This post is sponsored by Genius 3D MAMMOGRAPHY exam. Thank you, Genius!
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I haven’t talked about it much, but my Aunt Lynn is a two-time breast cancer survivor. The first time she beat breast cancer, I was just a kid. My parents kept us very insulated from it at the time—all we knew was that she was a little sick, but she was going to get better. And she did! In fact, she was better for twenty five years.

But when I was pregnant with James, my aunt found another lump…cancer, again. This time, I was old enough to understand, and hormonal enough to be a bit of a wreck. I’d just lost Jackie to brain cancer a few months before, and I was terrified I was going to lose my beloved aunt, too. This time, her treatment was much more difficult, but I am so happy to say that she’s been cancer-free for the last three years. 

My Aunt Lynn with my three babies.

The thing that inspires me the most about my aunt is that she does a lot of work with the local Cancer Support Center. She works tirelessly to support the newly diagnosed, and speaks throughout the community to encourage early detection. She inspires me!

She recently wrote me a wonderful letter, and I wanted to share part of it here because I think it’s so important.

Dear Heather.

I’ve wanted to give you advice all your life, but hesitated to do that (well, most of the time).  And you’ve thrived without my interference. However, as you approach the end of your thirties there is a piece of advice I must insist you take from me.  It is lifesaving advice.  Your loving husband, mom, dad, and two adorable children will be grateful if you take advantage of today’s technology to find a life-threatening disease early.  It is a disease that runs rampant in our family and you lost your most beloved grandmother, aunt, and a best friend to this disease – cancer.

I am alive today because I found cancer in my breast early! Twice!!  I was only 43 years old the first time I was stopped in my tracks with a breast cancer diagnosis. A routine mammogram found a lump.  Unfortunately, the previous mammograms didn’t find it when it was really small and a simple removal would have been the cure.

I dodged a bullet, however, because it was only at stage one with no lymph node involvement.  In those days (a long long time ago), all lymph nodes by my left breast were removed along with the cancerous tumor (lumpectomy). I also received radiation treatments and was on a hormone blocker, tamoxifen for five years.  Removing the lymph nodes and subsequent radiation treatments created a new normal for me.  I was compromised for the rest of my life.  Had we found the tumor much earlier, the healing role lymph nodes play likely would not have been compromised.

Fast forward to 2012, 12/12/12 to be exact.  I learned that a lump I felt in my breast was cancer again.  Now, I had been religious about having a mammogram every year.  But I skipped a year.  It didn’t take long for the tumor to make itself known.  Again, it should have been detected years earlier through the mammogram process.  That’s why self-exams are so important.  It is ironic that I looked for a lump because I had just given a speech to a group of women about the importance of early detection and the next morning decided to take my own advice. Voila!

This time I had to ‘give up the girls’ to a double mastectomy.  There was a glitch, however.  I could not have an implant on the left breast because it had experienced radiation 25 years earlier. Apparently implants and radiated skin do not work well.  Now, let’s turn this lemon into lemonade. I was told I qualified for a ‘DIEP flap’ procedure where fat is taken from elsewhere in my body and moved to my breast area.  So I donated fat from my tummy; I got a tummy tuck!  Now, that was sweet lemonade.  But it was a loooong 10-hour surgery process. However, I am reminded every day that early detection saved my life.  But earlier detection would have been far less brutal.

I hope I haven’t scared you.  Please know that early detection will save your life.  Take advantage of the latest technology to find potential breast cancer early.  You see me, three years after the second diagnosis, an active retiree who volunteers at our local Cancer Support Community.  I am proud to be a survivor, encouraging others to replace fear with hope.  I help with important fund raising events, encourage newly diagnosed cancer patients and their loved ones to take advantage of the free support at the CSC, and I talk to organizations throughout our community about getting the word out about early detection and the help available at the Cancer Support Community to all who are impacted by cancer.

Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  People have survived all stages of breast cancer diagnosis, but survivability is better and much much easier when it is found early!

I love you dear Heather and want to see you enjoy your fabulous children for decades and decades.  My advice – finally!  Please hunt for, find, and remove any possibility of breast cancer.  I found it is worth the effort because now I get to enjoy your children too.

With all my love, Auntie Lynn

The mammography technology available to us now is so much more advanced that when my aunt was first diagnosed. The Genius 3D MAMMOGRAPHY exam is the only mammogram clinically proven to detect cancer 15 months earlier than conventional mammograms and reduce callbacks by up to 40 percent. It has also been proven to detect 41 percent more invasive cancers than traditional 2D screenings. It’s definitely something I will be asking my doctor about when it’s time for my first mammogram in a few years. Like my aunt said, early detection is key, and I want to be here for a long, long time.