Eight years ago when longtime New Baltimore resident Betsey Facione discovered she had breast cancer at age 54, she wasn't worried about her odds.
After all, her mother and mother-in-law were diagnosed with the disease decades ago at the same time and went on to live another 40 and 35 years, respectively, with good health.
"Because of their experiences, when the doctor told me I had it, I wasn't that concerned," Facione, a literacy consultant for Utica Community Schools, said Monday.
But, when concerned friends and loved ones began sending her literature on beating the disease, the realization sunk in: Breast cancer claims lives.
"Even though it hit that close to home, for me, it was never even a possibility," she said.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month when the public hears most about the disease that affects thousands of Americans each year. In 2011 alone, about 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women while about 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ—a non-invasive and early form of breast cancer—will be diagnosed. And, approximately 39,520 women will die from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
And while statistics are daunting, women across the country are living their own success stories. Women like Facione who has been cancer-free for several years, continuing to fulfill her passion for teaching, gardening, quilting and spending time with her family and friends.
"There's a lot of good things that have happened," she said. "You can't feel sorry for yourself."
Feeling sorry for herself is the last thing on Facione's mind. A naturally positive and upbeat person, she has been open and honest about her cancer history, saying that approach has helped her cope through the hardships of the illness. Other survivors have also embraced her.
"With breast cancer, there's an immediate sisterhood," she said. "It's just an immediate bonding that you had. I could ask anybody for anything."
Her tumor was first detected in a routine mammogram. Soon after, she underwent a lumpectomy and radiation. When she went on a family vacation to California five years after the final day of radiation, her husband Roger told a restaurant wait staff of her special anniversary and they celebrated with cake and candles.
The Faciones have lived in New Baltimore for 37 years, where they raised three children, one of whom has since passed away. She said they moved to the community originally because of its central location from her husband's job in Port Huron at the time and her school in Utica. Since then, she's grown to love the small city.
Through all the obstacles, she said she relied on her Lutheran faith. She's heavily involved in St. John's Lutheran Church and at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Warren, where her husband is pastor. She is a regular participant in the Relay for Life of New Baltimore.
Her advice to women diagnosed with breast cancer?
"Talk about it. And, talk to the people who have been through it. Everybody's story is different and everybody's case is different, but it sure is nice to know there are people out there that are in the same boat."