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4 Friends in their 40s

Let’s talk about breast cancer, baby!
Lifetime risk of developing breast cancer for females is about 1 in 8. The median age of diagnosis for all women with breast cancer is 62 years, according to the American Cancer Society. So then, why did 4 of my friends who were only in their 40s all get a breast cancer diagnosis, all within months of one another?

4 Short Stories
Nora’s annual mammogram turned into a biopsy with reported breast cancer. This news followed nearly a year of dramatic changes in her life, one being a significant, celebrated weight loss. She proceeded with a lumpectomy, radiation, and hormone therapy, all while a loved one was dying of a different type of cancer. Heartbreaking. Another reminder of her breast cancer, is that she cannot lift her radiated arm to wave or even brush the back of her hair. Even so, she focuses on being grateful for her healing!

Kennedy’s diagnosis came on the heels of opening her home to in-law extended family (of a different culture) during the year prior. With a quieter household again, she had just sent her kids off to the start of school, ready to regain some much needed self care, when she learned of her breast cancer from her annual mammogram. Not a moment to hesitate, she made appointments with the cancer gurus out in Boston MA. A biopsy, lumpectomy, radiation and hormone therapies took over, until she was finally able to get back to her busy suburban life…yet focusing more time for self care.

Caroline was always large breasted, and only grew larger from pregnancies and breastfeeding 2 babies–from size DD to H. Her friends lovingly teased her how extreme it was to get breast cancer just so that she could get a “breast reduction”. Her annual mammogram showed cysts, yet they weren’t biopsied for another 2 years. After the diagnosis, her breast tissue was removed in the form of a bilateral mastectomy, and replaced with tissue expanders while she spent nearly the next year in back-to-back treatments of chemotherapy, radiation (because of an affected lymph node) along with hormone therapy. Skin necrosis (which is when the skin essentially dies) set her back months of healing and caused her first set of implants to almost fall out. Caroline finally finished all reconstruction and treatments, and keeps on celebrating her life with her family.

Amanda’s routine mammogram also detected her breast cancer immediately following a commitment to complete self care after a lifetime dedicated to caring for everyone else, but herself. What makes Amanda’s story a bit different is that she viewed her breast cancer as a blessing, a wake-up call for change! And changes she made with a very strict vegan veggie-based diet to flush out bodily toxins. Much to her doctors’ disappointment, after a biopsy/lumpectomy, she refused chemo, radiation and hormones and expresses feeling better than she has ever felt in her life!

Controversial Causes
“What causes breast cancer?” is a very controversial question. A mutated cell can grow in an unusual way leading to tumor growth, either benign or malignant (cancerous). While a genetic mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2 doesn’t fully protect against a growing cancer, it doesn’t actually cause the cancer. So the question becomes “what causes the cells to mutate?” Aside from possibly genetics/family history, gender, ethnicity, age, hormones, radiation and lifestyle (obesity, alcohol usage, stress etc…) and a few other risk factors, one theory is that toxins build up in fat cells, which, in turn, protect our organs.  Breasts contain a high amount of fat, so they tend to be a popular toxin hang out. Where do the chemicals come from? Polluted air, water and soil, which we take in daily through our food, drinking water and home/work environments. Perhaps, as a result, more women develop breast cancer now more than ever.

Ongoing research like this report is trying to figure out why so many cells mutate or vary. However, the remarkable news is that less woman perish from breast cancer due to early detection and a variety of treatments. Thank goodness, for my 4 friends are all moms of younger children! I am thrilled to report that each one is doing well while continuing to heal and transform how they care for themselves (diet, exercise, lower stress & prioritize oneself) in order to stay healthy. In essence, self care is definitely NOT selfish!

These 4 friends called me, upon first receiving their diagnosis feeling that I could relate. However, they were mistaken. I am BRCA2+, trying to prophylactically avoid breast cancer at all costs, and can’t imagine hearing that news for myself. Not a single one of these ladies has the BRCA1 or BRAC2, or any other known, genetic mutation. While I had a very high chance–some docs said it was imminent–of developing breast cancer in my lifetime, it’s puzzling that only 5-10% of breast cancers are actually due to heredity. Things that make you go “Hmmm”.

Nevertheless, I answered their call, offering what I had learned from my own experience; and most importantly, I gave my love and support!

Be like a cup of tea,

offering comfort to

the company you keep…

Who do you need to call upon for support?
On the contrary, who could use some comfort from you?