survivor of the day: tdonna kachen

Age: 63

When were you diagnosed?
August 2010

Are you cancer-free? If so, for how long?
Yes, I just passed my 1 year anniversary on Sept. 21st and Oct. 5th. Two surgeries were needed; a lumpectomy, then clearing one of the margins.

How have your family and friends helped you?
Just by being there and allowing me to be alone when I needed to be or offering to take me for my radiation treatments or bring me lunch. A good support system is everything.

What tips do you have to help other breast cancer survivors stay positive?
Surround yourself with positive people. Educate yourself but don't overanalyze or you'll think the worst. Laugh... a lot. You can't be negative when you laugh, so it's good to watch Ellen!

What has someone done to make you feel better?
Everyone made me feel better, from the wonderful emails, cards and flowers; especially from our contractor and his crew. That made me feel really good.

What advice would you give someone who is about to go through treatment?
Stay positive, surround yourself with positive people, laugh.

What was the scariest moment?
Hearing the doctor say you have cancer and you're scheduled for surgery in two weeks.

What was the funniest moment?
The technicians taking a picture of me on the radiation machine for my collage. (It was off.)

How has breast cancer made you stronger?
I made it, but more than that, I sat with people every day during my radiation treatments who were far worse than me and they were so positive and in good spirits. How could you not be stronger by just being with these wonderful people?

