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Transcript: "Surviving Breast Cancer"

Announcer: Reona Barry was 38 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She's been a survivor for nine years. Reona helped start a cancer support group for African-American women.

Reona: Some women handle it as if there's nothing happening to them. Others, it's very, very sad and a hard time, but it's good to hear those stories because that way we know we're not alone in the process.

Announcer: At 28, a month before her wedding, Cheryl Kuenster was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Cheryl has had two recurrences since then and had to have a hysterectomy. As a preventative measure she continues to have regular chemotherapy treatments. Cheryl is now 38 years old.

Cheryl: I think of myself as somebody that's in remission and I also feel like ultimately, we don't have control over what's going to happen to us, so I don't sit and worry about what may happen tomorrow. I just kind of take one day at a time. I mean, I went forth and have adopted two children and I've always tried to look forward and always have that hope.

Interviewer: But is it something do you think of yourself as cancer-free, as a survivor, or what?

Reona: I do think of myself as a cancer-free survivor and all of us who've had any type of surgery have a daily reminder and I think it depends on how we look at it. We can look at ourselves in the mirror and decide not to see the scar and sometimes we can be reminded of it constantly. But it's a reminder that after nine years, I'm still here, and that's a plus, so I don't dwell on the fact that I have the surgery scar. In fact, I kind of think thank god it's there, you know?

Interviewer: Well, did you ever feel that there was, you know, any information that you would not want, or did you always want to know everything?

Reona: I wanted to know everything.

Woman: Me, too.

Reona: It helped me through the process.

Woman: But I have a friend who was diagnosed since I was diagnosed and she is very different. She really wants to put it in her doctor's hands and have him make a lot of decisions and that's her healing path and I do think it's OK to make that choice as well, and to say, "Gee, I'm trying to deal with all the emotional things -- I want someone else to deal with the science and the medicine and all of that," and I think some women feel more comfortable that way.

Woman: Oh sure, yeah.

Interviewer: For somebody who is newly diagnosed with breast cancer, is there something that you would say to them today?

Cheryl: I think it's a great help, again, to talk to someone who also has been through this experience. It's just a calming feeling and it makes you feel better.

Reona: I think it also helps to go to the doctor with someone that will help you listen, help you understand, because when the doctor is talking we only hear about half of what they're saying and so consequently there are a lot of questions and answers that we might have not heard, so it does help to believe that the doctor is going to do everything they can possibly do to help you through this and ask all the questions you need and if you have to ask them three, four, five times, but get the information.

Woman: I would say take a deep breath and just gather your strength, and you will get through it. If it's new, you're probably feeling very devastated, but it does start to get better. You do start to build your confidence.

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