A Lesson Learned From Giuliana Rancic’s Breast Cancer Journey

guiliana-rancicE! News anchor Giuliana Rancic knows firsthand the importance of getting mammograms before turning 40.

At just 37 years of age, the TV personality was diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer. She initially went through a double lumpectomy, before making the final decision to undergo a double mastectomy. All before the age of 40.

In an exclusive interview with Glamour magazine, Giuliana reveals her thoughts on the initial diagnosis: “I knew nothing about breast cancer before this happened to me, and I thought mastectomy meant stage three or four cancer. I didn’t have a big family history of it. I just never thought it would happen to me. I really didn’t.”

Breast cancer is a serious matter. It’s never too early to begin checking for lumps. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, 5% of all breast cancers occur in women under 40. This may not seem like a high number, but when there are over 226,000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer each year, 5% equates to roughly 11,000. That’s 11,000 women under 40 being diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. alone.

So what can you do to prevent a missed diagnosis as a young woman? Start checking early, and regularly. If you have a family history of breast cancer, consider starting your annual mammograms before you turn 40. Detecting breast cancer early is the best way to lower your risk and fully eradicate the disease.

It’s also never too early to perform self-exams. You should be familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. This will allow you to catch warning signs of breast cancer early.

When performing a self-exam, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Lump, hard knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

*All information above is provided by the Susan G. Komen Foundation

Educate your friends and daughters on the importance of detecting breast cancer early, and make sure they’re aware of the risks. Remember—breast cancer knows no age.

Follow Giuliana on Twitter today to stay up- to-date with on journey through breast cancer, motherhood and life!


How One Survivor Refuses to Let Cancer or Life Slow Her Down

Our team at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction is honored to share with you an In Her Words post written by a dear friend and breast cancer survivor, Sharon Hawkins.

You are the founder of Grace in the Wilderness: A ministry for Today’s Business Woman, tell us a little bit about your organization and what lead you to create this inspirational place for women?

Grace In The Wilderness is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is an out-reach ministry whose mission is to encourage women of all ages:

  • To look upward to God as they discover Him in a new and deeper way,
  • To look inward as they discover who they are in Christ, and
  • To look outward as they discover God’s plan for their lives.

We sponsor 5 conferences a year–Valentine’s Tea for Widows (Feb.), Women’s Conference (2 days, last weekend of Feb.), Conference for Moms of Special Needs Children (June), Teen Conf (Oct.) and a Christmas Brunch for Moms Who Have Lost Children (Dec.).

We also issue a bi-monthly Women’s Newsletter (GITW) and a quarterly newsletter for Teen Girls called “Gracie’s Way”.  We welcome our readers to also share their stories. These are free email newsletters, subscriptions at our website: www.wildernessgrace.org.

In March of 2008, my mother passed away after battles with breast cancer and colon cancer. During her 3-year illness, my plate was so full–I helped care for her through cancer and for my dad with Parkinson’s, ran a very busy business with 10 employees, all the while being a wife and a mother to a teenage son and a special needs younger son.  After Mom’s death, I was so weary and I prayed and asked God to please take something off my plate.  His answer shocked me–He called me to start a ministry for today’s busy women and He didn’t take anything away.  Later, when I was seeking answers about why He wanted me to juggle all these things, God revealed to me simply that if I was going to minister to busy women, I had to be one.  Wow, why didn’t I think of that?

What did you hope to accomplish through founding Grace in the Wilderness, what is your vision for the future?

I hope to help other busy women find the help, love, support, forgiveness and grace that I have found from my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Life is hard with God.  In my opinion, it’s impossible without Him!

Grace In The Wilderness has grown.  I added a Partner, my friend Marie Pritchett, right after starting the ministry and now there are many volunteers who make up “Team Grace”. God has given us a special focus and compassion to also reach those in the very difficult situations of life, those “impossible” situations we refer to as “wildernesses”.  Our vision for the future is to expand to reach out to other special groups, such as single moms, teen moms, abused women, and other groups who are hurting and need encouragement and support.  We hope to add a conference for cancer patients and their families as our next step.

I see you host quite a variety of events, can any women’s organization hold an event with you?

We don’t exactly hold events for other women’s organizations.  But we are always open to working in conjunction with and supporting groups who help women as long as it allows us to stay true to our mission.

What impact has Grace in the Wilderness had on your own life?

I really thought Grace In The Wilderness was about our helping others through their wildernesses. Again, what was I thinking?!?  It seems that, once again, if I’m going to minister to this group of women, those in hard places, God wants me to know what that’s like.

In June 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In July 2011, I had double mastectomies.  In August 2011, I had silicone implant surgery.  After several months of my body rejecting those implants, in November 2011, I had DIEP Flap breast reconstruction with Drs. Kline and Craigie in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  (The Drs. and Chris are the best and East Cooper is a wonderful hospital.)

Also in November of 2011 just before my third surgery, I was diagnosed with melanoma and I had to have an out-patient procedure for that.

In the midst of this six months of chaos, my employee, who was my best friend (notice I said “was”), was sent to federal prison for embezzling more than $600,000 from me and my business. What?!?  Yes, unbelievable, I know.

