DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Imagine waking up to a typical day, only to find out your entire life was about to change after one simple doctor’s appointment.
For Staff Sgt. Danielle Galich, 40th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules loadmaster, this became a reality upon learning she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 34 years old in September 2016.
At first, Danielle thought nothing of the small lump she noticed forming on her left breast. When she decided to finally be seen by a doctor she received dreadful news.
“When the results came back I was very shocked to learn that I had breast cancer,” said Danielle. “I had no knowledge of anyone in my family having cancer.”
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells which develop into a malignant tumor. Although it develops in primarily women, men also have a slight risk since they have a small amount of breast tissue.
There are many types of treatment options available such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapies.
Danielle’s treatment plan consisted of six different rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor, 33 rounds of radiation therapy and hormonal therapy afterwards. Each chemotherapy round lasted between six and nine hours.
One of the most noticeable side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss, so some of her friends helped cut her hair short prior to the treatment
“It was very shocking when I started to lose my hair in large clumps,” said Danielle. “I used to have very long hair so when I lost my hair like that, I felt like I was losing a part of myself.”
Because chemo attacks fast growing cells, her hair wasn’t the only part of her body that was effected by the treatment.
“Eventually towards the end of the chemotherapy, my nails began to blacken to the point where I had to wrap Band-Aids around them so that they wouldn’t fall off,” explained Danielle.
Danielle mentioned that she helped herself get through each day by telling herself the next day would be better. She also imagined the times she was able to fly and kept fighting the cancer everyday so that she could one day go back to doing what she loved.
As Danielle went through a very tough time in her life many people supported her during her treatments. This comforted her and showed her that she wasn’t alone.
“My family drove down to see me, which made me really happy,” she said. “Squadron members, my friends and community were also very supportive. They would sit with me during treatments, keep me company at my house and send me cards.”
Patricia Galich, Danielle’s mother, said when she was informed of Danielle’s newly diagnosed aggressive stage three breast cancer, her initial thought was fear of Danielle’s prognosis.
“Over the year I watched Danielle rise and conquer the illness while growing strength everyday as she learned from these experiences,” said Patricia.
Danielle entered remission in March 2017. Her medical records were reviewed to determine whether or not she could continue serving.
Danielle celebrated one year of being cancer free this year. Shortly after, she was approved by a medical evaluation board to fly again and is now preparing for a deployment.
“I absolutely feel like I came back stronger after my experience,” said Danielle. “I have even more respect for those who have cancer now after going through what they are experiencing.”
During the middle of her battle, Danielle was told a quote by a friend that helped her through tough times, ‘the same boiling water that softens a potato, hardens an egg. It’s about what you’re made of, not the circumstances.
“I took that to heart because it’s true, and it doesn’t have to be cancer you are going through, it can be a hard day or a few hard years,” said Danielle. “There are things you can’t control, but how you react to it and overcome it, is what you can control. I chose to come out stronger.”
For more information about breast cancer, treatment options and how to lower risks, visit the website https://www.breastcancer.org.