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All in the Family

Breast cancer ran in my family. I lost my mother when I was 19, and she was 40. I also lost my grandmother and great-grandmother, so it was no surprise when my gyn wanted me to be tested. I tested BRCA1 positive, and so began my journey at age 34. I had preventative surgery that included double mastectomies with delayed implant reconstruciton. I also had a complete hysterectomy. I was blessed that my insurance covered a large portion of my testing as well as my treatment. It was helpful in that my aunt (my mother's sister) also tested BRCA1 and went through this process at approxiamtely the same time. We were able to lean on each other and share our stories, which we found were very different even though the treatment plan was the same. We found that different facilities approach things differently. In any event, we both are well on the mend and made the right choice for us. I'm 36, and I am truly grateful for this test and the options presented to me. In this picture, I am sharing a moment with my great-aunt. I may not have my mother any longer, but thanks to her brave determination and commitment to clinical trials in 1992, we are here today to share this moment.

Riverview, FL

Cancer in My family

In August 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two weeks later my brother was diagnosed with Esphagus cancer. I was fortunate to have very early cancer not even a stage one yet. I only needed a lumpectomy and radiation and oral chemo. My brother lost his battle with cancer five months after his surgery. If I had not been getting yearly mammograms, I wouldn't have been so luclky. I can't stress enough the importance of them and of self exams each month. In April this year, my sister was diagnosed with rectal cancer. She had surgery and is getting radiation and chemo. Cancer does run in families so everyone get yearly exams. mammograms, and colonscopies as often as your doctor recommends. I'm a three year surviror and hopefully my sister will live many more years also. I also lost another brother to cancer in 2002.

Ruby Bush
Lancaster, OH

Having Breast Cancer Saved My Life

My mother had breast cancer at age 34, so I began getting yearly mammograms when I was 30. Every year they were clear, and by the time I was 50 I thought I was home free. Then, in 2009 at age 54 I had a mammogram that revealed a small DCIS in my right breast. I had a needle biopsy, then a lumpectomy followed by mammosite radiation therapy. I was very lucky that the tumor was only 3mm and the oncologist determined I did not need chemo. Because of my family history I had genetic testing that revealed I had the BRCA1 mutation for breast and ovarian cancer. Finding this small tumor ultimately may have saved my life. I decided to have a hysterctomy and bilateral mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction while I was healthy and cancer free. I needed to take control of my life and my health and I did. My doctors say I still have a 10% chance of a reoccurance of breast cancer, but that is a lot better than the 80% chance I had without the mastectomy. My husband, family and friends have been so supportive and best of all, my daughter has tested negative for the mutation. I am truly blessed.

Debbie Frare
Orlando, FL

Cancer Free Mom

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984. She had her right breast removed and went for chemo every week for a whole year. At first she was handling the chemo great, then as the weeks, months went by, she was getting sicker and sicker with each treatment. We would walk out of the office and she would be sick. Mom never lost faith that she would get better and she said every minute was worth her being sick as long as the cancer was gone. Well, mom has been cancer free starting her 25th year this year and I am so proud of her. I thank God everyday that she is still around. My sister and I bother get our yearly mamograms because we know one of us could be next.

Diane Quader
Shelby Township, MI

Scariest Story Ever told

I am a 35 year old women, with 2 teenagers. I went to my gynocologist for my annual checkup, just like I do every year. She said that since I am on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) that I should get my Baseline Mam. done. Neither of us felt anything. So, on a tuesday morning I had it done @ 10:30. By the time I got to work, they had already called me and wanted me to come back in for a Sonogram. I went in for the sonogram the following day. At which point after it was done, they took me right over to the doctor. In her words: "It don't look good, we need to get a biopsy of it." I scheduled the biopsy for the following day. I went in for the biopsy, and for all you women who are just starting this procedure.. it is relatively pain free and easy.

My Gyno called 2 days later, and said that it was inconclusive, that they need to do a open biopsy. They are pretty sure its cancer, but they don't know what type. I have surgery on Aug 6th, he is not going to do a open biopsy, he is just going to a lumpectomy and then biopsy it. At present my tumor is 1.6cm to 1.8cm.

I have found that I have more courage, and more will to live now more then ever.For all you women that know for sure, god bless you and my prayers are with you. For all you women that at the same point I am at cry, get babied, educate yourself and then move on and live. Do what you have to do, but fight.

