Breast CancerColon Cancer
Loretta Funk-Culpepper is a three-time cancer survivor from Buffalo, WY. Loretta found a pea-sized lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977. She had a mastectomy and fortunately did not have to receive chemotherapy or radiation treatments. In 1983, doctors discovered cancer in her other breast, and she had that removed as well.
At different times in her life, Loretta has worn a prosthesis and has had breast reconstruction with silicon and saline. Loretta was extremely open to sharing about a topic that many people feel uncomfortable discussing, and she continues to speak with others about her experiences and offer support during frightening times.
Even though her mother had colon cancer, Loretta neglected to go in for a colonoscopy when she should have. When she did finally have one, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Again, the doctors caught her disease early enough that she did not need to have chemotherapy or radiation. She returns to the doctor every six months for check ups, and encourages people to get tested early and often for different types of cancer.
My first diagnosis was a very frightening thing, because you don’t know what to expect and you can’t find anybody to talk to who has been through that same experience. I was afraid of how I was going to look and how my husband and my daughter would react when they found out I was minus one breast. They were in the room when they took the bandages off and neither one of them looked horrified, so I finally got the nerve to look myself.
I got back to work and I said all right, every one of you girls is going to come into the bathroom with me and I’m going to show you what I look like, because this was the thing that made me more afraid than anything. I don’t know whether it’s vanity or what. You want to know how you’re going to look, if you’re gonna be disfigured or not. I had visions of looking like a cauliflower. But you’re just smooth. I like to give all the information I can because it is a frightening disease.
[To women who are concerned about their appearance after surgery:] There’s really no difference. I know that your balance is a little screwy at first because your breasts do weigh somewhat. When you have one breast removed, you’re a little lopsided. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t look bad.
My mother had colon cancer and I didn’t realize that I was to have a colonoscopy every five years. It had been eleven years. My doctor said, ‘You should have been here sooner.’ So I went in and they found a growth and guess what: it was cancer. It had gone through the colon, but it didn’t go through the fatty tissue around the colon. I feel very fortunate.
Please don’t ever put it off. It’s something you need to take care of. Have your mammograms done. There’s nothing to worry about--you can’t do anything by worrying. Put it in God’s hands. You’re a lot better off. Just don’t ignore it.
I think my husband [was the best support] because he was there all the time. We went in for consultation with the doctor after surgery. The doctor had asked Ron, “How do you feel about this?” And Ron said, “It wasn’t her fault. It’s no different than her losing an arm or a leg.” And the doctor said, “You two will be fine. You’d be surprised how many husbands will divorce their wives because they lost a breast.” This really surprised me because I thought: it can’t be love. I mean, how can you adore a part of the body like that, you know? So I felt very secure with my marriage.
My faith is also a lot stronger now since I’ve gone through all of this. I think that you don’t take the things for granted that you usually did. The sunsets are always prettier. I became a real hugger. There isn’t anybody who comes into church that I don’t give a hug to. Everybody needs a hug every day. You need to be appreciated, you need to be loved.
Michael Adams Bighorn National Forrest, South Dakota
Kenneth Hoener Murrysville, Pennsylvania