“In May of 2015, I felt a lump in my left breast. I have never had such an overwhelming feeling of wanting something out of my body so badly before”, said Chiloe Kottke, a 17-month breast cancer survivor.
Two days later, Chiloe went in for testing. A mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy were performed.
“The longest two days of my life followed while I waited for results,” she said.
Kottke, who lives in rural Springfield, is a wife, mother of four and a registered nurse. She was only 40 at the time and had no family history of breast cancer.
“I knew the statistics,” she added. “One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
 “My husband and I went in to the doctor’s office to receive the results. The doctor said, ‘you have invasive…blah blah blah… Carcinoma…blah blah blah.’  
“I only heard two words that day. I looked over at my husband who was crying.  He doesn’t typically show a lot of emotion, so I immediately switched gears. My mind went from being in wife, mother and nurse mode to cancer survivor mode.
“A breast cancer diagnosis completely turns your life upside down. Initially you experience shock, then PTSD, denial, anger and then, crazy enough, gratitude. A roller coaster of emotions to say the least. I was trying hard to wrap my head around this. My life was out of my control now and in the hands of doctors and their latest research and statistics, but somehow I kept thinking, ‘I got this. A little cancer can’t hurt me, right?’”
 In the next few weeks, Kottke had an oncologist, a cancer coordinator, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon  and a whole bunch of new friends on Facebook.  
She opted to have a double mastectomy versus a lumpectomy. Even her surgeons, after the mastectomies, praised her decision as she had atypical (irregular or unusual) cells in her right breast as well.
  “I spent less than 24 hours in the hospital, said Kottke. “I wanted to break out that next morning.”
 Kottke, who was unable to wash her own hair, scratch her own back or even lift up and hold her nearly three-year-old daughter, had nothing but praise.
“Thank God I have such compassionate family, friends and co-workers that offered help. When I could barely sit up on my own, they were there bringing gifts, running my kids around, hiring cleaning ladies, bringing meals and saying extra prayers. It was difficult, but I had to learn to accept help,” said Kottke. “I learned that it actually helps others heal as well, because, crazy enough, cancer strikes not only the patient, but everyone around you too.”
Then it finally came time for chemo.
“Four rounds of this stuff they call, ‘the red devil’, and 12 rounds of taxol,” Kottke said.
After all of her life saving “cocktails” that first day, Chiloe went home and waited.  
“I waited for all the side effects to happen, the hair to fall out, the lethargy, the pain, the nausea, diarrhea, chemo brain, etc. Eventually, I did experience them all, and then some,” said Kottke. “No matter how much I tried to make cancer go away with a positive attitude, darkness occasionally took over.
“It plays tricks on you, and it seemed that nobody else around quite understood.”
Enter Amber Melby.  
“Amber and I were both the same age, both mothers of young children and both nurses. We  were both diagnosed with breast cancer days apart at the age of 40.  I met Amber during her first treatment and my second.  She had one of those fancy private rooms”, noted Kottke. “I popped my head in and told her that it’s really not that bad.
“She ended up in the emergency room that night. We laugh about that now. Amber, ‘my twin’ and I, continued the rest our treatment together and met some other great women along the way.
“Before long we had our own little breast cancer posse.”
Twenty-five radiation treatments would follow.
 “For over a year, my life was about surviving cancer, and now treatments are done”, said Kottke. “I’m supposed to trust in my new friend Tami…short for Tamoxifen and move on. Move on, even though I take these two little pills every night for the next 10 years as a constant reminder.”
Not only have Kottke and Melby moved on from their cancer diagnosis and treatments, they are raising money for women living with stage four breast cancer. This money provides for vacations, rides to treatment, daycare and cleaning ladies, among other things.
Kottke wanted to add that she is even more passionate about metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research.
Both Kottke and Melby plan to raise money for MBC and for organizations such as, Little Pink Houses of Hope.  
“Breast cancer does not discriminate”, added Kottke. “We owe it to our wives, mothers, sisters and our daughters to educate about this ugly disease.”
Preferred donations are to the Image Reborn Foundation, which helps cancer patients with travel scholarships.  Amber Melby has a new non-profit called Bthelight, but it is not just specific to breast cancer.