Raylene’s Story

Just Call Me Ray - Raylene Hollrah - Family

For those of you reading my story that have breast cancer, we have a connection.  We know what it’s like to have the carpet pulled from under our feet; to see our dreams shattered like a picture window looking at our future.  What is so frustrating is that we don’t know who threw the brick.  We see our lives in shattered pieces everyday when we wake up.  They are a constant reminder of the cancer that lives in our lives and without the help of friends, family, and ultimately God, we aren’t sure we have the strength to clean up the mess that’s been made.

My name is Raylene Hollrah and I am a breast cancer survivor, but I’m not the first and it’s my goal in life to make sure I’m not the last either.  I had the perfect life; the supporting husband, the beautiful daughter and the house surrounded by nature.  My career was taking off and success was following.  Then my own window was shattered.

My physician, Dr. Wagner, was helping us the second time with fertilization and we were hopeful for our next child.  The blessing of Allyson Renee Hollrah came into our lives 3 years earlier and we are so happy she did.  We were seconds away from In Vitro fertilization and received the happy news that our daughter would be here in 9 months.  During the second process of fertilization, my doctor recommended that I get my annual breast exam performed soon which was a couple months early.

My doctor felt a lump during the exam and ordered a mammogram immediately.  The results came back fine but we decided to proceed with an ultrasound just as a precaution.  After the ultrasound and biopsy by my breast surgeon, Dr. Fahrner, I saw the look in her eye and her demeanor change.  It was then that I knew that I had been dealt the card of breast cancer.

I was 33 years old and no family history of cancer.   On April 20, 2007 I chose to do a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, I then followed up with a summer full of chemo.  I lost all my hair, I lost my chest but I never lost faith.  My oncologist Dr Gill was incredible and my medical team was amazing.  They were there to take care of me physically and mentally.   My daughter was three, she used to tell me, “Mommy, please take off your hair and show everybody your beautiful bald head.”  My husband constantly reminded me how beautiful I was an even though my chest was gone, all he could see was that there was no more cancer.

It’s a hard struggle when your chest is removed.  It is definitely one of the parts identifies you as a woman and even though everybody else can tell you how beautiful you are, you still feel like there’s something missing.  My amazing husband knew just what to tell me and has been an inspiration ever since.  He took one look at my chest and said, “The only thing I see missing … is cancer.”

Through the next several years life was going smoothly.  I had a full reconstruction done in 2008 and Jayson and I welcomed Ryan, our next child, into our lives.  We received a call in May of 2012 from the school social worker and were told the story of how Ryan lost his mother to cancer when he was 5 and around age 12 was informed that his step-father had cancer as well.  He had been moved into foster care, but we had different plans for him.  We officially became guardians of Ryan on July 26th, 2012.

The next couple months would be a delight after all we had been through.  We knew that God had blessed us with another child and after our first battle, and victory, over cancer we were living everyday in the reality that He loves us despite our circumstances and we were going to cherish the days spent with friends and family.  Jayson, My husband even surprised me on my 40th birthday with a huge party.

Life stayed “normal” for a while but my journey was, and is, far from over.  Right before a massage, I noticed that one of my implants was slightly swollen.  I took note of this but as the days progressed it exponentially became worse.  After a CT scan at my local hospital I was advised to go to my plastic surgeon’s office immediately.  Through testing and draining it was reported that there was no cancer but my surgeon suggested that the implants be removed as to not cause infection later down the road.

Of course, I wasn’t crazy about the idea but I knew, or at least thought I knew, that implants were a safe option and that I could just replace them.  After the implant was replaced, everything was sent off just to make sure there was no more danger.  When I went back in for a post-operative checkup 10 days later and my doctor told me I had ALCL (Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma).  I was the 25th documented case in the US and 61st in the world.

God’s plan for me has never been clearer….Just call me Ray….I’m going to scream from the top of my lungs to make sure EVERY woman that has an implant is aware of this and every woman that gets an implant signs off on it.  I am here to IMPLANT AWARENESS, one chest at a time!

Love – Raylene Hollrah  aka Ray