Keeping Abreast Foundation

Bonnie Bell

The physician I chose looked at my biopsy results and said I was lucky because I had a treatable, curable type of cancer. So I had a partial mastectomy and lymph node dissection.

Bonnie Bell


2001 - My husband and I were working hard; busy with two daughters in college and one son in high school. I was working as a nurse, trying to keep up with family responsibilities. One of the case managers working on my unit was promoting healthy checkups. I was behind on my mammogram so I scheduled it, and I was called back for a biopsy the next week, something about a spot that looked suspicious. I then went in alone for the results.

The physician reviewing my results asked if I had brought anyone in with me? I said no, why? She said the results came back as cancer. She kept talking, but my mind was spinning.

I was thinking of my sister who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma six months prior, had surgery, radiation and she was starting chemo treatments. I couldn't have cancer, too! I had to tell my family, but wait a minute ... I have no family history. I'm healthy. I have done all the right things. And I am a nurse! I am the one who takes care of cancer patients! I was thinking of my time that I volunteered as a nurse at Camp Bluebird (camp for adult cancer survivors) and I took my sister as a camper. It was great for her to meet other cancer survivors, some going through treatment, others had beat their type of cancer. There were no other campers with the type of cancer she had but the support and love given to her was a blessing. I was even thinking about talking with my sister about the different types of cancer. She knew she had the bad type (really thought all cancer was bad) and her prognosis was poor but she was going to fight as much as she could.

Then as the doctor is still talking to me, my mind went blank. What seemed like hours were only minutes and I had to focus. First thing I did when I left the doctor's office was call my husband. Next, I scheduled surgery, which was every hard to pick a surgeon since I worked with them every day. The physician I chose looked at my biopsy results and said I was lucky because I had a treatable, curable type of cancer. So I had a partial mastectomy and lymph node dissection. The node came back positive so I started chemo, then radiation, then more chemo, and then started on a five-year hormone drug treatment. Not only could I not work through the red devil chemo because I was so very sick, but sadly, my sister passed away after my first round. When my hair started falling out, I finally decided to just have my son shave my head. I remember I wore a wig once, but having a bald head gave me an opportunity to tell others my story and promote breast health awareness.

It is amazing how many women I have met that have had breast cancer but don't talk about it!!! Some want to forget while others are very private about it. For me, it was a long journey but it was just something I went through and definitely changed my outlook on life. If my story can help just one person, that would be wonderful. With the support of my family, friends and people I met along the way, I got through it. I have learned that recovery doesn't happen in a day, a week or even a year; that each day is a gift and finding ways to celebrate the beauty in life is magical. I am very vocal about having survived breast cancer; telling my story to most anyone who will listen. The importance of mammograms is definitely the highpoint of my speech. My goal has been to reach out to others going through their own recovery and hopefully inspire them to succeed in their journey. I have been blessed to be a member of the Krewe du YaYas and have truly learned from my sisters to live, laugh and love.


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