Laura Hulslander said she will never forget Sept. 18, 1997 [correct date--8 Sept.--LH], the day she received a call from her doctor telling her she had inflammatory breast cancer.
Hulslander said she was surprised since she had a clear mammogram nine months before.
"It was a shock, a real shock," she said.
One year, five months after being diagnosed and seven months after receiving a "no evidence of disease" report, Hulslander said she still struggles with the idea of having the disease.
"I worry it's going to come back," she said. "I'm still in the phase of learning to live with it. I think the worry will never go away completely, but it will lessen, I hope."
Hulslander said battling cancer has given her a new perspective on life. For example, during the Christmas holiday she was standing in a checkout line where the cashier was complaining about the long lines and crowds. She said she explained to the cashier why having the opportunity to stand in long lines did not bother her, as long as the cancer stayed gone.
"(Having cancer) made me realized I take things for granted," she said. "Now I'm appreciative of everyday living."
Hulslander said not only cancer survivors should appreciate life since they do not know how long they have to live, but everyone should.
Hulslander said she has the rarest form of breast cancer, occuring in only 1 percent of breast cancer patients. She said the survival rate at five years is 40 percent, well below the breast cancer survival rate. In addition, inflammatory breast cancer is unique in that it is painful, she added.
Yet she plans to beat the odds.
"My goal is to die of something besides breast cancer," Hulslander said. "I'm 42 and I'm planning for my 50th birthday party. I'm planning on being here."
While cancer might be an odd place to find it, Hulslander said there is a lot of humor in the disease. She said although the illness is serious, patients, family members and friends should look for positive aspects of the cancer.
One positive for Hulslander was she did not have to shave her legs since all her hair fell out, she said, laughing.
"When you're going through it, you look for anything positive," she said.
She also said after losing her hair during radiation [chemo, actually--LH], she would wear a T-shirt that pointed out her head was bald. [It said: I'm too sexy for my hair, that's how come it isn't there. LH] She said after all she had gone through, she did not mind when people noticed her bald head.
Hulslander said she encourages people who know cancer patients to say something to the patients.
"Some people are afraid to say anything to (patients)," she said. "Say something. Even if it's 'I'm thinking about you,' say something."
[The last couple of paragraphs of the article give support group meeting information.]
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