GAZELLE STL Vol. 1 Issue 3. - Page 45

Overcoming cancer once is a feat in itself. Overcoming it twice, all before turning forty, is almost mind-boggling. Forty-one-year-old Raylene Hollrah of Hermann, Missouri knows this firsthand. She’s a seven-year breast cancer survivor and a one-year anaplastic large-cell lymphoma survivor. The first one is self-explanatory, but the second is extremely rare, and has only been diagnosed in 112 women around the world. As Raylene tells it, however, “the second cancer, I feel like I should have never had, but I did - and I think there’s a reason for everything.” Raylene became aware of her breast cancer when she was undergoing fertility treatments in 2007 while trying to become pregnant with her second child. At the recommendation of her doctor, she underwent a routine breast exam. Her doctor discovered a lump, and she was sent for an immediate mammogram that revealed nothing. Two weeks later she had an ultrasound that also revealed nothing, but at the persistence of her doctor she scheduled a needle biopsy for what the doctor thought was likely just a cyst at this point. “When she did the needle biopsy, her whole demeanor changed after she removed that fluid,” said Raylene. “I told my husband on the way home, ‘I have breast cancer,’ and he said, ‘No you don’t. You’re reading too much into it.’” Unfortunately, she was right. She compares the shock to having a brick thrown into the window of “my American life - the white picket fence, the beautiful big window in my living room. But my choice was, pick up the pieces and let the light shine through, and we can get it fixed.” After enduring a summer of chemotherapy and having both breasts removed, Raylene was struggling to adjust to wearing prosthetics. “I felt like I was a very elderly woman… they were heavy, they just didn’t feel right,” she said. After passing on three other doctors and doing independent research, she decided to have cohesive implants in 2008, which are shaped to give a less rounded look than silicone implants. Her doctor informed her that her implants would last around ten years. She decided to go through with the procedure. It took her a long time to come to terms with her decision, she said. “My chest did not define who I was, but it was taking away from my femininity, and I felt like I was stripped of that.” And after the surgery, she went forward in rebuilding her life. She continued being a wife and mother to her now ten-year-old daughter, Allyson, and became the guardian of a teenaged son, Ryan, in 2012. She went back Ѽ