SURVIVORS UNITE

The ladies of Bikers For Ta-Tas, along with their families, are the support system for one another. This day and this ride forges friendships that outlast any form of breast cancer. Here, at BFTT, we have an environment where survivors unite.

JoEllen Luster

“I was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer at the age of 46.  It was October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink had been my favorite color until then.  I was a year overdue for my mammogram with no problems. I got the mammogram and was called back in for a second one; I had to wait a week in between each of those appointments and that was the worst part. They wanted to do a biopsy on my right breast. I remember driving out to Proctor with my husband, Ken, and my two kids, Drew, age 23, and Bree, age 19, to find out the diagnosis. My husband and I had just celebrated our 25th anniversary and that night we cried and held each other in bed. When you hear the word “cancer” you don’t know what your future holds. 

Next was getting to a surgeon; my oncology doctor found out that the two most popular breast surgeons were booked for months! I received several recommendations for a good surgeon, Dr. Paulsen. My oncologist that was recommended to me was Dr. Le-Lindqwister. Dr. Le-Lindqwister recommended a partial mastectomy on my right breast.  I met with Dr. Paulsen and surgery was set up in less than a week! My oncologist, however, wanted wider margins with my surgery so I had to have a second surgery to do that. I had to heal before I received six weeks, five days a week, of targeted radiation. With radiation, I was able to go to the Pekin Cancer Center because at the time I was working in Pekin. I got through radiation well. 

Everyone has their own journey to tell. 

I remember feeling very lucky at the time because I did not have to go through chemotherapy yet somehow felt guilty because I saw so many bald, brave, and beautiful women. I was able to get through this because of my loving and supportive husband, my strong and beautiful children, my close-knit family, and my funny and great friends; along with a lot of prayer. I will never forget what my dad sad to me early on before I had my first surgery. He said, “You have no choice but to be strong because that’s how your mother and I raised you.” I have had diagnostic mammograms every six months for almost five years now. They have, thankfully, been negative each time. I am now fighting this battle again as I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in December of 2014. I have had eight rounds of chemotherapy over the last year and have two more rounds of maintenance therapy to go. I hope that through my fight with both ovarian and breast cancer I will be able to raise awareness for both in the future.”

Linda Cool

“I am a seven-year breast cancer survivor. I have a history of breast cancer in my family, so I was very diligent about breast self exams, and mammograms. My mother got breast cancer at the age of 55 and I discovered my cancer at the age of 55. My mom died at the age of 59 from bone cancer as a direct result of her breast cancer. I am still alive and cancer free at 61 because I took immediate action, as opposed to my mom who tried to ignore it, thinking it would go away. Thirty-five years ago that is the way a lot of women thought.  She kept it a secret too long and suffered an agonizing four years.  I knew I would not be going down that path.

Early detection is the key. I never asked ‘why me?’ and I can’t say I was ever scared of what might happen. My cancer was estrogen fueled, very aggressive, and at a stage three when I found it, so needless to say there wasn’t much time to think about it. I opted for a double mastectomy because of my history, and I wasn’t going through this again. Surgery was first, then chemo and radiation. I lost my hair, which was kind of cool because I didn’t have to worry about bad hair days. Were there bad days, hell yeah, but did I ever doubt my choices or give up? Hell no! I kept fighting like a girl and kicked cancer’s ass.  My reward: a tummy tuck and bigger, better boobs! What more could a girl ask for?!”

Binky Yost Weber

"In July of 2014, I was doing my routine self exam and noticed a lump, one that I hadn’t noticed before. I was concerned the moment I felt it, but since I had a routine mammogram coming up in August I waited, thinking if it was something to worry about, the mammogram would detect it and my doctor would be informed. To my surprise, my results came back, and all was okay.

My fiance and I were planning a wedding in October 2013, so I had the conversation with him about detecting the lump. I wondered if he truly loved me enough to marry me, thinking he may have to go though all the horrible things that cancer brings with it. To hear him tell me, “Yes, baby, I’ll do whatever makes you happy, and I’ll be there for you no matter what” just lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders! So on October 31, 2013, we became Mr. and Mrs. Weber.

My gynecologist sent me to have a sonogram done since the mammogram hadn’t detected anything. At this appointment I was told that it was not just a cyst and that by the form of the cell it needed to be biopsied. So they did a needle-extracted biopsy on me. We had an appointment set up to discuss my results just before Thanksgiving - and yes I had cancer. This was not a shock; I had prepared myself for this moment. On Thanksgiving day, my worst moment was to tell my children and mother! Everyone was in total shock, denial, and then finally acceptance.

My first conversation with my surgeon was that I could need a double mastectomy and possible hysterectomy if I had the gene that’s cancer dominant. I had blood drawn and sent out to test, but I received a call from the lab saying my insurance wouldn’t cover this test and that my cost would be $6,000. After picking myself up off the floor, I had to say, “No, I can’t afford it.” With much discussion on the most appropriate treatment for me, it was decided to perform a partial mastectomy and lympectomy.

The tests came back that the border cells were cancer free, and that I was in stage one of cancer with no cancer detected in my lymps. My doctor told me I did an awesome job finding it and getting it taken care of quickly; it is what kept me in stage one, which was awesome news. So after six weeks’ recovery after surgery, I started and completed 30 days of radiation treatment.

April 1, 2014, was my last day of radiation. I continue my self checks and mammogram every six months and am to this day cancer free. Check yourself as much as possible; you will notice if something is different, and if you do, have it checked! Don’t let it slide, even if you had a clean mammogram. Early detection can save your life. It saved mine!"

Betsy Fannin

“It started three days before my 52nd birthday with a yearly mammogram which led to more films and a sonogram, then a biopsy. Then the dreaded phone call. Positive for cancer - micropapillary carcinoma. From that point I felt I was on autopilot. I made an appointment with a surgeon who wanted an MRI, which showed another lump. Auxiliary sonogram and biopsies of lymph node and other lump both came back positive for invasive ductal carcinoma. I called my family and told my boss I was leaving early.

My mom had a lumpectomy and radiation about seven years before, and I was hoping that was what I would have. When the surgeon said mastectomy, I just froze. Did she really say that? I was numb. I remember hearing what she was saying, but my mind was racing with questions. Fortunately, the reconstructive surgeon was there that day and he put me at ease. He would perform a TRAM flap the same day as the mastectomy. Basically it is a tummy tuck, and the fat and muscle are used to build a new breast.

I don’t ever remember dwelling on the fact that I had cancer, that I could die. I just never let myself go there. The worst part for me was thinking about chemo. I cried more over that than surgery. I didn’t want to go bald, didn’t want to be sick. But chemo was not as bad as I thought. The 1st mammogram after surgery was scary. When the tech told me all was okay, I cried and she hugged me. I was so thankful and relieved! It helped to talk to women who had been through all of this, to know that you can survive! God, family, friends, and survivors who shared their stories with me are what helped me to survive. SIX YEARS in May 2016!”