Mary Chiaramonte was 37 years old when she found a lump in her breast. With no insurance, she visited a mobile breast unit for a mammography. It was then she learned she had breast cancer. After securing health coverage through her job, she was able to visit her doctor and begin a process of procedures and treatments. She has been cancer-free for 17 years.

Like many women afflicted with breast cancer, Mary wanted answers. “I needed to know everything about what I was about to go through, whether it was bad or good. I always had a list of questions for the doctor.”

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She felt the need to stay strong for her family – she did not want those around her to see her crumble. “I kept smiling and telling them that I was going to be alright, to keep praying and believing.” Mary also sought guidance through Cancer Care, a nonprofit national organization that provides free, professional support services for cancer patients.

Mary maintained a positive attitude during the darkest of times. She also kept a diary throughout the experience, which helped her remain centered and calm. She now tries to eat right and exercise regularly, in addition to attending church and smiling often. Bouncing back from such adversity has also given her a new outlook on life. “I never worry about how ‘old’ I am getting. When my birthday comes, I celebrate the fact that I am here yet another year.”