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The war on breast cancer

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Betteye Tompkins, a breast cancer survivor, shares her story of battling breast cancer during a breast cancer awareness event on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 19, 2018. Tompkins said she believed learning about her disease helped empower her to make sound decisions about her health care.

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Laurel Hochstetler, event guest speaker, shares information on recent discoveries in breast cancer research during a breast cancer awareness event on Joint Base Andrews Md. Oct. 19, 2018. The 11th Medical Group hosted the event to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Bettye Tompkins and Nila Straka, speakers at the event, display coins presented for participating in a breast cancer awareness event on Joint Base Andrews, Md. Oct. 19, 2018. Tompkins and Straka shared testimonies of overcoming their breast cancer diagnoses.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

Breast cancer survivors Bettye Tompkins and Nila Straka  were invited to share their stories of battling and overcoming the disease during the 11th Medical Group breast cancer awareness event here, Oct. 18.

 

They said the keys to overcoming their hardships were: empowering themselves through education, relying on a support system, and sharing what they’ve learned with others.

“What many people don’t realize is this: you live with breast cancer; it’s never cured, it’s only in remission,” Straka said.


Tompkins noted her top priorities following her initial cancer diagnosis were to depend on her religious beliefs for confirmation that she would be healed and to empower herself by seeking education on the matter.

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Laurel Hochstetler, event guest speaker, shares information on recent discoveries in breast cancer research during a breast cancer awareness event on Joint Base Andrews Md. Oct. 19, 2018. The 11th Medical Group hosted the event to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
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Airmen listed to breast cancer presentaiton
Laurel Hochstetler, event guest speaker, shares information on recent discoveries in breast cancer research during a breast cancer awareness event on Joint Base Andrews Md. Oct. 19, 2018. The 11th Medical Group hosted the event to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Jalene A. Brooks
VIRIN: 181023-F-D0528-2115


 “I wanted to be able to advocate for myself,” she said. “So I asked as many questions as possible and read everything I could find on it so I could make sound decisions based on the cancer that I had.”


The survivors’ stories overlapped when speaking of family members and friends who had mixed reactions to their diagnosis and treatment. They spoke about people who cried, prayed, made them laugh, kept them company, and some who even grew distant. They described these people as their supporters and noted that although it was challenging they grew to realize and accept the varying ways people supported them.


For both of them, having a support group was a key element in their fight against cancer.


Straka, now 12 years in remission, is the co-director of a breast cancer support group in southern Maryland where she arms others who’ve been diagnosed with information and support.


“I have friends who celebrate the day of their diagnosis as the day they were reborn,” she said. “I think at that time and any time we’re faced with adversity, life causes us to slow down and stop trying to control the things you can’t control, just enjoy the things that you can.”

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