Mornings with Mayesh: Breast Cancer Advocate, Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD

Mornings with Mayesh: Breast Cancer Advocate, Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I sat down for an interview with Brooke Raulerson AIFD, CFD, a floral designer who is battling breast cancer. Brooke bravely shares her journey and emphasizes the importance of self-advocacy and support. She discusses her experience with doctors and the need to push for answers and second opinions. The heartbreaking fact is that if it weren't for Brooke's tenacity and determination to get answers, she may not have been around to share her story!! Brooke also highlights the overwhelming support she has received from her family, friends, and clients. She talks about staying positive and relying on her faith during this challenging time. Brooke encourages others to share their stories and not settle for inadequate answers when it comes to their health. I hope that you listen to the entire interview and share it with your friends and family - we can all learn from Brooke's story!

Below are the podcast, video replay, links, and transcript:




Breast Cancer Links:

Connect with Brooke:

P.S. Mayesh worked with many of our vendors to donate pink flowers for the month of October. You will find these flowers with a pink banner in our Miami Direct BoxLots and we will be donating 100% of the proceeds to charity. Last year we raised over $21,000 and we need your help to beat that number this year! Click here to shop & support


Yvonne Ashton (00:00):

Welcome to Mornings with Mayesh! October has arrived and with it comes an abundance of pink symbolizing our collective support for breast cancer awareness month. I am truly honored to have my very special guest, Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD on today's show. She's based in northern Florida, and Brooke is not only a talented floral designer, but also a passionate champion for self-advocacy and is here to share her inspiring journey as she battles breast cancer and our predominantly female community, where 88% of our Instagram followers are female. Her story holds immense importance and serves as a powerful reminder of resilience and determination. So I'm going to give everyone a couple minutes to come on in. Of course, say hello to us. I always love that. And a reminder to post any of your questions in the comments below, we'll cover them as time permits. Also wanted to make sure that you guys are aware that we do have a very special campaign happening that launched with October.


You'll see a lot of our team members wearing this pink shirt that I have. You can't see it all, and I don't want to push up on my chair, but it just says "in October we wear pink". And that's just to remind all of our customers that we work with that so many of our amazing generous vendors, they donated a whole lot of product for every week. And pink flowers of course, and all of those proceeds for all of those pink flowers will be going to breast cancer charities. Last year we raised over $21,000, and obviously this year I would love to beat that number. So after this show, I hope that you go and check it out. You can go to, and I just wanted to, again, make sure that you're aware of that, share that with your flower friends. I am going to bring on Brooke. Hey Brooke.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (02:10):

Hey, how are you?

Yvonne Ashton (02:12):

I am so good. How are you doing today?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (02:14):

I'm doing great. Fabulous actually. So I'm so excited and I want to thank you for having me here to kind of speak my mind and tell people what I'm going through. I really appreciate it.

Yvonne Ashton (02:27):

Of course. I know when my team and I were talking about this, I've been following your story on Facebook. We are Facebook friends, and I was like, I really hope that this special person is going to want to come on and share her story. I think this is really important and super powerful for people to just hear stories and learn from your journey. So before we do get started, and just for anyone who might not know who you are, can you introduce yourself, share a little bit about your flower story and also share about your breast cancer journey?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (03:06):

So originally my flower shop or floral journey started as a baby. Actually, my mother worked in a flower shop in New Orleans, Louisiana where I was born. And when she went to work, she brought me to my first public place, which was a flower shop, and the owner of that flower shop was not a designer. So my mom was a designer and the owner would walk me around the shop and kind of exposed me to everything. So I have very familiar recollection of those scents and all of the activity around the flower shop from that place until, I guess I was about eighth grade, my mom worked at different flower shops or hobby stores throughout her life. And so we were always doing crafts and flower arrangements at home and stuff like that, that she would bring projects home or whatever. In about, I guess it was 1996, she decided to, she was the church secretary and she decided that she wanted to go back to the floral industry.


And so my dad bought her a little flower shop to play in, and it quickly began to grow and grow more and more to the point that I guess about nine years later, she decided that she was kind of done with the floral industry. She wanted to move on with something else. She still is an AI f d designer and got her accreditation. But one of the times that we kind of were in competitions all through my career and we competed together for Florida State Designer of the year, and I believe she came in fifth and I came in fourth and the next day she was putting the shop up for sale. Oh my goodness. She was like, okay, I've had it. This is enough for me. She did get burned out a little bit with the bride's mothers at that time and age. It was more of the bride's mothers.


So she was ready to go and my husband and I had just gotten married, and a couple of years later we decided that we wanted to buy the flower shop and we did. So I was 23 years old, 24 years old when we bought the flower shop, and about a year later I was pregnant with my first child and I was determined to be able to run a business and do family at the same time. So my daughter is now, she'll be 17 in October, and I decided I would raise each one of my kids in that flower shop for at least a year. And so they were exposed to customers and glitter. I remember my grandmother telling me, that's a shame that your child is coming home with glitter in their diaper. I love it. I loved it. It was the best thing about it.


