BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Big C, it’s the diagnosis no one wants to hear, and every cancer patient has a unique story.
For Christine Budge, her story started seven years ago. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that metastasized to her lymph nodes. She immediately began treatment, and eventually went into remission. But her story doesn’t end there.
“I did really well, I beat it again, and then it came back a third time, and this last time it was everywhere,” Budge said.
For Budge, every time her cancer returned, she wasn’t just determined to survive, but to fight.
“It’s like something happens to you and you passively let it happen to you. I think of myself as a fighter, I’m a cancer fighter,“ she said.
Budge is in remission from her stage four diagnosis, and she says her journey with cancer is really the success story of her support from loved ones like her husband and the doctors who helped her at the Rio Bravo Cancer Center.
“People forget that a diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence at all,” said Dr. Ajay Desai.
These words ringing true for mother and daughter Marie Lehmann and Michelle Little. Lehmann was diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago.
“I had my cancer surgery on the day my granddaughter was born. So she’s 21 and I’m a 21-year cancer survivor,” Lehmann said.
Her daughter knew she was at risk for breast cancer and, while she never received an official diagnosis of cancer, she decided to be proactive.
“For me, it wasn’t a matter of if but when,” Little said.
In 2017, Little had a double mastectomy. She thought this would help prevent future health complications, but she never could have prepared for what came next.
“Survivor takes on a whole new meaning to me,” she said.
A few weeks after her surgery, her doctor gave the okay for little and her husband to attend the route 91 harvest music festival, a night little will never forget.
“My doctor had said you’re fine, just take it easy, you still have drain tubes so just take it easy. Little did I know that would be the worst day of my life.”
After a gunman opened fire on the festival, Little was shot in the foot that night and got a blood infection from wounds reopening. She had to have several emergency surgeries following that night. But she had the support of her mother, and to this day they’re both alive and healthy, with each other by their side.