Ginger Shirrell – 2017 Ambassador
Date of diagnosis: Early 2014
Diagnosis: DCIS Stage II
Occupation: Breast Cancer Coordinator RN
Ginger’s first experience with cancer came early in life. As a high school senior, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and her treatment included open heart surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It was a difficult journey, but she survived.
Fast forward about 25 years: Ginger was in her early 40s and decided it was time to schedule her first routine mammogram. At her appointment, a suspicious mammogram led to an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy, all in the same day. By the end of that week, Ginger had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her breast cancer treatment options were somewhat limited due to her previous experience with cancer. She met her maximum dose for radiation in high school, so a lumpectomy with radiation wasn’t in the cards for her this time around.
In February 2014, she had a double mastectomy with a DIEP FLAP reconstruction; a surgery that lasted 20 hours and required six months of physical therapy to regain use of her arms. She also had lymphedema post-surgery from having lymph nodes removed on her left side, where the cancer had traveled. Her surgery took place on the same day her oldest son left for Army boot camp, making it an especially emotional day.
Ginger continues to take Tamoxifen and Lupron injections monthly to reduce estrogen levels in her body. She is also planning to have a full hysterectomy in 2017 so she can discontinue the Lupron injections.
At the time of Ginger’s breast cancer diagnosis, she was working as a labor and delivery nurse, a job she very much enjoyed. Following her treatment, she found the physicality of the job to be very difficult and took a job as a nurse in the oncology department.
Now she uses her breast cancer experience as a tool to help others. She assists with mammograms, biopsies and risk assessments for patients, helping people navigate the healthcare system and better understand their options.
“I love meeting women that have been diagnosed and sharing my journey with them,” said Ginger. “I like helping them through their diagnosis and treatment. It gives me a sense of purpose.”
When a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient is feeling scared, Ginger often shares her story, explaining that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence thanks to medical and research advancements.
In her free time, Ginger enjoys camping, spending time with her two boxers and traveling anywhere sunny with a beach.
She attended the 2015 Indianapolis Race for the Cure for the first time as a survivor and will be there again this year as one of our Ambassadors! Ginger said it was overwhelming to see all the pink on Race day and to realize how many people in her community are passionate about finding the cures for this disease.
Ginger’s takeaway message for others: “This diagnosis is not the end. In fact, it is just the beginning of a new journey. Women are so strong and caring. With all of the support that the community has out there for survivors and their families, we can reach so many people that need help.”