughter, and knew in my heart that I needed to be there for her.
My husband and I were lucky to met Dr. Palascak, the only hematologist in the Tri-state who studied this disorder, and he made it his mission to get me the best treatment.
In August 2008, after a clear digital mammogram in July, a pea-sized lump was found by Dr. Palascak. He sent me for a biopsy. It was a positive and aggressive left ductal carcinoma in situ. Thus began my cancer journey. We had a series of consultations, and three weeks later I had a partial mastectomy and a lymph node study. The morning of the surgery, we were informed my mother passed away in her sleep and had said that “Josie will be OK.” I went on to get chemotherapy and forty five radiation treatments. In May 2009, I was pronounced cancer-free.
My cancer team decided that I should have a brac analysis. I am not a gene carrier, so it was comforting for my daughter and myself.
At the same time, I was having syncopal episodes, and had broken my wrists. I was in and out of the OR in a week, putting my wrists back together. Two days later I had a total hysterectomy to rule out getting ovarian cancer. In May 2010 an ICD implant was placed in my chest to monitor syncopy and later was attributed to ventricular tachycardia. I was to have an ablation.
On November 3, 2010, breast cancer was found to have comeback with a vengeance. I now had stage 4 triple negative metastatic breast cancer. There is no cure, and I may have had only 8 months to live because of the three huge tumors in my lungs. The biopsy showed it was far gone. My oncologist told my daughter that there were treatments, and if they didn’t work, they would make sure I was comfortable and not in pain. I did not accept that. I told him to call the chemo lab. I wanted to start treatment right there – and I did.
Since I was already involved in so much volunteer work with ACS, the Barrett Cancer, and the Making Strides Walk, I decided to check on volunteering with Komen Cincinnati at King’s Island. I became an avid advocate for breast cancer causes and rallied behind the patients waiting for chemo – to get them to learn and understand the disease we are fighting against. I attended seminars, workshops, equine therapy for breast cancer patients, and even helped my neighbors and the school by getting bilingual students the help they needed to succeed in school. My husband knew that this is the way I want to fight breast cancer – by doing volunteer work and not dwelling on the negativeness of the disease.
I had always believed in my faith that God brought us to this world for a reason. I have these diseases for a reason. My tenacity and positive approach in life while living with cancer became a force to be reckoned with. I live my life to the fullest, knowing that there are so many studies and research to find the cure. I would not allow any negative feelings or fear to cloud my reason for living. I have to be alive for my daughter, to be able to enjoy my grandkids in the future. Nothing will mess up that dream. I have faith, and yes, there are times I fear the unknown. But God is on my side. I have been so sick that I thought I was going to die, and yet I persevere. So I said, “breast cancer is just another disease, it is manageable.” FAITH is my cure. I say that every day of my life.
From November of 2010 to December of 2011, I had my chemo treatments and continued my volunteer work. I took the bus in the mornings to get chemo, and then my husband picked me up from the Barrett Cancer Center about 3pm. If and when I needed a blood transfusion from the side effects, my husband was there with me.
I was well, and continued to involve myself in many different organizations – meeting wonderful, awesome women along the way. I was humbled by what all these women were doing. They were helping to raise funds and getting the word out that we have to find the cure, and end breast cancer forever. That has been my goal, and I wanted it so much to happen.
Dr. Chariff, my oncologist, had constantly reminded me that I need a new PET scan. I kept putting it off because I told him I feel great – aside from the pulmonary emboli I have as side effect of chemo and radiation. In August of 2012, I had to get the dreaded PET scan. There were no symptoms, but cancer had spread to my upper lungs and I had to make a decision for new chemo treatments. I was not going to quit, especially when I found out that I could be of help to the Barrett Cancer Center and the UC Cancer Institute in finding a way to help triple negative BC patients. I got ready for a trial chemotherapy – so new it had never been given to humans. It is a hope for a cure. I was ecstatic that I could finally be a part of the team who may find a cure. Unfortunately, it was not going to be that easy.
