Me and the Girls: Jennifer Mukai
But with a family history of pancreatic cancer, Mukai thought that she might
have genetic risk factors that haven't been discovered yet. "I'm in prevention
mode," she says.
Mukai is of Japanese ancestry. Breast cancer is rarer in Asian women than in
white or African-American women. But breast cancer cases are rising for
Asian-American women. That may be because they're adapting to Western diets and
lifestyles, but that's not certain.
Building her team: Mukai met with doctors from two different
facilities before deciding to get treated at the Seattle Cancer Care
Mukai liked the fact that her doctors all worked together in the same place,
and she encourages other breast cancer patients to "take the time to get a
really good team of doctors you feel comfortable with. For me, that was
important, that I had a group of people that gave me the confidence to make
Her team included a nutritionist whose advice helped Mukai regain a sense of
"What I have found with the diagnosis is you have a sense of loss of control
of your body. I thought that I was healthy, I thought that I ate the right
things, I rarely get sick, so to have a diagnosis of cancer is kind of like
something let you down. Seeing a nutritionist put that control back in my lap a
bit -- getting an understanding of what foods I should eat, how much of it,
exercise, those were the more tangible things that I could do during this
process that could give me a sense of control," Mukai says.
Talking with other women who've been through breast cancer also helped.
"It's kind of a quiet but very large sisterhood out there of cancer survivors
that came out of the woodwork whom I've talked to," she says. "Those people
have been tremendous in giving me the support. I'm very grateful for that."
After mastectomy: Mukai got her mastectomy at the end of July 2009.
During that surgery, doctors inserted expanders in preparation for implants
that would reconstruct her breasts.
Seeing herself for the first time after her mastectomy, "I was more amazed
at what they could do surgically, and the advancement in medicine," Mukai says.
"It's not the radical mastectomy of our grandmothers' generation or even our
mothers' generation. They can put you back together pretty well. So I was more
fascinated. ... It didn't look pretty, but it's part of a process."
Joining a clinical trial: Mukai decided to enroll in a clinical trial
that would test a breast cancer drug that's usually given to postmenopausal
women, in younger women such as herself.
"Anything I can do to help advance the care or cure of cancer would be
something I'm interested in," says Mukai, who will take the test drug for five
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