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Pam Guite
315 days ago

Ellen and Company,
This is my fourth attempt to write you my message. So far I’ve written three chapter books. Here is the condensed version, right to the point. I began watching the Ellen show 5 years ago, after I moved to Fincastle, VA, everyday at 4:00 pm on WDBJ 7. I look forward to watching the show. It is an hour of mental health, humor and inspiration for me. Every episode reminds me that there is someone else in the world that has a harder, more trying and difficult life. The show gives me hope I need every day; with so much fun and excitement. I am almost 55 years old and always wanted to be a teacher, specifically, a special education teacher; for my son, brother and I grew up with various learning disabilities and I have so much understanding and compassion for such young learners.
While married, I was a homemaker/stay home mother. To me, the most important job in the world; with respect to the shaping and development of my three children becoming respectful adults. They were and still are my life, purpose and reason for existing in this world. I was one of the classroom mothers for each of my children and loved it, helping the students gave me such pleasure. Of course my son had 3 disabilities and I was very aware of the challenges, struggles and hardships he had with learning relationships with other students. I lived and understood his feelings of inadequacies with his learning and friendships, for I too struggled with my own disabilities. When my son was in first grade I became a teacher’s assistant/paraprofessional, I understood through my experience and my advocating for my son for inclusion, how it felt to be different, not being one of the cliques. I wanted to help these students, make learning fun and not so challenging. I wanted these students to know an adult understood what they daily lives consisted of.
Along the way, my marriage ended. At this time, I attended a university to become a teacher. I graduated with the B.S. program, Interdisciplinary Arts for Children; to incorporate the arts into the curricula for the students with learning disabilities. I believed in myself, that I could make educational learning experience fun, interesting, and appropriate, in a manner that students would enjoy, become invested in and that I would become a great teacher. One who had compassion, understanding and love for these students; who do become somewhat neglected/rejected. I also took 10 courses towards my teacher’s certification. But I made a big mistake, I moved to Virginia believing a new start would give me a happier life. I was so wrong.
I struggled with an emotionally abusive relationship with a man that took advantage of me, without any financial support, and who all along cheated on me. I made him leave and I lived here for 4 years alone. Not one friend. I wallowed in my own sorrow for a long time. Unfortunately, I am also bipolar so it took many hours and days to break the emotional cycle that I put myself through with respect to the failure and disappointment in put on myself; including how I felt my children also felt resentment towards me for my failure. Luckily, in the real world, my kids loved me, supported me emotionally and sometimes financially, they are wonderful young adults, never allowing me to feel horrible about the mistake I made. It disheartens me daily, with my move, that I also gave up the opportunity daily, to not be with, see, touch, nor drink a cup of coffee with my kids any time. Remember, I moved to Virginia.
Then one day, I decided to return to school. I graduated with a B.S. with a Studio Art degree still believing in myself, to becoming a teacher for students with learning disabilities. I proceeded to contact the university in attended in New York, to matriculate my teacher’s certification courses, to become a teacher. But too much time lapsed and I had to take all of the courses over again. Really?
This past summer, I enrolled into another university that required me to take even more liberal arts courses. If you seen my transcripts you’d wonder why. I have an A.A.S. degree as a legal secretary and another in optical technology and I have a B.S. degree in Interdisciplinary Arts for Children and as a Studio Arts Major. Now, I wanted to become a certified teacher. That entailed 2 more years of school to become certified and 2 more years to become a special education teacher. I would have been 58 years old. Really? As I said, I tried school this past fall and it was too hard to keep up with the reading and work of 4 intense classes. I had to withdrawal. It consumed me in a bad way. I did not know how to live, for 4 weeks all I did was eat, breath and go through my days attempting to do my homework only to keep falling behind. I didn’t even like myself, for I was a great student in the past, but I couldn’t do anything right. As I said, I have a reading disability and I am very ADHD. My New York doctor would help me with mediation for my ADHD; but my new doctor wanted nothing to do with it. Remember I am bipolar and tried to hurt myself when I had my friend leave after his abusiveness. He made me feel that I was the problem, the failure. I struggled daily to continue to get my education, but with three online courses and one that I did attend weekly I lacked the focus and ability to continue. The online course maybe good for young people, but it did me in mentally and physically.
I have almost $100,000 in student loans; I know that I still want to participant within the special education program. I still want to be a part of these students’ lives. Although, I know I will never become a certified teacher, I am perusing the schools to become a teacher’s assistant/paraprofessional, to continue to work with students who have learning disabilities.
Unfortunately, I wake nightly with night mares. I dream of how I know that I am going to make $10 an hour doing what I have always wanted, working with students with disabilities; and pay my loans. I am scared that I would barely able to pay my bills and my student loans. My student loan is approximately $899.00 a month. Really?
I haven’t had a vacation in over 15 years; I’m always putting my money towards bills to keep myself and my credit good. I only know sacrifice, giving up fun, and luxuries others take for granted. I am good though, I have been sacrificing my life, to provide my children with what they needed when they were young and now just to live day to day. It depresses me though, to know that I will have no pension, no opportunity to have a nice, new vehicle, go on a vacation, not to mention the idea that I cannot even fit into my clothes. I try to squeeze into my size 4’s, while I think I am really a size 10. I am not sure of my size, and I cannot justify spending the money, so I continue to struggle to fit into my 4’s. Through the loneliness and depression I have gained a little over 20 pounds due to Bing eating! I would love to loss the weight again. It hurts me emotionally and physically, to be this heavy. Someday I would love to have an opportunity to join a gym and become the decent looking woman I used to be. But I am not asking for that.
To be honest with you, some days my life hits me in the face really hard, with respect to the mistakes I made. I wonder and pray daily, when I will be done repenting for my mistakes. It frightens me, knowing how my life is so lonely and sad, that until the day I die, I have nothing to truly look forward to. I wonder how I can pay my exuberant loans on a $10 an hour salary. It costs me $25 a day to drive to and home from the city school and after they take out taxes I believe I will be making about $15.00 a day. Can you imagine trying to pay bills, mortgage and student loans with that? What kind of life will I be able to live before I die? I have made mistakes, but I hope and pray you will help me rectify them. You help others, so may I be so bold as to ask you to help me. Allow me the opportunity to look forward to my next day, week, month, or year knowing I can do more that struggle to pay off my student loans that I will never be able to utilize. I am a good person with good values. Someday though, I lack the desire to go on, due to the monster that lives in my head, my bipolar. All I am asking is that you read this message and take the time to consider if I am worthy of your love and passion for your fellow people Ellen!

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