Michelle’s Brave Shave: Fight Like a Girl!
Michelle Crider was always vigilant about her yearly breast self- exam, even though she was just 32 and had no family history of breast cancer. Perhaps being a surgical technician and working around cancer made her wary – or at least aware of the disease.
Michelle never really thought about cancer happening to her, until the first day of the spring semester this year. That’s when she found a lump in her left breast while getting dressed for class. She froze for an instant. Then she thought, “No. It couldn’t be.”
Later that day, she asked several co-workers for their opinion, and the verdict was “It’s probably nothing”, just a cyst or an inflamed lymph node since she had a cold. So, Michelle dove back into working full time at Mercy Hospital, being a full- time student at UCO, and living her busy life with her husband and three daughters, ages 16, 13 and 11.
Within a few months, the lump had gotten larger. She consulted her doctor, who immediately set up a mammogram. It showed the lump was now 3.6 cm and had a long tail. Things moved very quickly from there to the diagnosis she soooo didn’t want to hear: Malignant, infiltrated ductal carcinoma.
After the initial shock, Michelle did what she always did when things got tough: She had a talk with herself: “This is not a death sentence. I will fight this with all I have. And I will get through this.”
Michelle’s positive attitude got her through the decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. She also joined a support group, where she learned that it was pretty traumatic to have your hair fall out all at once from chemo, so Michelle took the bull by the horns and scheduled a “Brave Shave” with T. Teal. “I wanted to be pro-active and to lose my hair on my own terms.”
Michelle said she wanted her family and close friends around her so they could see that she really was strong. “I thought it would help them be strong too, especially my husband, and we all did great! My oldest daughter put on my favorite country music, and each daughter cut off part of my hair and helped with the clipping. The professional make-up artist and the photographer (both provided by T. Teal) added their talents and cheer to the party!
“What made my Brave Shave really awesome was the T. Teal volunteer who did my shave was a breast cancer survivor, celebrating three years in remission, and also a chemotherapy nurse! She gave me a lot of helpful tips on how to care for my hair during chemo.”
Michelle said although she tries to be strong and positive most of the time, there are moments you just need to have a good cry. “That’s OK. We’re just human.”
“Although we don’t always have a choice as to what happens to us, we do have a choice about how we react to it. I personally feel that choosing to be positive helps put the odds in my favor and helps me focus on the good that has come out of this. I am very grateful for the excellent medical care I have received, my positive prognosis, the wonderful support from my friends and family and to T. Teal for making my Brave Shave a moment to cherish and remind me how truly blessed I am.”
After Michelle’s Brave Shave event she shared this photo with us. Her youngest daughter decided to honor her by shaving her head as well. What an amazing family!