What is a strong woman?

"I have stage 4 breast cancer. I was diagnosed in October of 2020.

We started treatments and they also found that it was in my hip. My oncologist called and asked me to go to the ER since I needed to get to an orthopedic surgeon and that was the fastest way to do it. This was right around Christmas because I was taking my daughters to see the Herrs Christmas lights. I have two daughters, at the time they were 9 & 10.

Typically when cancer metastasizes somewhere, you are no longer treated to cure. Youre treated to prolong life. So, typically, they don't even do chemo at that point, however, I was 35 and I was otherwise healthy. So, I went to my oncologist and he wanted me to get a second opinion. After visiting the Helen F Ghram center as well as University of MD they decided to do 6 months of Chemo.

We found that my lump shrunk. It was at 8 cm and when they took it out it was at 3 1/2, so that was HUGE! So now I take a hormone blocker and I get a shot that helps my bones grow. And also, it showed re-granulation in the hole in my hip which means new good things are growing. So now we just kind of monitor it.

Now I just like to live life. I like to do ALL of the things. Everything has definitely changed. I think of everything as "Is this worth my time? Is this worth my money?" and that could be anything.

Last year I literally made it a goal to go on some type of vacation whether that be a 2 day trip to the beach, or the bahamas, EVERY MONTH, and I did it. Some of them I took my kids, some of them I didnt.

I used to work ALL of the time because I needed to make money. I needed to have money. I wanted to be comfortable and I didnt want to be stressed. Then I realized that tomorrow, you could be done and that money doesnt matter. That the experiences that you have is what matters. That's all that matters now. I need to make memories with my girls, I need to make memories with my friends.

Granted, during the week, if I want something I work my butt off to make sure it happens, but now I just make a conscience effort to spend more time with my family, my nieces and nephews, and now I just work part of it because its just not as important. I love that meme that says "If you die tomorrow, your job will just replace you" and its very true. Do you know who's not going to be able to replace me? My kids. I hope they look at life like that, too. You can work but make sure youre doing fun things and getting experiences.

You learn to re-prioritize life. Everything. The paycheck is important but its not all of the things. I obviously have to pay my bills, but at the same time, okay.. well, im going to cut something short because I want to do something with my kids or do a boudoir session and make myself feel pretty because you know what, you can't fill anyone on an empty cup so you have to fill yours first. No one is going to love you like you love you.

I also feel like with my boudoir sessions.. again, I have two daughters and I want them to be so confident in themselves because I feel like our generation is not. I did it and I was like "look at this! look at how good!" and I hope they can feel that about themselves. It trickles down. They see their mom wearing a bikini, then they do and im like "yeah girl! do it!".

The hardest loss for myself was my hair. It was so long, down to my butt. It was very long, very full. That was my hardest thing after I finished treatments. People would be like, "Omg you cut your hair?" and I would say "No. I had cancer.", and they would be mortified. Sometimes I handle it with dark humor.

That was why when I first had my boudoir session that it was so important to me because I felt like for the first time in a long time, I saw myself as pretty again. It was nice to see in that light and be like "daaang, that's me!" and now I can go out and feel like I have some confidence again.

Remember to GO CHECK THOSE BOOBS. Feel them, all of the time. I was always checking mine and that lump was not there two weeks prior to that. Get your mammograms, get the ultrasound theyre even better, as soon as possible. If you dont feel like its right, say something. Fight with your insurance. Advocate for yourself. If you need someone in your corner and cheering for you, contact me. Insurance companies will try and tell you things, doctors will try and tell you things. Initially they were going to stop my treatments, like, no... were not going to stop those."

  • Colleen Russell