So I actually have four kids. One of 'em is my only daughter is going to turn 17 in October. My son is going to be 14 next February. And my next son, we decided to start over. We really wanted three kids owning a small business. We had to decide that when was the best time to have those children, and we decided the recession was the best time because business was slow. It wasn't running us anymore. So we decided to have a third child and he is now five. And then we realized that we were older parents and he needed a buddy, so we decided to have another one. He's now three. My children are Kansas, Maine is my first boy. My next child is Alaska and my next boy, so all the three boys, and then Dakota is my youngest one. And so we stuck with the states and they have been exposed to plants and flowers, and it's been an amazing journey along the way.


We own a upscale flower shop in Amelia Island, Florida. We do things we call a kind of cau flower shop, flower shop on steroids. And basically we do fresh flowers, we do events, we do weddings, but we also do a very large Christmas business and we do landscape design as well and landscape installations. We don't do maintenance or anything like that, no mowing the grass, but we do the design of it, which I found to be very similar to floral design. When you have principles and elements of design and they apply to all types of design, I found that it's just a larger scale of doing an arrangement. You're positioning textures and colors and looking at the home. And it's just been an amazing avenue for us, and it has been very successful. We don't advertise it and we still get constant business from it.


And then our fresh flower sides, we aim towards the higher end, the upscale, just because I like to make sure that every customer that receives an arrangement, they've either never seen those flowers before or they've designed them in a way that is against everybody else's style or different from everybody else's style. So most of our business has always been decided on by what our customers want, and we have a God-given talent here and we like to use it to the best of our ability. And that's when I know that I am going down a path that is going to be right with my soul. And my faith is when I have that push to do something that might be out of my comfort zone. And I've always had the faith to know that if that door is open, I'm going to head down that way.


And so we have developed a business that is very different from most flower shops, and we are actually in a 5,200 square foot warehouse. Wow. The showroom floor goes from the front all the way to the back. There's a 20 by 20 floral cooler in the back of the shop, and all of the offices are exposed to the showroom. I wanted something different from the normal flower shop, which was always behind the wall. All the magic happens behind the wall. And my mentor told me one time, she's like, isn't that a shame that they do not know that they come in and ask for a dozen roses or an arrangement and you go behind the wall and you make it as quickly as you possibly can? And they come out and they just think it magically appeared. And I thought about that for a long time and I thought, you know what?


I'm done with the wall, and this is not the wizard of odds. We're not hiding the magic behind the curtain. We are going to knock down the walls and we're going to show them. And so that was the biggest thing when we moved into this warehouse is the customers would come in, the designers could do everything right in front of them, and they get to see how quickly and how talented we are. And there's no walls. And it is been tremendous. I think guys in our business, the guy clients, the male clients loved coming into a garage because that's basically what it was, and they thought they felt so comfortable coming into a warehouse. We have dressed it up immensely, so there's beautiful crystal chandeliers. We sell lighting, we sell furniture. We have big glass roll up doors that have helped us a lot with our business as well.


But then everything takes a turn. And I was on a business trip January of this year and having four kids, I was very familiar with what mastitis feels like. And so I felt a lump in my breast that felt very much like mastitis, and it was painful certain times of the month, and I was concerned about it. So I wanted to make sure that I got into my doctor's appointment immediately. So what I did was go to the imaging center by myself and ordered my own image for a mammogram at that time. And they asked which doctor ordered it, and I just told them the name of my doctor, even though my doctor, I could not get into my appointment at that time with the doctor. It was a couple weeks down the road, but I wanted to make sure that I had everything in line by the time that I went in to see my doctor.


So I got the imaging, told them to send it to that doctor. I got my appointment in when I came to the doctor's appointment. So I found this grape size lump in January. I didn't get into the doctor's appointment until after Valentine's Day. I remember distinctly telling them I needed the quickest appointment after Valentine's Day. It was the end of January, I found a lump. So I knew I had Valentine Prep, and this is what florist do because I even planned my last three kids around Valentine's or summertime or whatever. So I decided that this was what I was going to be ready. And so the Tuesday, Wednesday, after Valentine's Day this year, I went into get my breast exam, and it was the size of an Oreo cookie at that time. And that's how I described it to the doctor, that it was an Oreo cookie.


And they were kind of giggling about this, like, Brooke, why in the world are you calling this something like a food group? And I was like, I have four kids. Everybody knows you're in pregnancy. You describe your baby as whatever, fruit, plum, grape, mango, melon, whatever. So I just assumed that that was the same thing. And so I just said, but it was flat and on most sides so I could pull it away from my breast and feel that. So it was about the size of Oreo cookie. And so she did a breast exam and she felt the lump and she said, I don't think you have breast cancer. I think everything's fine. Maybe it's just a thickening of the skin or underneath it, and I'll look at those test results and get back with you. And I was kind of astonished that the imaging had not sent over the test results yet.


