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Carole Bigwood was not feeling well for almost a year. She had many check-ups and appointments, but no one knew the problem. At 51, Carole was avoiding a breast exam for several years because no one in her family ever had breast cancer so she convinced herself she would not get it. When she had her first mammogram, she knew immediately that something was wrong because all of the techs came in and they needed more pictures. The tumor was under her breast plate, which made it was difficult to find.
She took her first course of treatment for 6 months, but it did not work for her. The tumor was growing at an alarming rate, and she was told she would need 8 treatments of what was called “red devil chemotherapy.” When you go through a treatment that strong, you lose your hair right away, and Carole’s hair was her thing. It was long, down to her waist long, and thick. She was devastated. There were 30 people in her chemo class and only a few of them were getting the kind of serious treatment she was. She recalls, “Cancer scares everybody, but when you hear that they haven’t seen a case as severe as yours in a long time, it’s a really scary.”
Since she didn’t have many friends nearby, Carole reached out Breast Friends and received a ton of support. “If you don’t have anyone, find someone.” Carole said, “It’s really pretty easy to do – just reach out.” Carole’s new friends became her cancer sisters. They talk about options for new breasts, new hair, give each other advice, and take beach trips together. Carole continued, “If you have it, you have to deal with it. You can overcome it. Your attitude helps in how your recover.”
One of the biggest things that helped Carole through the hard times was her dogs. For the last 15 years, Carole has made dog clothing, and even has her own company, Wild Child Pet Fashions. She devotes most of her time dressing up rescue dogs in cute outfits to make them more adoptable. “I love my animals. Taking care of them gave me something to live for.” Carole said, “If I find out someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer and they don’t have a dog, I tell them to get one. A dog is your best friend and cancer is not. Dogs don’t ask you how you’re feeling or comment on how you look. A dog will get you out of bed every day.”
Carole is recovering and hopes that she never has to hear the word “cancer” again. Most of all Carole wants people to know, “Don’t wait to get examined. I encourage everyone to get checked out often.”