But what’s more unbelievable is that I sit here now 100% cancer free.  I was diagnosed with two cancers within five months and the doctors were able to remove them both completely-no chemo, no radiation.  Through my own wilderness experiences, I’ve found that God’s provisions are endless and through serving others, I’ve learned that you simply can’t outgive God.  That’s God’s amazing grace in the wilderness and that’s what our ministry is all about.

About Sharon

Sharon Hawkins wants others to know that she is totally in love with Jesus. In 2008, she answered God’s calling to begin a
Ministry called Grace in The Wilderness.. Sharon’s the wife of her best friend, Scott, and the mother of two very special boys, Taylor (16), and Bradley (10), that she and Scott adopted from Ukraine as a toddler. As a businesswoman, she owns Benefit Resources where she works with 12 amazing women who together seek to put God first in the business. She loves fun, mission trips, reading, camping and spending time with her family and friends.


“Get Your Squeeze On!” How One Woman Is Spreading Awareness about Mammograms

When we heard that our former patient, Lee McCracken was launching her own line of tees to help raise money and spread the word for breast cancer awareness, we were thrilled!

We interviewed Lee on her new endeavor with her fabulous “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees and also discovered a little bit about her journey through breast cancer and life after cancer.

Read this inspirational interview below (NOTE: all images in this post were provided by and are owned by Lee McCracken):

1. You started the “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees. Tell us a little about this unique tee and what inspired you to create it? Where do funds go for those who purchase the tee?

I admit it—I NEVER liked getting a mammogram. But then I discovered I disliked breast cancer even more! I’m a two-year survivor and a former patient of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction. This year, my girlfriends and I decided to be a little more organized for the Komen Race for the Cure in our home city of Charlotte, NC. We needed a name and a T-shirt.

So, I began brainstorming.

I tried to think of a fun phrase that was upbeat and also inspirational. “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” popped into my head one day in May. Of course, the apostrophe in ma’am is the pink ribbon! My girlfriends encouraged me to merchandise the tee on a local, regional—and, dare I say, national—level.

The face of the under-insured and uninsured woman has changed. Given this economic climate, many women, naturally, are putting their children first before seeing to their own healthcare needs. I want to help fund mammograms for women who don’t have health insurance. Locally, 15% (or $3 of every $20 tee sold) is going to the Carolinas Breast Cancer Fund to help women who are qualified by the Mecklenburg County Health Department.

Individuals, groups, and retail outlets who sell the tee in other cities may designate a charity in their community to receive the funds. Anyone interested should connect with me via e-mail: sales@yesmaamtee.com.

yes maam tees

2. What do you hope to accomplish through selling the “Yes, Ma’am!” tee? In other words, what is your vision for the future of the tee and its effect on women?

Wouldn’t it be fun if women all over started wearing their “Yes, Ma’am! mammograms are a must” tees to the coffee house, grocery store, and gym? It makes a sassy statement in Southern style, and people take notice. I’ve seen women look at my tee and then kind of shake their head, almost to say, “Oh yeah, I need to schedule that.”

The Facebook page is generating interest from all over the country. The tee has fans from California to Oklahoma and Florida to Vermont.

A cancer nurse once told me that when breast cancer is caught in Stages 0-1, treatment can be so much easier and survival rates soar. Let’s strive for 100% early detection!

3. What inspired you to start your own freelance writing / editing business, Joyfullee Written, at the age of 49 and what do you provide others with through this business?

I’ve been writing and editing for more than 25 years, sometimes as a freelancer and other times on staff with a local lifestyle or parenting magazine. The formal launch this summer of Joyfullee Written was my birthday gift to myself. I will turn 50 in October and, not only have I survived breast cancer, but I have also survived several other heartbreaking losses. I’m also working on a book—an inspirational memoir about self-discovery and spiritual preservation through motherhood and menopause. Joyfullee Written comes from the fact that all my inspiration and strength spills from the fountain of God’s grace.

Joyfullee Written provides professional writing / editing services to magazines and businesses. I enjoy meeting people and helping them reach their audience through a well-crafted, targeted message. And, with a passion for lifelong learning, this is helping me to keep discovering new things every day.

4. What is the one thing you want all women to know about breast cancer?

The earlier it’s detected the more treatment options women have! I HATE when I hear someone say “I’m a year overdue for my mammogram.” My Stage 1 breast cancer was caught by a mammogram, and I was fortunate not to have to endure chemo or radiation. I know everyone is busy and mammos sometimes are uncomfortable, but it’s crazy to take such a risk.

All my family members and friends know: Get Your Squeeze On!

lee mccrackenAbout Lee McCracken:

Lee McCracken lives with her husband, Stuart, of 28 years in Denver, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. She has a 19-year-old daughter, Megan, and a 10-year-old Bichon Frise, Benny. She enjoys gardening, photography, reading and traveling. Lee’s girlfriends keep her sane!

Love the Yes, Ma,am! mammograms are a must tees? Buy one today and help spread awareness for mammograms!