So I sat there in the office a little bit waiting on the test results. They didn't get it back. She called me later on that day and she said, she's got the test results back and nothing showed up on the mammogram. And so I said, okay, well, my mind went to Google, figure it out. Why in the world do I have this mass in my breast? What is it? What is going on? And so my mind was constantly racing, but I had a specific employee here at the shop that kept saying, that's not right. You should get a second opinion. My mom was telling me, that's not right. You should get a second opinion. And for some reason, I kept waking up at the same time every night in the middle of the night to the minute waking up and feeling like, who's waking me up?


What is going on? And it just kept happening over and over again. I was uneasy feeling. So of course, by the time I'm ready to go to my second opinion about this, it was Mother's Day and this was May. And so I went in right before Mother's Day, before our Mother's day prep, and I went to see a second, second opinion gynecologist, and she felt the mass and told me that it was serious that I needed another mammogram and another ultrasound. When I went into the mammogram and ultrasound, which was, believe it or not, I did take the next available appointment, which happened to be after Mother's Day, but I don't know what I would've said if it was during Mother's Day. It was just a blessing that it was after Mother's Day and I was calmer, of course. So I took the first available appointment after Mother's Day, and I went in to get another mammogram and ultrasound at St.


Vincent's Hospital Breast Center that's in the hospital. And the technicians that you have to take your breast and place it up on a plate and they squeeze it like a pancake hurts like none other. They all felt it. And they said, oh, I'm so sorry. I hate that you are going through this. We will figure this out. But then when my husband came into the consultation room with the radiologist, she walks in and she says, good news, you don't have breast cancer. Everything is fine. Nothing showed up on the mammogram or ultrasound. And my husband said, then what is that pointed to my breast? And I said, yes, here I can hand it to you and I could pull it away from, because I have dense breasts, which is, I mean, I've never met anybody that doesn't have dense breast. Breast. Yeah,

Yvonne Ashton (16:38):

I do. My mom does. I have so many friends that do. And when you go in, it makes you nervous, right? Like, we got to do this and we got to look at that. And yeah, you're practically crying and you don't even know if anything is right or wrong because they're like, you have dense tisue and we don't know what that is.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (16:58):

So I asked them, I was like, here, I'll hand it to you because it's that large now. And she said, this is a radiologist. And she said, do you mind if I do a breast exam? I'm like, by all means, I think this is the problem because the radiologists are looking at the test results and they're not doing the breast exams. And so they're looking on a test result that it's not showing up for. And they're looking for one specific type of breast cancer, which is ductal carcinoma. And ductal carcinoma is a very tiny little beaded lump type breast cancer. And when she did the breast exam, she's like, I'm not really sure what that is, but I would describe the mass as a plumb. And so remember I said in February, the end of February, it was the Oreo cookie in May, it was the size of a plumb.


It had grown past my nipple because on one side it was one side of it, and then it had grown past and it was actually pulling, inverting my nipple into my body. And so I had this squared off look to my body, my breast. And so when I would lean over, I could feel it, I could see it lumping out. And she described it as a plum, and she changed her findings on that result. And she said nothing showed up on the test results, the mammogram, ultrasound, nothing at all. Wow. She described, she told me that I needed to see a surgeon, oncologist, and so the next day she said she was going to refer me. That day I didn't get a phone call. I called the doctor's office. I called the gynecologist, I called the radiologist. I called and said, where are you referring me to?


I need to get in the calendar as soon as possible. And they said, okay, well, we'll give you a call back. But they're really busy because they're either in surgery, they only have certain office visits. I said, I will take the next available appointment. Being in that, I'm in Amelia Island, which is about 45 minutes to an hour northeast of Jacksonville. It's very difficult to plan around these doctor's appointments. Everything is going to be in Jacksonville. And they called me within a couple hours, and it's funny because I was doing, at the time, I was on somebody's property doing a ladybug release on the property because they were a pesticide free property and we were trying to get rid of newly bugs on their property. And so we were doing a 2000 ladybug release and we were setting up honeybees on their property with another vendor for pesticide free sustainability of their plants and their landscape.


And they called and told me that they had an appointment that I had to be there within the hour. And I dropped everything. And I said, okay, I'm on my way. I talked to my staff, I said, I'm gone. I talked to my husband, I said, good luck with the kids. I'm out of here. And I left at that moment to go to the surgeon's office where he did a breast exam. And up until this point, I had no clue what this was. And none of the doctors knew. None of the radiologists knew. They just told me that they didn't know what it was because it was odd. It was an odd shape. And so I asked him if he had ever seen this before and he said, yeah, I've seen this before, but I'm not going to jump to conclusions about what it is.


