Breast Cancer Survivors: Profiles in Courage and Mentorship

By Andrew BrownOctober 30, 2020

Breast Cancer Survivors: Profiles in Courage, Survival and Mentorship
Mary Gegeure, Nurse Case Manager (center) Stephanie Maxwell, LPN (left) Elizabeth Guzman-Visalden, Referral Management Specialist (back) Selina Tyler (right) tell their stories of discovery, strength, Support and mentorship while fighting breast cancer. (Photo Credit: Andrew Brown) VIEW ORIGINAL

McDonald Army Health Center, Fort Eustis, Va. -- They are mothers, wives, an executive assistant, a referral management specialist, a licensed practical nurse, and a nurse case manager, all warriors who sat face to face with a doctor that announced their lives were about to change. Let's meet four wonder women without capes who share their stories of bravery in the face of life-altering health revelations.  Who work at McDonald Army Health Center (MCAHC). Four women diagnosed with breast cancer who are survivors and examples for all women and men who encounter breast cancer.

'No Pity Party'

Ms. Selina Tyler, formally an Executive Assistant at MCAHC, December 8, 2009, was the day her life changed while on active duty as a Navy Corpsman supporting United States Marines in Camp Pendleton, California. Once diagnosed, Selina attacked cancer head-on.

"I didn't cry, I didn't get upset, but I had my mind made up that whatever time I have left, I was going to fight; there was no pity party here," said Tyler.

Her priority has always been to survive and fight, keeping a positive attitude throughout her ordeal. Selina's proactive involvement in her recovery has allowed her to pay it forward.

"I don't make bargains with God, but I knew if he allowed me to beat this, I would pay it forward through mentorship."

'A Survivor, Not a Victim'

Family Health Clinic Licensed Practical Nurse Stephanie Maxwell's journey began November 3, 2015, when she discovered a lump just above her right clavicle. She was walking around a department store with her husband and daughter Christmas shopping.

She went to the doctor who initially diagnosed the lump as a benign Lymphoma; she was prescribed antibiotics and told if the node did not reduce in two weeks to come back. Two weeks later, Stephanie had a mammogram taken; the diagnosis was metastatic breast cancer stage three.

"I can admit that when I received the news that I had breast cancer, I stared into space for about 30 minutes," she said. "I didn't hear one word after the doctor told me I had stage three breast cancer."

After the initial shock of finding out that she had breast cancer and knowing that aggressive treatments were to follow, Stephanie's attitude was not to give in to this unwelcome entity that invaded her body. At that point, you learn to become a survivor; you don't want to make yourself a victim because you want to fight for your life.

Your faith in God increases, I've always had faith in God, but it grew at this particular time. I had a significant support system, with work-family, family-family, friends, and strangers, you name it, I had it. Finding out I had cancer was one of the most tragic experiences in my life, but somehow I managed to trooper through it; at that point, you learn to become a survivor and not a victim. You become a survivor because you want to fight for your life. During times like this, your faith increases; cancer made me realize what is essential in life. It makes you re-adjust your thinking. What is for sure, surviving cancer made me appreciate life."

'A robust support system is a key to surviving cancer.'

For Elizabeth Guzman-Visalden, Referral Management Specialist, it was March 2018 when she discovered a lump under her left breast; she made an appointment with her doctor. After two weeks of tests, Elizabeth was informed by the physician she had 'triple-negative breast cancer.

"I went through chemo to a lumpectomy and radiation. I was angry the entire time, I tried negotiating with my doctors to decrease the times I went through radiation, but through it all, I always had my faith, a strong faith in God, and a robust support system at home, and at work. Kudos should be given to employers, the first thing my boss said to me when i told them i had breast cancer was ' What do you need?' I was floored by the support, that in its self was such a healing to me."

'Positivity is a powerful thing.'

Nurse Case Manager Mary Gegeure was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2012. "Even though I had stage one breast cancer in one of my breasts, I opted to have both breasts removed; yes, there was a chance cancer could come back, but I didn't worry, and I'm happy with my decision.

As a nurse case manager, Mary encourages patients to get routine check-ups. "I am very adamant about taking care of yourself, especially when it comes to breast cancer. A positive attitude is key to healing; positivity is a powerful thing."

Attitude, Strength, Support, and Mentorship is the theme when fighting breast cancer for our breast cancer warriors, seen and unseen at MCAHC. Early detection is key in fighting breast cancer or any cancer for that matter.