“Your test results came back positive. You have breast cancer.”

These are the words that make your heart sink and your life flash before your eyes. And the words I heard back in 2009 at 39 years of age. I had only been married for two years when I found out, and one of the things that I first thought of (other than my life flashing before my eyes) was how is Rob, my husband, going to respond? I had once dated someone who told me he broke up with an ex because she got sick, and he was not the person to be with another who was seriously ill. So, I had to call Rob and tell him my doctor told me I had breast cancer with that in my mind. At the time, I was going to call him and tell him I had already made up my mind: I was strong, and I can do this myself if he chooses to leave because I’m sick. I was determined not to be bothered by him leaving (if he was going to) because I had enough to take care of now. At the end of that day, he stayed – literally by my bedside, and at times he would sit behind me in bed while I rested up against him so I could sleep.

I say all this to tell you that yes, I did my mammograms at that time (medically necessary for me at an early age). My breast cancer was only found because my OB-GYN thought I should get a mammogram done early. When I went for the mammogram, there were lots of spaghetti-like images but no indication of a lump or another sign – these string-like images, however, gave it away. Thank goodness for my OB-GYN because had she not talked me into getting a mammogram done early, my cancer stage would have been a lot worse. At the time of my diagnosis, I was determined to be at Stage 2 Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – not good news. It was very serious and, on the move, so something had to be done immediately. Within a couple of weeks, I had to have many surgeries, including a double mastectomy, and chemotherapy. And what’s the one thing we think of when we hear that word? “Chemotherapy” = hair loss. When I started my chemotherapy, Rob and I shaved my head; he shaved his, too. I made the choice to take my long, curly, dark hair myself. I was not going to give cancer the joy of taking my hair; I was going to take it on my own terms. I am now 10 years out from this diagnosis and couldn’t be happier.

Back in 2009-2010, the research for breast cancer was not as plentiful especially when you think of how far we’ve come. Now, in 2021, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation at https://www.bcrf.org/ and https://www.bcrf.org/progress states in regard to origins, genetics, and lifestyle:

“We have discovered that breast cancer is not one but many diseases.

It was BCRF researchers who found that breast cancer is, in fact, several diseases, each of which develops, progresses and responds to therapies differently. Our scientists are now learning that the major subtypes — Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2-positive and triple-negative — can be further classified into sub-categories with distinct patterns of progression and response to therapies, opening the door to more individualized treatment plans.

We are uncovering the role genetics plays in breast cancer.

BCRF has supported key players in advancing our understanding of the inheritable risk of breast cancer, from discoveries about BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to the creation of the world’s most comprehensive database of breast cancer genes. This new wealth of knowledge allows scientists to identify other gene mutations that may influence a person’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Our researchers have also made critical headway in understanding ancestry’s relationship to breast cancer by determining certain populations who are at greater risk and discovering novel inherited causes.

We’ve deepened our understanding of how lifestyle influences breast cancer risk.

Our researchers have demonstrated that certain lifestyle choices can influence incidence and recurrence. Thanks to their work, we have begun to understand how diet and exercise are linked to breast cancer risk and survival, how inflammation from obesity may trigger breast cancer development, and how a low-fat diet and weight loss can reduce the risk of recurrence. These important advances are helping people take command of their lives in ways that minimize their chances of getting not just breast cancer but other diseases as well.”

The BCRF article is a great read and is comforting to know how far we have come as it pertains to breast cancer. I recommend reading it to get a better understanding of the advances made and the lifestyle influences that can be linked to breast cancer. Back in 2009-2010, Rob had done his own research as far as the effects of diet and exercise on breast cancer because the doctors were of little help or assistance in that area. He was fantastic in his care of me and our new eating habits. We still to this day follow a regimen of eating healthy and exercising daily.

In closing, go get that check-up and check yourself for any abnormalities. Both women and men are susceptible to breast cancer so have your husband, father, brother, etc., check themselves as well.

Life is too short not to take all this seriously.

Stay safe and healthy, Angels.

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The Future of Connection for Women

Dawn Roberts

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