We need to do a biopsy as soon as possible. How about next week? And I said, how about tomorrow? Right now? Tomorrow? And he said, well, your self-pay, you don't have insurance. And I said, and I'm perfectly fine with that. There's a reason why I am self-pay. I will pay out of pocket to get this done. He said, well, I really want you to be on insurance. I said, well, I am fully responsible for my medical expense, and I understand we have avenues of paying for whatever surgeries we need or whatever. Give me a number. What do you think it's going to cost? And he said, I'm not sure what this is exactly going to cost, and I know that you're going to be able to do the surgical biopsy. I understand that after that I want you to get insurance. And I told 'em to go ahead do it, and I would get insurance until in the meantime.


So I started the process, but I knew at that moment that this was not a going to be a good situation. And they actually called the hospital and got me in the very next morning at 7:00 AM This was four o'clock the night before that. They called the hospital, got me in at 7:00 AM and I was in the hospital doing a surgical biopsy for eight hours. He said it was so hard in calcified that he could not cut through it with a scalpel. He had to use scissors to really cut through it. And that was on a Friday. On Tuesday, the next week I was in the same client's house on the same client property. And they called me and I sat down in the grass and just stared out at all of our beautiful landscape work and looked up at the trees while they told me that I had stage three invasive lobular carcinoma.


And that is a type of cancer. It's actually rare, but it's the second most popular. So the most popular one is the ductal carcinoma where you have really small lumps of everything. Invasive lobular carcinoma is more like a spider web kind of stretched out lump. It does not show up well on the mammograms or ultrasounds, and the only way to really identify it is through a breast exam or M R I. And so it didn't show up very well. And so that's the reason why that I had gone so many places. If I had not had pushed over and over again, the surgeon said that I would not be coming, I wouldn't be here. The first gynecologist that told me that she didn't see anything and she didn't know what the breast exam, what the lump was, told me to come back in a year.


And every time somebody told me these answers, I was not satisfied with it. It was just not something that I couldn't feel it. I didn't feel like I was, not that I wasn't being heard, but that they just didn't know enough. And I'm always one that's just like, I'm going to dig deep into this. I'm going to research this. I'm going to figure it out. And I just kept thinking like, no, I don't like that answer. No, I don't like that answer. And my husband kept saying, aren't you satisfied that? Aren't you happy that they didn't find anything? And I'm like, no. And I'll tell you why. Because they haven't found out what it is yet. They just don't know yet. And I just kept pushing over and over again

Yvonne Ashton (24:16):

In your research, Brooke, when you were doing your own research and being Dr. Google. Right. I feel like a lot of us do that, right?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (24:24):

Yeah. And they tell you not to do that.

Yvonne Ashton (24:26):

Yeah, but they tell you not to do it, but I'm with you. There's some times where the doctors don't have the answers. And I went through something with my daughter, totally different, but everyone's like, she doesn't fit in a box. We don't know what's wrong with her. I went to an oncologist and a pediatrician and everything else in between, you can imagine. So I was just like, I need answers. This is not right. This is not normal. You keep on telling me we are not sure, but I'm not satisfied with that. So I did the doctor Google thing and tried to figure it out. It didn't help me. But did it help you? What type of cancer that you do have? Did that kind of come across in your research or anything like that where you're like, I think this might be what I have, or it was just this one doctor was like, I know what this is.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (25:15):

It's the one surgeon that really definitely identified it by doing the biopsy. And I think I have a condition called vasovagal syncope, which I pass out if I'm dehydrated or if I cut my finger or if there's any type of shots or anything like that. So I was really scared to death of the biopsy. But that's the one thing that I know now that I should have pushed. I want it to be biopsied. I want it to be biopsied. I had a surgical biopsy because my mass was, you can't find it. He was just kind of hidden. So they needed to do a surgical biopsy. But the other biopsies where they do aspiration and they do it with a needle, and I was really scared of that. I didn't want to because I heard that it was so painful. But looking back now and what I've gone through, if I had to do it back again, I would've definitely demanded to do a biopsy.


Dr. Google, I went down rabbit holes that I just found out so much information. I honestly did not know there was different types of breast cancer. And I think that's the thing that is more for breast cancer awareness than anything. I've kind of giggled since I've been diagnosed with this because I said breast cancer is making sure the doctors are aware you have breast cancer and that's breast cancer awareness. But really it's more about not so much I think is yes, you need to do your breast exams, you need to do your self checks, you need to keep on top of your mammograms, but it's also, there should be no age limit to what we're checking out. Every woman at every age should be going in there and demanding a breast exam. And that was the issue that I had a lot with a lot of the doctors because they looked at me and they said, you're 42 years old and at the time just turned 42 in January, you've had four kids and you've breastfed for kids. I'm a non-smoker. I don't drink. I eat healthy, I'm active. Of course, if anybody knows a flower shop, you're active and you get your steps in. That's for sure. Exactly. And that was the thing that a lot of people looked at and just said, well, you look fine. You don't look unhealthy. And I think there was also things that I didn't realize that why they were asking me those questions. Did I have family history? And I was like, no.


