CHCWM – Cancer & Hematology Centers of West Michigan

Theresa’s Story: Mother, Teacher, Survivor

West Michigan Teacher, Mother, and small business owner Theresa Orr, 33, is on a mission to spread the word on the importance of advocating for your health.

In the spring of 2021, Theresa felt her body was feeling off. Being a mother of two young children, Liam (5) and Evelyn (3), a wife to her husband Anthony, and a Pre-K Teacher, she felt she couldn’t keep up with her day to day. “I was so tired and my lymph nodes near my armpit were swollen. I was in so much pain but still breastfeeding my daughter at the time. People assumed my pain was to do with nursing.”

Despite seeking evaluation and treatment for her symptoms, her gut kept telling her something was wrong. In response to these unsettled feelings, she requested to have further testing, specifically a mammogram and ultrasound. Her persistence for testing ultimately led to a breast cancer diagnosis and a referral to Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan where a Stage IIA Breast cancer was confirmed.

“The number one thing you think about is your kids. I want to see them grow up; I want to grow old with my husband.”

When asked about the beginning stages of her treatment Theresa said, “I was scared and nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But when I showed up for my first appointment Dr. VanderWoude and the rest of my oncology team were there. They had a plan for me and that was something I felt finally good about. A plan to fight.”

While navigating the world of treatment, Theresa was able to keep up with some of her favorite hobbies. One being making jewelry.

“My Etsy business took off while in treatment! My creativity during that time saved me a lot and helped keep me busy to take my mind off cancer.” Kind Bug Creations (named after her daughter Evelyn nicknamed ‘Evy Bug’) has become Theresa’s hobby turned small business, crafted with handmade clay earrings for every occasion.

“Going through chemo it was empowering for me to wear fun earrings since I lost my hair. I remember when my husband shaved my head, I was worried about what my kids would think. I walked out of the room and my son said, ‘Hey Mom, I like your haircut!’”.

After several months of treatment and thousands of earrings handcrafted with care, Theresa’s focus shifted to survivorship. With a revitalized spirit for long term health and wellness she grew more committed to her goal of spreading awareness.

“I look back at my symptoms before my diagnosis and wonder what would have happened if I didn’t listen to my body. All I can say is, ‘thank you lymph nodes for swelling up!’. Cancer does not discriminate. I want people to know to advocate for themselves. Listen to your body. Be aware of changes. They can save your life when you listen.”

With treatment in her rearview mirror, Theresa looks forward to getting back into the simple pleasures in life. She states her perfect day is starting her morning with coffee and being active outside with her family.

“Sometimes I will hear my kids playing and wonder if there would be so much laughter if I wasn’t here. Would the house sound the same? And it’s a beautiful thing that I don’t have to have that thought anymore.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Information: Becky Byers, Marketing Coordinator (bbyers@chcwm.com, 616-389-1712)

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