Beating Breast Cancer

A death-sentence.

That's how Bilky Joda-Miller describes her breast cancer diagnosis.

"When you're told you have cancer, it pretty much means you're dying," she says.

The southwest Lansing native was in her late 20s when her life completely changed.

"I wasn't sick or anything, so when I got the news, I was shocked," Joda-Miller recalls. "I mean, I really actually expected by the time I got home, to have a call on my answering machine that the doctor had made a mistake."

He hadn't.

Bilky had stage two breast cancer. And she was raising two small children.

"They just wanted 'Mom,'" she says. "They didn't know what was going on. I couldn't wallow and stuff. I just had to move on."

So she started treatment: a mastectomy, and months of chemotherapy and radiation.

Along the way, Bilky met a breast cancer survivor, working for the American Cancer Society, who made Bilky change her tune.

"At that point, I realized it wasn't a death sentence," she says.

And about a year after she was diagnosed, Bilky was cancer-free.

"My doctors saved my life, but the American Cancer Society made living a real life possible for me," she explains. "I feel, in a way, that part of the reason I went through breast cancer, was to get connected to this."

Today, Bilky helps other women battling breast cancer.

"Bilky is an amazing survivor," says Kelly Powell, director of the American Cancer Society's Capital Area Service Center. "She has been with the American Cancer Society as a volunteer for years, and has used our Reach to Recovery program, which she's now a part of volunteering for."

Bilky is passionate about finding a cure, so breast cancer doesn't strike any more women, especially her daughter.

"The last thing I want to do is to watch her go through this disease," she says.

So Bilky walks, every year, in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

"I have to be there," she says. "It feels like all the people that go out there, they do it for you."

"The more people we have down there, the more we can really celebrate with our survivors and have this event to honor anybody who has the breast cancer story," Powell says.

A story that can have a happy ending.

"It's not the end," Bilky says. "You gotta get up and fight. I was diagnosed in 1990. It's 2009. I'm still here."

Bilky's putting her foot down, like thousands of others making strides, and never losing hope.


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