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Hoosier Neighbor: Missy Gunnels

Two years ago Westfield mom Missy Gunnels received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. Since that time, not only has she survived her illness but thrived with a newfound appreciation for all that life can offer. Missy was also selected as a 2015 Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Ambassador. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Hamilton County Family asked Missy to share her story about how the disease has impacted her life.

In 2013, you were diagnosed with a form of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in-situ, which affects the milk ducts. After treatment, you experienced several complications followed by multiple surgeries. How did you cope with this situation?

My recovery was the closest thing to a living nightmare that I’ve ever experienced. My plastic surgeon wouldn’t listen to me when I told him just a couple of weeks after my surgery that something was wrong. He blew me off for several more weeks. [He] then did a minor revision surgery and left for vacation, with only one of his nurses running his office. He left dead tissue during that surgery, and the surrounding tissue started to die. I have had seven surgeries so far. I still have a few more surgeries ahead of me to repair the damage done to my body because of neglect.

Who were your greatest sources of comfort during this time?

God, first and foremost. My husband, Mike; my children, Jon-Michael and Elizabeth; and my parents. They gave me the desire to fight for my life and try to live!

You’re a strong advocate for early detection of breast cancer. What is the most important thing for readers to know about early detection?

Early detection really and truly saves lives! I did everything that should be done to try to prevent breast cancer, yet I had it. I exclusively breastfed both of my children – one for 18 months and the other for 20 months. Breastfeeding is supposed to reduce your risk of breast cancer. My cancer showed up on a mammogram from one year to the next. I thank God daily that the reader of the mammogram caught the small change that had occurred in a year. I also cannot imagine how much worse things could have been had I not nursed my babies.

How has your outlook on life changed as a result of this experience?

I live each and every moment to the fullest! I don’t sit on the sidelines. I try new things and will continue to try new things. I recently was able to resume horseback riding, one of my passions, and I still want to jump from an airplane. My husband sometimes looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Carpe diem!

How has your outlook on life changed as a result of this experience?

I live each and every moment to the fullest! I don’tsit on the sidelines. I try new things and will continue to try new things. I recently was able to resume horseback riding, one of my passions, and I still want to jump from an airplane. My husband sometimes looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Carpe diem! Have you taken up any new activities or involvements since life returned to normal? I now volunteer at The Indiana Horse Rescue in Frankfort. I love being surrounded by those magnificent animals! I also have spoken to several groups about my experience with breast cancer.

How did you celebrate your final recovery from treatment?

My husband and I spent a week at our dear friends’ vacation home on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. My husband and I had our 25th wedding anniversary during my illness. We renewed our vows while at the beach with our children and my sister present. Read more about the details of Missy’s treatment and recovery here.

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