Breast cancer survivors enlighten students

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    By Nicole Matsen

    Four breast cancer survivors taught students life-saving lessons Thursday night Oct. 3.

    Pulling out her handmade breast cancer doll, which she made during the months of her chemotherapy treatment, Alison Selfridge specifically pointed out to the audience the sewn-on breasts.

    Along with millions of women nationwide, Selfridge was unsuspecting of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

    “I knew I shouldn”t have gotten cancer,” said Selfridge. “I ate my broccoli and all my vegetables, I never disobeyed my parents, I exercised, had a positive attitude and there was no history of cancer in my family. I just knew I should not have gotten cancer.”

    After being diagnosed in October 2001, Selfridge is a survivor who has battled chemotherapy and breast removal surgeries.

    Selfridge, who chose not to get reconstructive surgery, shared a story about going to swim at her local gym and being able to be in a bathing suit with confidence, not ashamed of her body.

    “Don”t be ashamed of who you are, don”t be defined by the Hollywood body image,” said Selfridge. “You are beautiful because of who you are inside.”

    Selfridge, Kathy Martens, Jamie Medved and Jill Pehrson, all breast cancer survivors, shared their individual journeys and triumph over breast cancer.

    “Breast cancer is a million dollar experience you wouldn”t pay a penny for,” said Kathy Martens. “My cancer was one you could not feel. You could not even feel a lump.”

    Martens, a cancer survivor of two years, has undergone six months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy-the removal of the breasts — and reconstructive surgery.

    “There are three things these women and I have in common,” said Martens. “We all have faith, support and a sense of humor.”

    Central themes the women emphasized were women should be familiar with their bodies by practicing self-breast examinations and asking their doctors questions.

    Jamie Medved, who has been cancer free for three years, found lumps in her breasts; yet her doctor said it was nothing to worry about, despite the fact that the lumps were visible.

    “I would be dead if I didn”t do self-examinations,” said Medved. “In the end it is really up to you to find lumps.”

    Similarly Jill Pehrson, who had a 50 percent chance of living when diagnosed, also stressed the importance of self-examinations at a young age and being persistent with doctors about any concerns.

    “Always ask. Don”t be embarrassed,” said Pehrson. “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

    For those who attended, these four women with their sense of humor and optimistic outlook all made their stories of success also stories of inspiration.

    “I liked how it was really individual,” said Arianna Colwell, 20, a marriage family human development freshman from Sandy. “Each woman had a separate experience of dealing with the same disease.”

    As part of promoting Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Women”s Services and Resources promoted the event hoping to further educate students about breast cancer.

    “We wanted it to be a comfortable environment,” said Kim Rodziewicz, the Women”s Services and Resource coordinator for the breast cancer panel. “We wanted people to be able to ask questions, we wanted it to be a more interactive learning experience.”

    Because breast cancer is serious and prevalent in our society, more young women are seeking information about the disease and how to prevent it.

    “I came tonight because I was curious, wanted to know more about breast cancer,” said Camille Brown, 23, a Provo city resident. “The most important thing I learned was to go with your instinct and to follow through with check-ups if you think something is wrong.”

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