Are you tested for the BRCA gene one and two? And I tested negative. No. And so there's a lot of things that I found out of the reason why those questions were asked. First of all, when they look at you eating a clean diet or healthy diet, sugar feeds cancer. So it only takes one cell to reproduce the wrong way. And the more sugar that you produce in your body, the faster that cancer is going to grow. So that is scientifically proven that sugar is feeding your cancer or any type of, it just is not very good. But what we didn't know is that there's so much, it's not just added sugar into your foods. It was actually sugar that has been injected into our foods because it makes it more palatable. So even our fruits in the grocery store have been produced to be more sweet to us.


I noticed that a while back that even sweet tea is now even more sugary than it was before. And being in the south, we drink sweet tea. So now I'm asking for half and half tea just to get it to you what it used to be. And so that is really the part about the diet as far as breastfeeding your children that was supposed to reduce the rest. So I did get lots of points for breastfeeding my children, all four of them for at least a year. So every time I did tell them that my probability went down drastically because of that. The reason why they're asking me about my pregnancies and how many births I had, how many children I have is because most breast cancers are hormone fed. And so that's estrogen and progesterone positive breast cancer, which is a good of it if they're hormone fed. Your body is continuously producing hormones from the time you are conceived until your death. And so your body, and actually it cuts back when you go through menopause, but your body is producing and not only is your body producing it, but you're also eating hormones as well. So we are getting estrogen in a lot of our foods nowadays.


That's one of the reasons why I started eating grass fed, grass finished meat. That's a huge part of it as well. There's a difference between just eating grass fed and grass fed, grass finished. And so a lot of that, I started looking into it. I used to, and then the hormones that are going into your body, because I had four kids, there was an interruption in those hormones with those births and breastfeeding. And so what I found out was if you were having children later in life, your body is getting those hormones without any interruption until the moment that you have your child. Or if you don't have children or you have children later, that's constant hormone fed into your body. And so your risks do increase with that, and that's why they look at how many kids you've had. And if you've breastfed smoking and alcohol use, also alcohol use does also hurt the situation with cancer.


What I found through my journey is because I wasn't a smoker or a drinker, that it was easier for me to recover. And that's what when I had my first chemo treatment, I got pink eye after my first chemo treatment, they put me on antibiotics, I healed up instantly. It was very quick within a couple of days. My second chemo treatment, there's a period between seven and 14 days after chemo. It's called the Nader period. During that Nader period is when your white blood cells are the lowest in your immune system is very compromised. And the second time around for my chemo treatment, I got an upper respiratory infection and acute sinusitis. And so I had to go on antibiotics again to fight that. But my body recovered fairly quickly. The last chemo treatment, I was in the I C U for diverticulitis with a severe preparation.


And with that, I was able to overcome that infection and what the doctors were describing as ridiculous amount of inflammation and they needed to do emergency surgery by the end of that week, and they didn't know I was going to be able to do that. And I actually, not only by the grace of God able to heal that, I was able to come out of that I c U room with no surgery with a huge blessing of being able to go home. And they even told me at that time that I would probably get an infection within the next week. So they sent me home with more antibiotics and I did not get an infection at all and have decorated three Christmas trees.


The funny story is when we were going to be released from the hospital, my husband was sitting right there and I was being released. His question was, so what should we expect with her energy level out of this and what should she be doing or not limiting herself to? And he said, well, as long as she feels okay, she can do whatever she wants to, but just kind of act like she's had surgery. Just kind of keep it easy. And he said, so what height ladder does that entail her to climb? Is that like a step stool or should that be six feet? And he just kind of looked at me like, what we got to do Christmas, we got to set it up. And so they canceled the last chemo treatment, and I'm not going into that. I had a left mastectomy in June and they found cancer in the lymph nodes.


And I moved from one hospital to a second opinion hospital. My second opinion was MD Anderson, and that's where I had been treating, been treated since July, which hands down, whether you go to Mayo or your hospital or MD Anderson or whoever you go to, the main thing is to feel comfortable with their prognosis. And that's when I went from one place that they said they were not going to do more surgery after they did the mastectomy and they were going to do five years of hormone blockers, and I was just going to go straight into radiation. I had done enough research on my own to realize that I wasn't satisfied with that answer. And I told my husband, if they don't do more surgery to remove more lymph nodes, that I'm going to move to a different treatment center, a different doctor. And with that answer, I got the answer.


I did not fight them on it. I said, thank you so much. And I instantly called MD Anderson and got in very quickly. The way I kind of decided whether I wanted to go with Mayo or MD Anderson was based on the information I gave them and how quickly they could react to that information. So at the time I was and still am, the estrogen progesterone positive I was HER two negative, which is her two positive. HER two negative makes a huge difference in your breast cancer prognosis. I encourage people to look that up, but for the sake of time, I won't get into that part of it. So you also have could be estrogen negative and it's called triple negative or triple positive breast cancer. You have ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma. Both of them could be invasive or it could be in situ two, which is inside of the confined into the vein. So there is a lot of different types of cancer, and I'm not even hitting all of them. You can also have inflammatory breast cancer.


