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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Real women, real stories

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Breast cancer doesn't care if you're a mom

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's a time to spread awareness about breast cancer, a disease that will strike one out of every eight women. A disease that is the second leading cause of death in women. We collected the stories of women — who are also mothers — who have battled breast cancer. They are all brave and beautiful.

Jennifer Varner, wife and mom of 4

In the last 12 years, I am pretty sure I have been through just about every major tragedy a person could experience. Only three short weeks after my husband and I were married, my life changed forever — my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. The doctors told us my husband had a 50 percent chance of survival. Soon after receiving the diagnosis my husband began the long hard battle to survive. Despite the doctors telling us we would never have children due to the cancer treatments, I prayed for a child, believing this would be the sign my husband would recover.

Shortly thereafter, and to the surprise of many, I became pregnant with our first child! During this time we were both sick — my husband was sick from the chemotherapy and I was sick from my pregnancy. It was one body fighting to survive and another to create a life. For six months, I cared for my husband while going through my first pregnancy. This was definitely not how either of us envisioned the start of our life together.

On the 10th anniversary of my husband being cancer-free, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, not to mention I was also pregnant with my fourth child. All I could think was, “No! Not again. This cannot be happening.” This time, I would be the one undergoing chemotherapy and while being pregnant. To say I was scared would be an understatement.

My battle began, for me and my unborn child. I underwent six months of chemotherapy and two surgeries, all the while worrying about what this might be doing to my baby. Then after many answered prayers I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy little boy, Kilian. Following the birth of our son, I immediately underwent twelve additional weeks of chemotherapy. There are no words really to express what it feels like to be creating life while fighting for your own.

Today, my husband and I are both cancer-free. Most importantly, my baby, Kilian, is perfectly healthy. He is a survivor too, as he took that long hard journey with me. Through these events I have gained so much knowledge, wisdom and strength — more than I ever had, and more than I knew I could gain in a lifetime. I live every moment, every day like it’s my last. But, I know it’s not — I plan on having an amazing future. I have overcome and thrived.

This year, three years after my diagnosis of breast cancer, I decided I can now move forward with my life and focus on giving back to other survivors. I want to bring some positivity to survivors and help put an end to this terrible disease that one in three women will one day have. Having gone through cancer twice — both with my husband and my own diagnosis — I know the pain the initial diagnosis brings. I have learned that life can and will go on — a good life. Cancer is the life-changing event that changes everything. I just decided it would change everything for the good.

Jennifer Varner is a mom of four, including Kilian, and owner of Pure E-Commerce, a website that helps provide the tools women need to start their own online businesses. For the month of October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jennifer is hosting the Strive & Thrive Business Giveaway for women fighting or who have fought breast cancer. Jennifer says, “I want to empower a woman and give her hope as she moves on and recovers from this life-changing disease. Most of all I want to give back and give a woman the vision to look toward to a future that can be bright and full of possibilities.”

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