Junior League of Lafayette Breast Cancer Survivors Urge Others to Get Tested
Updated: Nov 3
October is filled to the brim with events we love. But perhaps none is as important, or meaningful, as the observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time for reflection, education, and support.
Did you know that 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer? That means you probably know at least one person who has been personally affected by breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in 2023, an estimated 297,790 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. But there is hope. When caught in its earliest, localized stages, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent. There are currently over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Junior League of Lafayette turns its heart and affection to two survivors in our League, who have faced their own breast cancer journeys and now aim to empower others.
‘It can happen to any of us’
Sustainer and Past President Tori Guidry was diagnosed in early 2023. She had a left mastectomy at MD Anderson Cancer Center to remove all breast tissue and two sentinel nodes to prevent spread, and to place a tissue expander that helps reconstruction.
“The surgery was a success. The cancer is gone,” Guidry said. “My treatment is a hormone blocker for 3-5 years. No radiation. No chemotherapy.”
But just a few months after her first surgery, Guidry suffered a severe infection which required a second surgery to replace the tissue expander. She spent five days at MD Anderson while the hospital team got cultures to identify and treat her specific infection.
“Next, on September 20, I had the first major reconstruction surgery,” she said. “I am still recuperating from this surgery. So far, all is going well.”
But Guidry’s breast cancer story began long before her diagnosis. Her father was diagnosed in 1980 when he was 49. He had lymph nodes removed and underwent chemotherapy for a year.
“He was in remission for 10 years, then the cancer returned,” she said. “But please don’t let this information freak anyone out – cancer treatment has come so very far.”
Her father lived three more years with various aggressive treatments and continued working until the day of his final hospitalization.
“If that wasn’t enough for my sister and me to start annual mammograms, our mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at about age 65,” Guidry said.
Her mom’s cancer never returned after a lumpectomy and radiation. She died at 87 from general old age/complications from diabetes.
Guidry did DNA testing at MD Anderson which found that she doesn’t have the BRCA gene mutation that can be inherited from your parents and can make it more likely that you will get breast, ovarian, and other types of cancer.
“Yet here I am,” she said. “It can happen to any of us.”
Guidry credits talented medical care, prayers, and the grace of God with the fact that her cancer was detected early.
And following the advice she gives others - frequent preventative testing like mammograms.
“While my family history may make you breathe a sigh of relief that your family history isn’t this crazy, please get your mammograms early and often,” Guidry said.
Accept, Release, Yield, Trust
Sustainer and Past President Molly Kallenberger said no one ever forgets the day they receive a cancer diagnosis.
March 15, 2015, was the scariest day of her life.
As she waited on the biopsy, she made a decision to reach for her Bible. It opened to Isaiah 43:1-4 which says:
But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
She clung to this passage of scripture and knew instantly that God would be with her through it all.
“After my diagnosis and as my surgery approached, God put it on my heart to mediate on four words – accept, release, yield, and trust,” she said.
“While cancer patients are often very fearful of the looming changes to their bodies, I tried to be open to God’s transformation and trust his plans for me. I found great peace in those four simple words.”
She hopes her story provides inspiration to those who may be currently battling breast cancer or perhaps one day will.
It also clearly reveals that God was her source of strength and the force behind her confidence during her journey.
She encourages women to not only get a mammogram but stressed the need for ultrasounds as well. “Although I did my mammograms annually, when I decided to do an ultrasound too, it was then cancer was revealed,” she said.
Eight and half years later, Kallenberger is so grateful to remain cancer-free.
These amazing stories help provide courage and hope for those facing their own battles.
The League will continue to raise awareness about breast cancer and provide a supportive community for our courageous breast cancer survivors and for those who are courageously fighting breast cancer.