FREEPORT, Maine — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, reminding women that self-exams and mammograms are key to catching the disease early.
More than 300,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year and recovering from cancer battles happens in different ways. A donated vacation helped put a Freeport family on the path to healing.
"I had an MRI, the lump was very large, almost 8 centimeters," Gina LeDuc-Kuntz said.
The Freeport resident was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, evasive papillary carcinoma, after finding a lump in her left breast nearly two years ago.
The mother of six underwent six months of chemotherapy, a radical mastectomy, and 25 rounds of radiation because the disease was so advanced. Her three younger children, ages 10 to 15, were still at home.
"There was no focus on them. They had enormous needs. Their mother was going through cancer treatment. It was terrible," Gina recalled.
When Gina finally finished with her grueling regime,e another challenge came up.
"Going through this extreme treatment plan right into COVID, we have been kind of isolating for two years now," Gina said.
This summer, Gina was notified that she and her family were the recipients of a free getaway.
The Little Pink Houses of Hope provides cancer patients, survivors, and their families retreat at vacation destinations across the country. Gina and her family applied and were accepted to spend a week in a donated condo at Orange Beach, Alabama. Though a little concerned about traveling during the pandemic, Gina and her family desperately needed to reconnect.
While in Orange Beach, Gina and her family visited state parks, historical sites, fished, and frolicked on the beach.
Everyone followed precautions against COVID as they bonded as a family. They also spent time getting to know other survivors of breast cancer and their families. Sharing their stories also had a common theme.
'All of us women all thinking not 'how am I going to get through these treatments', but 'I can't die because I have my family,'" Gina said.
A new focus Gina says is helping her move forward towards healing.
For information on the Little Pink Houses of Hope, a non-profit organization, click the highlighted link.
For information on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer from the American Cancer Society, click here.