There is quite a few. And one of the people, one of my friends that had breast cancer who has kind of given me some advice through this has said at first you're going to hear this and it's offensive, but it's so true is that you don't get it until you get it. And that could not be more true than anything. It has been tremendous journey not only pushing for answers, but also doing a little research. When I hear a term and I listen to the doctors give me some information that I go back and I research it and I look at multiple different sites. And MD Anderson has a great website. American Cancer Society has a great website, Susan G Komen has a great website to get all of that information. And I compare websites to websites. There is a tremendous amount of information from every hospital out there.


And I just keep looking into that to make sure that I agree with what the doctors are saying. Not that I have a medical degree at all, but I think it's your duty to take care of your body. And it's my duty to take care of my family, and I am here for my one earthly job is to be a mom, and that's my God-given job to hear, and I'm going to make sure that I do it as the best of my ability and it's to be present. And that's what I really needed to do, is to look at the information and make sure that they're not missing anything or that I can ask the right questions when I get into that doctor's appointment.

Yvonne Ashton (37:46):

So I feel like you went extensively into how you advocated for yourself when you were trying to figure out your diagnosis and what was going on while that was happening. Brooke, besides the mass, did you feel any different? Did you just feel like yourself or you even just a little bit more tired or was there anything?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (38:08):

There was nothing. Nothing. And they all asked me those questions. Every one of them asked me, do you feel tired? Is there any dimpling? Did you have any bleeding? Have you lost weight? Have you gained weight? Is there any pain? I had the pain, but it was just very temporary. It's right around my menstrual cycle that I would have that pain. But other than that, I can move the whole thing around, jog, jump, whatever. There was really nothing at all, which were all the things that they were looking for. And I just kept saying, but I have this mass and yeah, my type of cancer is the best way to describe it. It's kind of like taking a clear glass vase and as florist, you can appreciate this analogy and putting clear marbles in it and filling out with water and trying to look through the glass to see the marbles, you can't see it. And that's why it didn't show up on this test. The only way you can actually know that marbles are in that basis by sticking your hand in there and feeling it. And that's what everybody that did the breast exam would feel it, but when they didn't have answers, I would just go to the next person and then keep going.

Yvonne Ashton (39:28):

And then once you had your diagnosis, obviously you mentioned how they gave you an answer of how to deal with everything and that's when you moved. So did you have help figuring out, I know you said you did your own research, but is your family kind of help you do research? Are you doing this all on your own? How does that work? And also, I feel like this is also very overwhelming, right? Extreme. Did you have a notebook, a file? How do you keep all of this straight? I know when just speaking with my mom and she was diagnosed, I actually had to get out my notes that I use for work. And it was just taking notes so that way I could look up things and understand what she's even saying to me because there's all these new words that you're learning while you're trying to figure out what's wrong with you.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (40:18):

Absolutely. And every conversation that I had with a doctor, I made notes usually on the back of a electricity bill envelope or something like that. So I'm constantly making notes, sticky notes, notebook. I have a notebook of all the information as soon as, and I always have a notebook in my purse and or in the car or whatever. So anytime they called me with more test results, I would drop down that information and then just look for it. I have to say that in the beginning, it's so overwhelming. Not knowing is the worst part about cancer is not knowing. Once I knew and once I knew the path and once I'm into it, I was so much more at ease, but the waiting on the test results was excruciating. It was a week to 14 days in between each test result and the answers. And they would just tell me like, okay, the results are going to be here in two weeks or it would be 24 hours.


They would tell me, and I would give them 23 hours and 58 minutes before I was on the phone calling them about those test results. And I would give them their full, they told me three days I would give them up until that third day. And then I would call in and ask them about the test results and then they would say, these results were going to be in here in a week. I would give them their one week mark and then I would call in and get those test results. And as business owners, we know how we could sometimes have very nagging customers that were just like, oh, I told you it'd be two weeks and you're calling me every day. So I didn't want to be that customer. And I think us being business owners and being in the industry, we can be better customers ourselves, better clients and better patients.


But I did my research and would, when they told me two weeks, I would call in two weeks and they started to see a downturn in my attitude at the beginning because I was really getting overwhelmed. The surgery was very difficult, and I just felt like I was continuously falling off a cliff. I physically felt like I was falling constantly and the anxiety was really getting to me. So they did prescribe an anxiety medicine to me to kind of help with that. It did help tremendously, and I have never been one to be on any anxiety medicine or even I ideal internally with anxiety and stress, which is also an issue with breast cancer. With any cancer, I know that your body goes through a tremendous amount of stress, usually traumatic stresses that I've noticed that a lot of people is involved in a lot of people's stories about cancer.


