During the month of October, we have shared empowering stories of breast cancer survivors in the New Orleans JCC community. We hope that they have helped inspire our community to join the fight against breast cancer.
Our final spotlight this month is JCC member Phyllis Alltmont, whose journey with breast cancer began in 2003. Sixteen years after her first diagnosis, Phyllis was blindsided by another heartbreaking diagnosis. Read her story below about how a positive attitude can be a source of resilience and strength.
When were you diagnosed and how was the cancer initially detected?
My journey with cancer began in 2003. I went for my annual mammogram and 24 hours later had a call from the doctor telling me I had breast cancer.
How did you feel when you first received the news of your diagnosis?
It came as quite a shock -- a routine exam by my doctor had not detected anything. But I had just become a member of the club no one wants to join and the rest is history.
Tell us about your treatment process.
Within a month I had a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by six months of chemotherapy. And then life returned to “normal.” Speed forward 16 years and breast cancer was again detected on a mammogram -- this time two types of cancer different from that found the first time. And once again I was thrown into this world filled with medical procedures -- mastectomy, reconstruction, and 12 months of chemotherapy.
Did you face any obstacles during your treatment process?
It was a long frustrating time -- and being 16 years older than the first time didn’t help! But I have once again found out how lucky I am.
Did you have a support network?
I have a wonderful support group of family and close friends. I have total confidence in the medical team advising me. I know that research is constantly being done in an effort to find a cure and I have been the recipient of that research.
What message would you like to provide women in the community?
The importance of a positive attitude and the work I am doing at the JCC (with my trainer Brittany) to achieve resilience and strength is all part of my recovery. Am I a “survivor?” I’m not ready to proclaim that yet -- but I am doing my part to get there and vow to continue to do that.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be coming to an end, but it's important to remember that breast cancer continues to claim more women’s lives than any other cancer, besides lung cancer. On the bright side, the 5-year breast cancer survival rate can be 98% when detected early. Get to know the signs and symptoms and encourage loved ones to pay attention to any changes. And if you are able, give to organizations conducting research to fight this disease.