Who Gets Breast Cancer and Who Survives?
Survivors' Stories continued...
"At this point, I'm freaked out. Hopefully this time they'll get it for
good, but I think I'll be dealing with this for the rest of my life."
TAMIKA COOK, 33
Clinical specialist; married mom of Kiki, 14, and Zaire, 9; Augusta, GA
Diagnosed in September 2001 with stage I breast cancer (medullary
"I found my lump six years ago while shaving under my arms. My first
doctor told me it was a benign cyst, but my second doctor sent me to an
oncologist, who biopsied the lump. A few days later, she called to tell me it
was breast cancer. I was shocked. It made more sense when a couple of weeks
later I found out that breast cancer runs in my family: Three great-aunts on my
father's side had also had the disease.
"My cancer was only stage I, and I was told I could have a lumpectomy
with radiation, but I opted for a mastectomy and breast reconstruction: I just
had a really strong urge to cut out the cancer completely. My new breast is the
same shape as my other one, but it has no feeling, and I never got around to
getting a new nipple — I never felt the need. It doesn't bother me. I'm just
proud that I've beaten my cancer, and now I give speeches to educate others
about this issue. I was a team captain for the annual Relay for Life
fund-raiser, an all-night nationwide relay event that raises money for the
American Cancer Society. I feel good about helping others — it's the one
positive that's come out of this whole experience."
A Dose of Prevention
- Four doable ways to reduce your breast cancer risk:
- Do monthly breast self-exams! "About 40 percent of lumps are still
discovered by women themselves," says Lillie Shockney, of the Johns Hopkins
Avon Foundation Breast Center.
- Help your husband quit smoking. Women who have never smoked but who are
frequently exposed to smoke at home or work are 68 percent more likely to
develop breast cancer than other never-smokers.
- Know your family history. If you have relatives with breast cancer or other
hormone-driven cancers such as prostate or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor
about BRCA testing.
- Breast-feed your babies. Research suggests that the practice can protect
against breast cancer in moms over age 25.
Your Breast Cancer Toolbox
If you're battling breast cancer — or someone you love is — here are five
resources you shouldn't be without.
By REDBOOK writer and breast cancer survivor Gina Shaw
From the moment you're diagnosed, you're deluged with paperwork. The
breastCANCER101 10-year planner, created by survivor Monica Knoll, helps you
organize and understand it all. Order for $29.99 plus shipping and handling
from cancer101.org or use the free online version.
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Website
This site (nbcam.org) walks you through everything from the baffling jargon of
your pathology report to finding clinical trials and getting help to pay for
The Young Survival Coalition
A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating at any age, but it can really
blindside you when you're under 40. To find support, hook up with the Young
Survival Coalition at youngsurvival.org. Its free ResourceLink Guidebook is
full of info on local support groups and much more.
Breast Cancer, There and Back
Jami Bernard was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, and this "woman to
woman guide" was published in 2001, so a few of the treatment-specific
details are outdated — but Bernard's wise, warm advice is timeless.
Developed by oncologist Marisa Weiss, M.D., this site has some of the best
message boards online. You'll also find live chat rooms, savvy guides to the
latest research, and online conferences.