And so this was a stressful period in my life, and I knew that I needed a little help from something that would calm my nerves with all the information that was being thrown at me. But it's a easy way to just write everything down and then revisit it and then go back with questions. And every time we have questions, we would discuss it. My husband and I would discuss the questions or we would look it up or we would write it down to ask our doctor again. And so that was the hardest part about it was in the beginning, I have to say that chemo affected me differently than a lot of people. I did not have a lot of problems with chemo. It did not make me nauseous. It did not change my appetite. I actually gained 10 pounds. What they were excited about, because you have to be on a high protein diet to kind of allow your body to heal and to fight off any type of infection.


So I was eating a lot of protein and still am eating a lot of protein. And so they were excited about the weight gain that I had. And so pain from chemo, I had a lot of fatigue about 48 hours after my infusion. And other than that, besides those illnesses that kept me out of the shop, I was walking, going on chores with daughter or going into run errands with her or whatever. I did avoid restaurants and large crowds, which was kind of difficult with four kids. But considering that I went through three treatments of chemo, 21 days apart with four kids coming into my household from four different schools. So we have high school, middle school, kindergarten and daycare, and they're all, whatever that school had at that moment, whatever outbreak they had, they're bringing it into our household and they come in and hugging mommy.


So I'm being exposed to a lot considering that I have been super blessed to not get anything worse than what I did. And the doctors were amazed, absolutely amazed by my blood counts and my lab count, my lab numbers about how I was able to heal. But that is from being for so many years, is having a healthy lifestyle maybe not prevent you from having cancer, but it would help you in the treatment of it. And so I know exercise is a big thing and I am not good with exercise, but I know that that would be my one downfall when they say, how much do you exercise a week? I'm like, I jump over five gallon buckets all the time.

Yvonne Ashton (45:56):

You're active though. Yeah, it's not just about the exercise, it's how active,

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (46:01):

Yes, I can lift a hundred sunflowers in one bucket and to put it in the cooler. So that to me is exercise.

Yvonne Ashton (46:10):

You mentioned a little bit about that you needed some help with anxiety, but can you talk a little bit more about maybe some support systems and things like that with whether it's family, friends, support groups, anything like that that you might've been involved with your journey so far?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (46:28):

I think my staff has been tremendous at kind of pushing and helping run things when I'm not here because I have missed a lot of work between surgical biopsy, mastectomy, nine hour chemo infusions, doctor's visits, doctor's visits are for every one that I go to, I get 10 more, five more, five to 10 more assigned to me test. I mean, these are all things that take, it might be an hour long bone scan or bone injection, but you have to prep your body, you have to go through so much. The doctors were tremendous. My family has been tremendous. But I'll tell you one thing that really shocked me, and my church group has helped a lot, but my clients and customers, I can't even explain to you how much support we have gotten from our customers. And I'm talking tremendous, tremendous support, not let me know if you need anything.


It's like bringing in meals, some of them two meals a day, some of them are signing up for three or four meals, and some of them, they're sending us gift cards to help us go grocery shopping, to pay for gas, to help with medical expenses, to checks being rent to us just here, we're helping you. I cannot, I have been so blessed by our clients and our customers. Our clients have been there for us so much. And even in the shop where they come in and they're like, here's my number. If you need a delivery driver that day, please let us know.


If you need us to pick up your children, let us know. Even I have to go through six weeks of radiation after my last surgery, hopefully my last surgery, November 3rd is going to be where they do the lymph node dissection and connect my lymphatic system next to my veins to reconnect. This is all numb and there's more lymph nodes in here, so they're going to take out more. But even with the six weeks of radiation, that's every day for five days a week, every day for six weeks. And I have had every friend customer church member asked me, what day do you want me to take you to Jacksonville to do this? And the emotional support that my customers text me. I'm really open on Facebook. I want to be out there to let people know the tremendous floral community that has sent me their prayers and just prayed over me and told me their exact words and have given me virtual hugs and sent me just text messages have been so beautiful. And I'm just so overwhelmed with gratitude from every one of them. And it's a lot of support from everyone. That's amazing. I know it's kind of hard to talk to somebody with cancer, especially though they look like this.

Yvonne Ashton (49:56):

You look beautiful. You have a beautiful shaped head,

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (50:04):

Honestly, I started out with some people sent me some wigs, a lot of people sent me some beautiful scarves, but I'm in Florida, so it's hot.

Yvonne Ashton (50:15):

It's so hot. And it's been so muggy and rainy too.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (50:19):

My children keep telling me, they're like, mom, we like you better without it because you look like a superhero or a video game character. We're just so excited. Can you beat a rock for Halloween?


