Sylvania survivor shares wisdom

Mary Helen Darah

Beth Ballay

Beth Ballay received a breast cancer diagnosis in August, 2015. “I happened to get the phone call while on vacation with my husband and all my children,” she recalled. “Everyone was out by the pool and I went outside and blurted it out. I was so fortunate to have everyone there. If I had to make those individual calls it would have been extremely difficult. We then had the next few days to absorb and process the information. The scariest thing about a cancer diagnosis is the feeling of not being in control and not having any idea what you are facing. Once we got together with my doctors and had a plan, I knew we could do this.”

Ballay was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She had surgery and was told that she was stage 1. “Even though that was the case, I still had to have chemo,” said Ballay. “It was pretty incredible looking back on the situation. You are trying to save your life and the major thing you worry about is losing your hair. I went to a pre-chemo appointment and was told I may not lose my hair but a week later I started to lose it. It was then that I asked my husband to shave my head. He said he couldn’t do it.”

The Ballays then went to church and when they came home, her husband came into the room with clippers. “He said he prayed about it and he was ready. I found it to be the most freeing feeling I ever had once my hair was gone. It just puts it out there for everyone to see. I knew then that I could get through anything and we began to move forward.”

Ballay endured chemo and radiation. “After treatment, I started the climb back. Through that whole struggle, my neighbors would come to my chemo sessions with me. My friends, family and faith got me through. The important thing I discovered, is that you have to find one doctor that has to be the quarterback on your team. Until I found the quarterback, there were too many people passing the ball. My person was Timothy Kasunic, MD at ProMedica Flower Hospital.”

Today Ballay feels she is in a good place. “I don’t think about it but I don’t forget about it,” she said. “Every six months I have to get checked, which is always scary. Life is short. This diagnosis can take everything away. It doesn’t matter how much money or status you have.”

Ballay is happy to share what she learned from the experience. “Maintaining good health is vital. It’s important to get checked regularly. Breast Cancer Awareness month is the perfect time to commit to getting screened. My journey made everyone in my circle aware of the importance of good health as well. I am so glad I’m on this side of the story and I am happy to help anyone who is going through the cancer journey. When I was first diagnosed, someone connected me with someone who had also had triple negative breast cancer. Talking with her was incredible. As women who have gone through this, we need to share our knowledge and wisdom with other women.”

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