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ATTITUDE CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME

Breast cancer survivor encourages others with faith, love & hope

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ATTITUDE CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME

Pam Riddle

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POSTED September 19, 2012 5:22 p.m.

Pam Riddle will be the first to tell you that breast cancer is an ugly disease that forever changes its victims. But as living proof that it is a disease that can be defeated, the Stanislaus County woman enjoys encouraging other cancer victims with faith, love and hope.

Beyond the initial shock, she was determined that the disease – which invaded her life over seven years ago – was not going to allow cancer to take her spirit, her smile, her soul nor her spunk.

Riddle was diagnosed with breast cancer at a time in which she was providing care for her dear sister-in-law, Lynn Riddle, who was succumbing to stage 4 breast cancer that spread to her brain and spinal column. Lynn died two days after Pam came home from the hospital after having a mastectomy.

“It was the worst of times, the most devastating times, times of having no control of what was happening, times of sadness, times of disbelief, times of asking why, times I missed her so,” said Pam.

Watching Lynn go through her trials – which resulted in a strong faith and dependence on God – helped Pam face her own battle and mastectomy.

“Being a survivor I can truly say I have experienced the power of faith, love and hope like at no other time in my life,” said Pam. “Lynn was amazing and inspiring. Her dignity showed through in all that she did, her strength was obvious, her faith was strong and grew even stronger and her hope never left her and her love for her family and friends was tremendous.”

Pam said cancer affects so many aspects of a victim’s life, from physical to mental, to relationships, “to you just being you.” It changes lives in positive and negative ways.

“It is a journey, you live it and you have to make choices along the way of how it affects your life and sometimes plain and simple there are no choices for you to make you just have to live with what the cancer gives you. It takes strength, it takes weakness, it takes looking up, it takes courage, it takes standing tall, it humbles you, it angers you, it frankly pisses you off and it scares the hell out of you and it is your family and friends being there for you that makes all the difference.”

Her disease forced her to put life into a new perspective.

“It is your faith that sees you through – to beyond the ugliness of the cancer to not taking life for granted – to knowing that God is by your side that He will never leave you.  For me sometimes it was as simple as just thinking about heaven, where I knew cancer did not live – and knowing that is the one thing that is eternal, not cancer.”

Like anyone who has faced cancer, Riddle is hopeful of a day whereby people who are diagnosed with cancer can also be told “not to worry, we have a cure.”

Until that day, she recommends that women routinely examine their breasts for any signs of cancer. All women should routinely stand in front of a mirror and look for dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin, a nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple, redness, soreness, rash, or swelling. Raise the arm and look for the same types of changes.

Also, while lying down feel your breasts for unusual lumps, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women.

To reduce the chances of getting breast cancer, women should maintain a healthy body weight (BMI less than 25) throughout life. Weight gain in midlife, independent of BMI, has been shown to significantly increase breast cancer risk. They should minimize or avoid alcohol since alcohol use is the most well established dietary risk factor for breast cancer. Consume as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Exercise regularly the rest of your life. Many studies have shown that regular exercise provides powerful protection against breast cancer. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) five or more days a week.

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