She’s a Fighter AND a Survivor #490
Michele Ligouri has been a police officer for 15 years; her first four years were with the Pittsburg Police Department and the last ten have been with the Concord Police Department. In addition to being an officer, she is a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and cancer survivor. In keeping with the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Officer Michele Ligouri has allowed us to share her journey in hopes of providing support, education, and courage to those facing similar circumstances.
In late November 2013, Michele was lying in her bed when something rolled off onto the floor. She reached down to pick it up and at the same moment she felt an itch on the outside of her left breast. She reached over to scratch it and upon doing so she felt a small lump. Hoping she was mistaken by what she felt, she continued to feel around her breast. Michele diligently performed self-breast exams and within a couple of minutes she knew something was wrong. She immediately called her doctor and made an appointment.
A couple of weeks later, Michele received her formal diagnosis, “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, 1 cm, Stage 1A, Grade 3, ER+/PR+, HER2+.” Thankfully, she caught it early because it was extremely aggressive. In fact, it doubled in size in less than a month.
In early January 2014, Michele underwent a lumpectomy and began her treatment, which consisted of 16 weeks of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of daily radiation, and a course of Herceptin (hormone therapy). After her first round of chemo, Michele began to lose her hair. Instead of waiting for the inevitable, she decided to take back some of the power cancer had stolen and with the help of her husband, Tony, she shaved her head. With a smile on her face, Michele said, “It was actually empowering. When I was done I was relieved to see I had a pretty decently shaped head.”
Unfortunately, because of Michele’s weakened immune system and a port inserted under her skin above the left side of her chest she was unable to work for almost eight months. Even though she couldn’t wear the uniform, Michele said she felt the support of her brother and sister officers on a daily basis. While undergoing treatment, officers wore pink breast cancer bracelets that read, “She’s a fighter #490,” (490 is Michele’s badge number). Also, the Concord Police Officer’s Association had a “hair shaving” event at a local salon. Approximately 50 people had their hair shaved in support of Michele, the majority of who were active PD employees. A fellow female officer, Sergeant Christine Magley, even shaved off all of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love. “It was amazing to see how many of my co-workers cared. The best part of it was that my mom, who lives out of state, was there to witness it. She cried several times at the event, not because she was sad, but because she saw how much love and support I had and was overcome with emotion.”
Michele completed her treatment in July 2014 and went back to work in August 2014. She never doubted for a moment she was going to beat breast cancer, stating, “My parents raised me to be strong. I knew I would survive.” When asked what advice she would give someone who is battling cancer Michele said, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and let yourself be taken care of. Most importantly, keep a positive outlook.” Since undergoing treatment, Michele has learned not to “sweat the small stuff” and to laugh as much as possible.
Michele is in remission, which means that tests, physical exams, and all signs of cancers are gone. She continues to visit her doctor every three months to ensure that it has not returned. As long as Michele continues receiving a clean bill of health from her doctor, in July of 2019, she will officially be considered cured. Michele really wants women to know how important breast cancer early detection is through self-exams and mammograms. For those who are currently undergoing breast cancer she says, “Don’t ever stop fighting." -454
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