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Surviving Breast Cancer: Shelley Collins shares her fight to become cancer free

Key factors are education and support
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Posted at 3:17 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 17:14:57-04

Fighting breast cancer is hard.

Shelley Filar-Collins found out the tragedy breast cancer can cause at a very young age. Her aunt was diagnosed and never recovered.

When Shelley was ten, her aunt passed away, leaving behind three small daughters all around Shelley's age at the time.

She grew up knowing about the dangers of breast cancer, and at age 40 started getting mammograms. Last April her family was hit again, this time with Shelley's diagnosis.

"I also have two older sisters, so we've been very lucky thus far. So going in for a regular screening and coming back with that news back in April, for us, was a little devastating," she said trying to smile.

After April 15th, Shelley had to get an ultrasound, then a biopsy. "Five days after the biopsy, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma," Filar-Collins said.

Filar-Collins said once she found out, she was on a mission to educate herself and figure out what the next steps are, so she could tell her two children.

She is raising a 14-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son by herself. Her sister, Beth, who lives close by has been her main source of support.

"What hasn't she done? She's been to almost every appointment with me, from diagnosis on through to surgeries," Filar-Collins said tearfully.

"After diagnosis, probably the first thing is acceptance of what's going on... After acceptance, I think the hardest part is how do you manage it all? From the doctors appointments to the surgeries to the toll that chemotherapy takes on you," Filar-Collins said.

She had a lumpectomy, where the cancerous part of her breast was removed, then an auxiliary lymph node removal.

After that was chemotherapy and soon she will move on to radiation treatments.

Filar-Collins has maintained her full time job as the Vice President of Human Resources with the Greene Turtle, and taking care of her two children during her battle. She says thanks to her boss, CEO Bob Barry, she's been able to move her schedule around doctors visits, and have medical coverage that takes care of some of the bills.

Now she's gaining ground.

"Yay! I just finished my last chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago. So very excited that we've completed five rounds of ACT chemotherapy. Then on November 1st I will start six weeks of radiation treatment," Filar-Collins said.

Those treatments will take 15 minutes and happen 5 days a week. After that, she will go on medication for 10 years.

Filar-Collins said her work family has also been by her side through her battle. Barry will text her encouraging messages a couple times a week, and he took the support a step further.

At every Greene Turtle restaurant in Maryland, all 43 locations, you will see staff wearing "Pink is the new Greene" t-shirts that support breast cancer awareness and are on sale to benefit the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

There are all kinds of pink accessories on sale that also benefit the foundation. 

Barry said his goal is to raise $30,000 and they are already halfway there. Twenty-four team members are signed up to run at the Race for the Cure.

Filar-Collins said she is so thankful and lucky to have a supportive work family.

She urges women who are going through the same challenges to look for resources, "there's a lot of blogs out there, as well as my local hospital, Union Hospital out of Cecil County Maryland has a great support system. The Breast Cancer Center has been amazing, amazing for me to meet other people, and just overall what to expect."

Filar-Collins doesn't know when she'll be able to say she is cancer free, but she says her test look positive and she is optimistic.