My story begins with a diagnoses of breast cancer in 2006. I was 42 years old with a 7 year-old little boy who is the light of my life. It's been three years and I'm still cancer-free. A week before my diagnosis, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed three months later, on my birthday. Then, two months later, I lost my other brother. I must say it was the most difficult time in my life. My mother also passed of cancer 20 years ago. Life has truly been a challenge for my family. I have two sisters whom I know are afraid, and an 87 year-old father who has fought two wars and buried two children, and despite all this, we are still here and stronger than ever. Life can be very short and harsh. My advice to all going through cancer of some kind: a strong mind and a strong heart with lots of love and faith can help get you through what this kind world can throw your way. Take it from someone who's been there -- live life to the fullest it will allow you to, and enjoy every minute. My name is Heather and this is my story.
My mother and all four of her sisters are breast cancer survivors. Her second oldest sister has had a double mastectomy. This is why I am vigilant against the disease. I have been getting mammograms every year since I turned thirty. I am proud of my mother and my aunts for bravely fighting this disease.
After 30 years of having mammograms regularly, and with no family history of the disease, I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago. I had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation. Twice more, "suspicious cells" were seen on my mammograms. I had two more biopsies, and the cells removed were deemed pre-cancerous. When more of these suspicious cells appeared in the breast that had had the radiation, I decided I couldn't do this for the next 20 years. With my husband's total support, and my surgeon's agreement, I had a double mastectomy and began reconstruction while on the operating table. It's been a 6-month project and has required 3 surgeries to complete, but I feel safe now. I've beaten breast cancer, and although it was by no means easy, it is a viable alternative to continued biopsies and the uncertainty of repeated findings and biopsies. This may not be for everyone, but it has given me a new lease on life. Everyone needs to be aware of the possibilities in treatment for this disease, and those possibilities begin with regularly-scheduled mammograms.
I want to honor Cindy, the mother of my thirteen year old twin grandsons. Her cancer was discovered at the age of forty-one thanks to a mammogram and early detection. Last October, Cindy, her sister, and I participated together in the Philadelphia 3-Day to raise money for breast cancer awareness, detection, treatment, and research. Just thirteen months after a bilateral mastectomy, Cindy walked sixty miles and raised $20,000. She raised the fourth largest amount of money out of 3,500 participants. She is an amazing mother and daughter! Our family is blessed to have her.