October is a month of hope, strength, and unity as we come together to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But it is more than just the sea of pink ribbons you see in stores, on marathon racing bibs, and at charity events. It’s a powerful reminder of the countless individuals who have faced, and are facing, the daunting journey of breast cancer.
Breast cancer impacts millions of lives worldwide, with approximately 1 in 8 women—colleagues, friends, and family members—diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. It is the most common cancer among women globally, but it’s essential to remember that it can affect anyone, regardless of gender.
Amid these sobering statistics, there’s something special to glean from what can be a harrowing experience: stories of resilience and the tenacity of the human spirit. Today, we shine a light on our remarkable colleagues who each have a unique and powerful story to tell, and who remind us that when it comes to cancer, nobody fights alone.
I discovered my own lump at 40 years old. I went to my doctor as soon as I could. She recommended me to a breast surgeon. The day my biopsy results came back seemed surreal. I thought to myself, “How could I have breast cancer? I am only 40. I have no family history. I have no genetic risk.” It didn’t make sense, so then I started to do my own research. Yes, there are statistics that say some groups are more likely to develop cancer at certain ages, but what I really figured out is that cancer doesn’t care about that. Within 4 months, I had my lumpectomy, followed by radiation and told cancer, “No, not today!” I have now been in remission for 3 years. Circle back to the day of the biopsy results — my doctor looked at me and said, “We caught this early. It is 100% curable.” Yes, we caught it early. Early detection can save lives! Early detection happens because we keep the conversation going. Early detection happens when we encourage women to keep their health top of mind and support them along the way.
I had 11 days on a new job when I found a lump in my right breast in August 2021. It was so small that the doctor was surprised I found it. Breast self-exams save so many lives. Encourage the women in your life to be consistent with BSEs. We know our bodies!!! I was diagnosed with Stage 2b ER/PR+ breast cancer and had no genetic predisposition or history. I had to undergo aggressive chemotherapy, then a lumpectomy, lymph node removal, then radiation, which was hard on my body. Luckily, I was able to work a modified schedule throughout the 5 months of weekly chemo. More importantly, I feel like God put the right people in my life to support me beyond my incredible family and doctors. I have had fantastic bosses and stakeholders who supported me throughout my chemo and radiation journey; in fact, I was hired at SEI in the midst of my treatment. It’s been about 1.5 years since the disease left my body. Hallelujah! Even though the cancer is gone, I still fight daily with the leftover impact it has done to my body. And while my body has physically gone through so much, my biggest challenge has been mental. The fear, the emotional roller coasters, the guilt, the worry, the anger…all of it. My hope is that I’ve gone through this with a little bit of grace, a lot of tenacity, and shown cancer it picked the wrong woman!
In January 2015, my mammogram was clear. By Memorial Day that same year, I discovered a lump the size of a golf ball. Within 19 days, I had follow-up exams, second opinions, conversations with surgeons, and had a date for my double mastectomy — it was all very fast. There is no history of cancer in my family and I am not genetically predisposed. My treatment consisted of surgeries, radiation, and eight years on a daily medication used to treat my type of breast cancer. It took me a year to be able to look down at myself or touch my scars. I now wear them proudly! The day after Memorial Day (again!) this year, I went to my doctor due to a pain in my hip. Before I even made it home, my PCP called and said it looked like cancer. I was soon diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. My bone cancer wasn’t operable, so the treatment had to be targeted radiation, monthly chemo, and a new daily medication. Luckily, my response to the treatment has been positive so this will be my routine forever. With both diagnoses, I’ve had amazing support at home and at work. Seeing a “checking in on you” message pop up, reading a good morning text, opening a card in the mail, or receiving a care package of cupcakes — this is what support looks like and this is the team that surrounds me. My community gives me strength and is part of my healing. I am so grateful to my family and my colleagues who ensure I don’t feel alone in this journey.
As we conclude Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let these stories of courageous SEI survivors and warriors inspire us to take action. Whether it is advocating for regular check-ups, supporting fundraising activities, or simply reaching out to those in need, our efforts can make a difference. We stand together to offer faith, fortitude and unwavering support to our colleagues and communities in the midst of their battles, and to those who have emerged victorious — nobody is alone at SEI!