We've had a lot of fun with it. And I think it's more like just your attitude about the whole thing is helpful. Even when those days that I think I'm going to Waller in some self-pity today because I just feel like I can, it is like, God just went, get up. Get out of here. You're blessed. You've got this. And I do feel that strength, and I feel my faith and just all of this emotional support from so many people that are just helping me get up and go, and I'm not going to sugarcoat this. There are times that I just crash when I get in my husband's truck at night when we're leaving the shop and I am thinking four kids and dinner and overwhelming response of doing homework and everything, and it is a lot. And I do crash. I feel energy drain out of my body. And you do have some pains and some can be emotional that you're like, oh, what is that? Oh, not sure. And then there's some that's just like, oh, look at this massive bruise on my arm. Okay, does it really hurt? I got to think about it for a while. No, it doesn't. Okay, let's go.

Yvonne Ashton (51:47):

Right. So I feel like you allow yourself to have those moments and just kind of maintaining that positive mindset I think is so, so important. And that's really great to hear you kind of share that. Is there anything else that you do in your mind to stay positive? Because it is, like you said, it is painful, it's draining, can be scary. So how do you stay positive?

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (52:21):

I think the biggest challenge with this was the "why me period".


And that's what everybody goes through is why me? And I go through and I'm like a little on the bitter side. In the beginning I was like, I don't smoke, I don't drink. I'm active. I immersed myself in business and I'm constantly go, go, go, go, go. And I just think about these things. And at first I was really bitter about it. And actually one of my events that I have coming up was Dr. David Jeremiah and his turning point is the name of his ministry. And they contacted me about flower arrangements. And I don't really get into a lot of my event customers. I don't tell them about breast cancer unless it comes up to we want to meet you or we want to see you, or we want to come in. Or I might say, well, I might be delayed a little bit.


I have a doctor's appointment or whatever. And so I didn't really tell them anything until they wanted to meet me at one of the chemo dates that they were going to be in town. And I did finally let them know that I would probably not be at the event because I would be undergoing another surgery and that I had breast cancer. And they sent me a card with the entire prayer team's messages and a book. And I've gotten lots of books and lots of advice from everyone. I've gotten beautiful books, great books, but this one book has helped me so much. And every time I'm in a doctor's appointment or I feel overwhelmed, I just keep reading this book over and over again. And because I am a person of faith, this speaks volumes to me and I am looking to my faith to say, why me, Lord?


Why is it? And one of the things that really, really spoke to me was this book that told me that God doesn't make you have cancer. He doesn't make you go through these things, but when you do, he's with you. And it is in our weakest moments because my body is weak, that his strength is shown through even stronger. And that has been so powerful to me to know that I am weak and I'm allowed to be weak, and I don't have to be the bionic woman. I don't have to be the superwoman. I am allowed to be weak because it is showing his strength through me. And that has helped me so much. But this book, and actually I'll show it to you, I hear it with me, but this book is when your world falls apart. And if you could, I've highlighted tons and tons of things in here, but it's a great book. And when this book was sent to me, it took away all fears. It took away all questions. And I believe everything happens for a reason, and I'm okay with it. I'm okay with every bit of this because I have that strong faith that's going to get me through. And that is my main support system, and I'm willing to share it with anyone. And I think that's what we all need to do, is when we have something that gets us through to not be scared to share it. And that's helped me the most.

Yvonne Ashton (55:52):

That's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. And Gabby Rose Flora on Instagram, she says, thank you for sharing your journey and praising God for your recovery, sending love your way and prayers for blessing to continue to follow you, your business and your family.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (56:07):

That's awesome. Thank you so much. Comments like that, they keep me going.

Yvonne Ashton (56:11):

Yeah. And honestly, I feel like just sharing your story, obviously how you're staying positive and your faith, I think that's amazing. But also, again, just sharing the story piece of it. Because like you were saying, people once they feel like something is wrong and they're trying to get the answers, maybe stumbling over an interview like this or your public posts that you're doing might be able to help someone. It might save their actual life. So again, I want to thank you, Brooke, so much for coming on today and sharing your story. And if you ever want to come on again, I know everyone would love to hear from you and just have, I know everyone's praying for you.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (56:58):

Well, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me too. I have a platform that I want to expose. I want to make sure that everybody realizes don't settle for those answers. Don't just assume that everybody else knows what's going on with your body. You know your body and don't settle for it.

Yvonne Ashton (57:25):

Yeah, I agree a hundred percent. And you know yourself the most, and you got to follow that intuition in your gut feeling. I believe that a hundred percent with all things. So again, thank you so much, Brooke, sending lots of hugs and love and positivity your way. And guys, thank you so much for joining us today. Whether you're watching live or the replay or listening to the podcast, I hope that you share this story with not just your flower friends this time with all of your friends and family, both female and male.

Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD (58:06):

Yes. Amen Amen.

Yvonne Ashton (58:08):

Yeah. It's really important. I know we talk about women a lot this month, but this does affect people of both genders and also it's important I think for men to hear these stories too, for the people in their lives as well, even if they're not affected by it. So again, thank you guys so much. I hope to see you soon, and I hope you have an amazing day. I'll talk to you soon. Thank you guys. Thank you.




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