Survivor Story Spotlight: Phaedra Pistone
My name is Phaedra Pistone. I am a native of North Carolina. I have been married to my awesome, race car, real estate selling husband for over 5 years.
I am a fur baby mom of 3 to Harley, Cru, and Pesci.
Have you ever seen say, YES to the Dress? I have been helping Brides say, YES to the dress for over 13 years at my bridal boutique – Classic Bride & Formals in Cornelius, North Carolina.
I am an honor graduate of High Point University with a degree in Business Administration and double concertation in Finance and Management. I am also graduate of JY Monk Real Estate School in Charlotte, NC and I hold a North Carolina Real Estate license.
I am also excited to share with you how I’ve overcome hearing “You have Breast Cancer” to turning my pain into my purpose and using the opportunity as United States of America’s Mrs. South Carolina 2021 to share my message.
It’s a fact that we all will be affected or know someone that has some type of cancer in our lifetime.
· 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer.
· Over 260,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
· Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide.
· Breast Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among women.
· On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.
My Breast Cancer journey began …….
On November 29, 2016 – my life changed when I heard the words – YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER! Everything went numb, my body and soul sank, all I could do was cry. Many thoughts went through my mind like am I going to die; will I lose my hair; and how did I get breast cancer when no one in my family has it?
What a scary word associated with so many unknown things and so many things to come that you have no clue about.
At first, I was so afraid and embarrassed to tell anyone I had Breast Cancer. Because I didn’t want to be labeled but something inside of me told me I need to share my Pink Ribbon Journey. I hope by sharing my story/journey it will help someone else – 1) that doesn’t have anyone by their side to know that they do 2) are confused, mad, frustrated, sad but I can give them hope to find happiness 3) need someone to talk to – I am here for you 4) have someone to listen to them -I’m all ears and 5) to cry with them or to just understand the ups and downs of this terrifying battle that we are fighting. SO here it goes… I was so afraid to tell anyone (including my family) the struggles/depression I have felt since I was first diagnosed because I didn’t want to be judged as not being so strong. I may seem like a statue and perfect (which I am not) on the outside but inside I’m a mess of emotions.
After my diagnosis…I thought I would never be able to do the things I love again because I wouldn’t have the strength or confidence to do so like I did before. I was so confused and didn’t understand – why me?!
This was a challenging time in my life – I was sad, depressed and just didn’t know what to do! I researched/googled so many things trying to understand what all this meant but it just made me more depressed and scared. I felt alone and couldn’t explain to anyone the true feelings I was feeling.
I told myself you must continue to fight to figure out and try to understand your journey. You think something like this will never happen to you, but Breast Cancer/Cancer doesn’t discriminate.
I had a lumpectomy in January 2017 to remove the cancer. After the surgery, things got much harder! I had to look at this scar every time I took my shirt off – a constant reminder of what I had been through.
I sat around for months trying to wrap my mind around everything. Until, one day I told myself you have to live again! You have to be you again! You are a wife, a business owner, daughter, a sister, a friend, a fur-baby mom, and you are STRONG! You have so much to offer in life and to others!
As most of you know, we have so many choices in life but unfortunately with Cancer – we don’t! It chooses us – we don’t choose it which is so hard to understand!!!
SO, what did I do?? I did something I LOVE! I did something that was going to give me HOPE and a purpose. A reason to work towards a goal! Something to thrive for, something to work towards!
I did a pageant! I competed in another pageant system – called Mrs. North Carolina United States in 2017 (just a couple months after my lumpectomy) and won the state title and went to the National pageant – Mrs. United States and I placed in the top 10. But I couldn’t stop I felt like I wanted and needed to keep going.
SO, November – 2018, I competed for Mrs. North Carolina America for the 3rd time and won! The last time I competed at this pageant which was October 2016 – about a month later is when I was diagnosed with – Breast Cancer. I felt like going back would be very healing because I had worked so hard to get ME back!
As I prepared for the National pageant, Mrs. America (August 2019) right in the middle of getting ready so excited for the opportunity to compete in Las Vegas to potentially be the next Mrs. America, which would give me an even bigger platform to share my message as a breast cancer survivor and create awareness, I was faced with another challenge.
April of 2019, I was diagnosed again with Breast Cancer or some say a recurrence. I had a bilateral mastectomy in May 2019 with tissue expanders. October 2019, I had the tissue expanders taken out and replace them with implants. I had some complications with the implants, so I had them replaced and had more reconstruction August 2020. Hopefully, that is the last of my surgeries.
I do believe we all have a purpose in life…. sometimes it just takes something so shocking and devastating for us to realize what that might be! I have worked really hard to take what has been put in my path and turn it into my purpose. It is so healing for me to share my story and use this shiny microphone (the crown) as United States of America’s Mrs. South Carolina 2021 and a two-time breast cancer survivor to do so. I use the opportunities life gives me to turn my pain into my purpose by Empowering, Encouraging and Educating women through HOPE about the importance of early detection with mammograms because that is what saved my life twice!
HOPE stands for….
H- Help to provide information about early detection with mammograms.
O- Opportunity to reach out and support survivors.
P- Purpose to create awareness about breast cancer and finding new ways to fight for a cure.
E- Educate women about the signs, symptoms and treatments.
I have teamed up with one of my favorite charities - Shirley’s Angels to help bring hope around our state. I chose Shirley’s Angels because when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, they helped me so much with the monthly care packages. I felt so much love & support with each monthly package. It was like a little Angel cheering me on to recovery. If you or if you know of someone that needs a little Shirley’s Angel to cheer you up doing your journey – please see me after to get more information.
I recently started my own cause called – “Build a Box for Breast Cancer”. I started this to help survivors beyond their journey with cancer. It’s a cheer you up box, I’m still with you box and I’m thinking about you box.
My takeaway message to you today is never give up! Just because you are given a life threating diagnosis, bad news or put through an exceedingly difficult challenge in life – Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes it takes these difficult things to make us realize how amazing life is and to find our purpose. We will all go through challenging times in our lives but remember – YOU are not ALONE – you have so many people that are ready to support you and help you through the difficult challenges of life!
Life Lessons to take from my message…
1. Practice gratitude often.
2. Be generous with your time (when you can).
3. Find happiness with yourself first.
4. Hold onto your friends.
5. Have hobbies that rejuvenate you.
6. Work hard.
7. Break your goals down.
8. Be strong – have hope & faith – I like to say – Faith over Fear!
Once again, I am honored to share this message and hopefully help and bring HOPE to all that read my message/hear my message. Also, I placed in the Top 6 at Mrs. America – I like to say, I was 3rd runner up and had the best time! I am to my knowledge the first contestant ever to compete in a National pageant with breast tissue expanders in and just having a bilateral mastectomy only a couple months before. Never count yourself out because CANCER is trying to take over! Live your life to the fullest and NEVER give up!!
One of my new favorite quotes is – “The Struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” -Helen Keller