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Storytellers: Fighting though cancer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, tells her story of battling cancer at the Storyteller’s event, Nov. 2, 2016 at The Club on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. She talked about the support she received from her family and coworkers who helped her through her treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by David Meade)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, tells her story of battling cancer at the Storyteller’s event, Nov. 2, 2016 at The Club on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. She talked about the support she received from her family and coworkers who helped her through her treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by David Meade)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, and her husband, Frank Millard, pose for a picture when she was receiving treatment for her cancer in 2010. Her husband kept her day-to-day life as normal as possible. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col. Christine Millard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, and her husband, Frank Millard, pose for a picture when she was receiving treatment for her cancer in 2010. Her husband kept her day-to-day life as normal as possible. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col. Christine Millard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, rings a bell on the last day of radiation treatment at Bethesda Medical Center in 2011. It's a tradition for cancer patients to ring the bell at the end of chemotherapy and again at the end of radiation treatment. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col. Christine Millard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander, rings a bell on the last day of radiation treatment at Bethesda Medical Center in 2011. It's a tradition for cancer patients to ring the bell at the end of chemotherapy and again at the end of radiation treatment. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Col. Christine Millard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- “I found a lump and didn’t know what it was so I went to sick call,” said Lt. Col. Christine Millard, 21st Comptroller Squadron commander. “A few weeks later after a biopsy, the doctor called me and said ‘We regret to inform you that you have an invasive ductal carcinoma and you need to come to the hospital right now!’”

In 2010, Millard was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was stationed at the Pentagon.

During the call from the doctor, her husband was dropping their daughter off at school across town, so it was physically impossible for him to meet her at the hospital. Millard was faced with having to go to the hospital for the first time by herself. Instead, a good friend and coworker said his wife would meet her at the Metro Rail station.

“I didn’t ask them to do that, I didn’t ask anybody.” said Millard. “He just said ‘she’s going with you,’which was super awesome. That was the first person that helped me.”

Millard doesn’t remember much of what the doctor said in the first meeting except, “Go home, make peace with it and get your affairs in order because we don’t know how it’s going to go and this next year would be a rocky one.”

Over the course of her treatment, the support she received from her family and coworkers helped her through the ups and downs. Also, her husband and daughter helped in one very important way, it was keeping her day-to-day life as normal as possible.

Her first day of chemotherapy began with an orientation to explain what the process would be and where the treatment would be done. One seemingly strange request the nurse gave her was to bring snacks to her next chemotherapy appointment.

“That doesn’t make any sense. We’re all here dying, so why am I bringing cookies?” said Millard as she remembers thinking. “What it turned out to be was to make it more of a social environment, and it did help.”

When she lost her hair from the chemotherapy, she decided to go get a wig. A group of her coworkers took her to lunch and then set out to find a wig. Millard tried on quite a few until she found one that made her feel like herself.

There were ups and downs throughout the process, however, there was one day when Millard had a low point that required the help of her wingmen.

Every day she had to travel two hours to the hospital to get radiation treatment which only lasted one second.

One particular day she made the long trek and found out the radiation therapy accelerator machine was broken. She knew she would have to travel to work only to turn around and come back and do it all over again the same day. Again, her friends from the office offered to go with her and provide support.

Another low point hit her physical health when the stent in her neck became infected.

Her immune system became very weak while she was receiving radiation treatments which resulted in a blood strep infection from the stent. She received the stent earlier during chemotherapy to deliver the chemicals directly into her heart. Her doctors kept the stent in her neck after her chemotherapy treatments were finished just in case they had to use it again.

She spent two weeks in the hospital with penicillin being pumped through her to kill the infection. Millard said she was very lucky because this serious infection usually kills the elderly and can cause loss of limbs in many other people.

Throughout her treatment, Millard never got so low that she wanted to give up.

“No way. There’s no way, I feel very strongly about this for cancer patients in general,” said Millard. “My experiences are that most cancer patients don’t want to give up.”

“I had a drive to prove to myself that I’m capable of doing this,” said Millard.

Her determination and perseverance helped beat her battle with cancer. Millard has been a cancer survivor for six years.

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