Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Women Share Their Breast Cancer Journeys

Irving — For the past 35 years, organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society have been raising money for breast cancer awareness and research during the month of October. With over 260,000 American women diagnosed with a form of breast cancer in 2019, this cancer is the most common diagnosed among women. The survival rate is growing steadily as medical advancements increase. 

Jo Kirkbride has always kept breast cancer awareness as part of her life. She and her daughter Nicole Adair own Art of Hair in Irving. Each October they raise money for a breast cancer charity organization and sell pink hair extensions to raise awareness.

Kirkbride lost her grandmother to breast cancer and has known other friends who have fought the disease as well as talked with customers as they were going through treatment. This year however, Kirkbride has received a diagnosis she did not expect. Kirkbride is battling triple-negative stage one breast cancer. 

“Since I was 40, I was always diligent about getting a mammogram, even when I did not have insurance,” Kirkbride said. “It has been important to me. I always did the self-checks as well. I could feel something in my breast, it just felt strange. I do not have insurance, so I was not sure what to do. Susan G Komen helped me get started with the testing and diagnosis. They called me at work, giving me the diagnosis. I went to Parkland for my oncologist and treatment.” 

Kirkbride began chemotherapy Oct. 14.

“Parkland is an absolutely awesome hospital,” Kirbride said. “They have one of the largest cancer centers. The doctor I am seeing is very supportive. I feel so secure when I go there, even though I was worried about COVID. But they take temperatures, and they make sure everything is clean. It does not feel like a sliding-scale hospital. I feel like I am being taken care of, just like everyone else. We each have little cubicles we sit in and TV to watch, while we get our treatment.

“It is a little scary. I am determined that this is not going to control me, so I have set up a Facebook page to share my journey. Friends do not like to ask questions when someone is battling cancer, or going through something like this. I am the one in control. Cancer is not in control, and I want to encourage others to take care of themselves through my story. There used to be such a stigma attached to having cancer, especially breast cancer. Now things are changing, because people talk about it. We need to support each other, so they can overcome the fear of cancer.” 

Jessica Preston grew up in Irving. In 2014, she learned she had the BRCA cancer gene, suggesting she was at high risk of having breast cancer. At that point, she began getting tested every six months.

“In 2019, I found the tumor myself,” Preston said. “Through a whirlwind of two weeks of scans and tests, we discovered the type of cancer and came up with a plan.” 

“I had surgery in February 2019. In those three weeks, the tumor had tripled in size and got into my lymph nodes. I had aggressive chemo for four weeks, followed by six weeks of radiation. Through all of it, I could only find strength in my faith. I have a husband and two sweet babies at home, winning this battle was the only option. Family support was the only thing that carried me those days.” 

Preston has recently had fluid around her lung and breathing trouble, which led to testing for cancer. Unfortunately her cancer has returned. 

“I will have chemotherapy and immunotherapy after that,” Preston said. “I want to tell other people to pay attention to their bodies. If you have any family history, get tested, even if it is for the peace of mind. Either you do not have BRAC, and you have the everyday risk of breast cancer, or you are positive for BRAC, and can make a game plan. The key is to catch breast cancer early.” 

Diana Gutierrez was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.

“I had a strong pain in my breast right underneath my nipple,” Gutierrez said. “I got a mammogram after talking with my doctor. By the end of the mammogram appointment, I was diagnosed with cancer, and doctors began talking about chemo. My husband and I left that appointment and prayed. We surrendered this season to the Lord. We immediately went home and told our children. We told them that we were going to live our lives without fear.

“I decided to do a bilateral mastectomy. I did not want to worry about it. It took a few years to do the treatments, and then the reconstruction after that. We had so much support from my family and our church group. I wrote a letter and told them what we needed. So many people want to help when you are sick, but it is difficult to organize all of that while going through treatment. So I just asked for what we needed. We were blessed with financial gifts, people running errands for us, with food, and with prayer. It is difficult to ask for help but it is really needed. 

“I share my story because I want women to get the mammogram and to be alert of their bodies,” Gutierrez said. “I did not know to notice the changes in my breasts. The skin looked different on one, and I did not know that this was a sign. Also I would have itching or tenderness. I did not think too much about it, but that is a sign of the cancer as well.”