Ransomville, NY

A Double Whammy

After a routine mammogram and subsequent ultrasound and biopsy on each breast I was diagnosed in January 2009 with DCIS. Cancer in both breasts at the same time -- I could not believe this was happening! It was Stage 0, non-invasive, and my surgeon said it was the best kind of breast cancer you could have. No lymph nodes were affected for which I am really thankful. I had a lumpectomy on each breast followed by six weeks of radiation. After consulting with a medical oncologist I chose no further treatment and feel very optimistic. In addition to my health issues my husband underwent open heart surgery in February 2009. We have recuperated together and are both doing great. My tumors were so small they could not be felt by the doctor. That's why it is so important that we have annual mammograms. I am sixty-eight and thank God for every day.

Louise Hill
China Grove, NC

Just Eating Chips, Now I Have Cancer?

And that is how it started....sitting on my sofa in late Oct 2008, watching TV and eating some chips. I started to brush the crumbs of the front of my shirt and my hand hit an area on my left breast and it was sore. I started to push and probe and felt it..a lump I had not felt before. Several days later, my primary care physician said yes, we need to get that checked and referred me for an mammogram. After the mammogram, a biopsy was completed immediately. As the doctor stood there saying it was definitely cancer, explaining what needed to be done, all I could think was wait, CANCER, what is going on? God, this can't be happening!

So began the scans, the surgery to remove the tumor. the tubes, the Brache radiation treatment...and then the chemotherapy. As if having cancer wasn't scary enough. the anxiety of loosing my beloved hair was the kicker. I think until then I was pretty strong. As the weeks passed, my hair began to shed, finally while standing in the mirror pulling strand after strand (mind you, I loved my hair), it suddenly dawned on me that this is it (like the previous months weren't enough huh?). I did make it through chemotherapy, praying everyday, asking God to strengthen me for the next week. Praise God my last chemo session was April 24 and on to five weeks of radiation, every day. Radiation wasn't a bad process, just the sessions everyday left me exhausted, both physically and mentally.

But here I am on the other side of this big "C". Proud to say with God's help and the love and support of my great family and friends, I am a SURVIVOR. Early detection is the key..and chips!

Connie M Alexander
Avondale, AZ

share my story

I had a clear mammogram in November 2006 and in June 2007 I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer after finding a lump in my right breast. As you can imagine I was in complete shock, The tumor was very large so I had no options. I have undergone a mastectomy, 6 months of chemo followed by 6 weeks of radiation. I am grateful for every day and to my family and friends and the many people that have been on this journey with me for their encouragement, prayers and hope for my recovery. I just celebrated my 60th birthday in April at Disney World!!! I am so blessed.

Julie H
Roanoke, IN

Stage 4 Mestastic Breast Cancer

Hi, my name is Debbie and I have been battling Breast Cancer for the past 3 yrs. In May of 2006, I was told I had Breast Cancer, I was totaling devastated, because my Mom had died from Cancer at the age of 28 and both of my Grandmother's died of Breast Cancer, so I was scared. It's been a long 3 yrs battling this horrible disease. It started in the breast, went through a mastectomy on the right side with nodes removed, went through a number rounds of chemo & radiation. Also, did herceptin for 1 yr and the Cancer came back in my Brain, Chest Wall and now my right lower lung. I have been told that my cancer is not curable, but it treatable, so right now I am on a aggressive treatment of Tykerb & Zeloda and am schedule for another CAT Scan on Aug 3, 2009 to see how things look. I will be having another MRI on the Brain soon too. So, I will be waiting to see how the scan turns out, hopefully good news.

I tried to stay positive for myself and my kids, I have to survive for them, even if it is only for a few years.

Thanks for listening,


Debbie Gifford
Windsor Locks, CT


I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2000. I was 39 years old and had six young children. Thank God for family as I could not of gone through 6 months of chemo and 5 weeks of radiation with out them! My mom and my sisters made sure the kids and house was taken care of when I couldnt do it. Thanks so much to them.

I am a nine year survivior!!! My mom is 71 and was just diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She is currently going through chemo and is losing her hair. She is the toughest woman I have ever known. I'm thinking about shaving my head to show that I support her. I did do the BRACA testing and it came back negative. Please make sure that you do monthly exams. Early detection does save lives.

Shelley Mark
Hooper, UT
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