As of this year, I am a five-year survivor of breast cancer.
On Feb. 27, 2009, something unusual was noted on a routine yearly mammogram. I was then scheduled for a compression and ultrasound on March 13, 2009. By March 20, 2009, I had a biopsy with ultrasound. I was told I'd know the results within five days.
After 10 days, my local doctor called me and told me the results were unclear. She recommended getting a second opinion.
I didn't hesitate in saying I wanted to go to the Hershey Breast Care Center, since my best friend had just gone through her second bout of breast cancer within a year and ended up going there on a recommendation.
My first appointment at the center was on April 2, 2009. By April 10, I had a positive biopsy result for stage two breast cancer. On April 20, 2009, with more tests and appointments in between, I was admitted to Hershey Medical Center for a lumpectomy with removal and biopsy of four lymph nodes. By 7:45 a.m. the next day, my husband was there to take me home.
It was all a whirlwind and happened so fast that my deep faith took over and I felt everything was out of my hands. I knew my surgeon and I did everything earthly possible, so I turned any further results over to my God.
One week later, the center called me and said all the mass was removed and the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes taken were negative for cancer. They did recommend radiation. I had several appointments with my oncologist and radiation doctor in May 2009, and on June 18, 2009, I had my first of 35 radiation treatments.
I chose to do my radiation at Mount Nittany Medical Center, again because my best friend did hers there and everything went well for her.
Being the first in my family to go through this, I went on recommendations for my whole ordeal. My summer consisted of daily trips to State College, but on Aug. 10, I had my last radiation treatment.
I want to commend and thank the American Cancer Society for helping me with a gas card for the 72-mile round trip made daily. For three years I made a trip to Hershey every three months to see either my surgeon or my oncologist twice a year.
I then graduated to once-a-year mammograms and doctor appointments. They still work together and schedule my appointments so I'm seeing one of them every six months.
I feel very blessed that my story ended so well, but because I know that isn't always the case, I am active on my church's Relay For Life team, Graceful Women, and also help with the Mifflin-Juniata Relay For Life.
This year at Relay, Graceful Women will be selling cookbooks and pretzel sandwiches.
"I have been a member of Relay for years," Ciecierski said.
She was first on the team Dot's Dynamites, a large team organized in support of Dot Youtzy, of Strodes Mills. The team disbanded a few years after Youtzy passed away. Around the time Ciecierski was diagnosed, two of her classmates were diagnosed with cancer and a third succumbed. At that time, Ciecierski joined the Arlee's Angels team and became involved with Graceful Women about three years ago, after Arlee's Angels disbanded. Graceful Women is comprised of supporters from Grace United Methodist Church in Lewistown.
Ciecierski said the importance of attending Relay For Life lies in the support shown for others in the community, no matter if they have had cancer in the past, are currently experiencing cancer, are caregivers or are showing support for others themselves.
Ciecierski lives in Lewistown with her husband, Fredrick, whose survivor story is featured in today's edition as well.