In September of 2012 – after suffering from severe headaches – a brain tumor was found. I was immediately admitted to the Neuro-surgery ICU. I was stabilized, and awaited radiation treatments to remove the brain tumor. I was to have an 80% recovery – including my eyesight, hearing and balance/mobility. I do not. The radiation cleared all the tumors, but there was the nerve damage and I will no longer have my sight in my left eye. I am alive, and I’m grateful the tumor is gone.
God is great, and I can now move on to my goal – working to prolong my life and save lives along the way. I will be an instrument to find a cure, and am so humbled to be given this chance.
My name is Gayle Unzicker. I have been a Spinning instructor for 3-1/2 years, and last August, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then I have had surgery, chemo, radiation, and endless scans, tests, bloodwork, etc. I continued to teach almost all of my Spin classes…not at the same intensity as before, but at least I was staying active.
I am here to tell you that there have been strides made in the treatment of breast cancer. The treatment, medications and standard of care I received is radically different than it was 10 years ago, and my prognosis is much better. I appreciate all of the hard work, time and effort put forth for fundraisers such as Spin for the Cure.
I will be riding in this year’s Spin for the Cure, and I have 4 friends riding with me. Look for us. We’ll have the bright lime green shirts with the Spinning logo on them.
Thanks again to everyone for all that you’ve done,
In Memoriam – Heather’s Story
December 28, 1968 – February 24, 2010
I thought I had fought the toughest battle of my life when I survived cancer at the age of 13. I lost my leg and then endured a year and a half of brutal therapy in 1982.
Following the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed in March 2006 with breast cancer when positive nodes were found under my arm. My daughter Mackenzie was 4 months old at the time. During a year of treatment, I cared for a newborn and her sister, Madison, who was 21 months older. Once treatment was done, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. After doing some research, I also decided to go through genetic testing for the breast cancer gene – I felt the need to do this for my girls. Thanks goodness I do not carry the gene.
In May 2008, just short of being two years clear of cancer, I found a lump under my arm. Cancer had also returned in my leg and the outer lining of my lung. The day before, I had lost my job – things weren’t going my way. By December 2008, all cancer was once again gone! I continued treatment until April 2009.
On Friday May 29th, 2009, I found a black-and-blue lump about 1/8th of an inch thick. It was the size of the palm of my hand and located about an inch under my collar bone on top of my ribs. It appeared out of nowhere. I went to the doctor Monday, June 1, and had a CT of my neck and chest. The cancer was back. It was also in the lymph nodes in my neck. Yes, it can happen that quickly.
I obviously believe in being POSITIVE and FIGHTING. Most importantly, I believe in LIVING. I believe my two girls need their Mom in their live. I also believe that in order to accomplish all these things, the need for continued research grows even stronger in order to find a CURE. The advancements in research and the continued funding of these advancements DO make a difference.
Heather Ray’s story lives on as a reminder to continue the fight against cancer. All who loved her, knew her and were touched by her unwavering strength understand why fighting cancer is a step we must take.
Dee Kinney, 45
Now, there are worse things than taxes on tax day! Now, I am happy to pay my taxes!!
I say WE because I did not go through this journey by myself. My husband was there every step of the way as were my friends and family. While the surgeries and chemotherapy helped to kill the cancer, my husband, friends and family all helped to lift me up and keep me well emotionally and spiritually. My motto for this journey was “HOPE” ~ Holding On to Positive Expectations.
I am grateful that I was in good health and was able to stay relatively active throughout my chemotherapy treatments. The day of treatment and the day after, I was unable to do much of anything. However, all of the other days I was able to walk and even did some spinning classes (with very little tension). I really believe that helped tremendously to keep my spirits up! Exercise is nature’s Prozac!
September 2010 was my last chemotherapy and October 2010 I took part in my second “Spin for the Cure” and I am looking forward to taking part in “Spin for the Cure” in 2011!