Lisa Hennessy did not think twice about breast cancer in her thirties. There was no family history, but one day her 39 year old cousin called her up to tell her she had breast cancer. Lisa was shocked, but immediately began to advocate for herself with doctors. She asked her OBGYN several times if she should be tested, but given that she was 34, her doctors did not think testing was necessary. Shortly after having her third child, Lisa noticed what she thought, at the time, to be a blocked duct. Doctors agreed to screen it to be safe. On March 1, 2017, doctors alerted Lisa that she had HER2 invasive ductal carcinoma that had already spread to her lymph nodes. Lisa notes, “I immediately went into mode” and, given the aggressive nature of the cancer, on March 31st she began treatment.

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Breast cancer has been apart of Sharon’s story for many years. She married her, now husband, after he had lost his first wife to breast cancer. She also became a step-mom to 10 year old Julia, who had seen her mom bravely battle the disease for nearly a decade. It’s why, when Sharon felt a small lump in her breast, she waived it off thinking, “lightening could not strike this household twice

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A number of years ago, Melissa Brandt felt a strong feeling to get genetic testing done. A variety of women in her family had breast cancer over the years and while they didn’t have access to advancements in genetic technology, Melissa took advantage of the fact that she did. It’s a decision that most likely saved her life. Melissa tested positive for BRCA2. Her father, brother and aunt would go on to test the same. She immediately spoke with a genetic counselor who encouraged her to see her doctors.

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Meredith Parkinson is an ironman triathlete. In other words, she is a total bad*** who is extremely in tune with her body and it’s limits. It’s why, when one of her children accidently kicked her in the breast, the pain she felt made her uneasy. It was worse than normal and after some self checks, she felt a bump in her armpit.

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Kristin Bahny is very familiar with cancer. She lost her father to colon cancer and her mother is a two time breast cancer survivor. It meant that cancer, for her and her brother, was always front of mind. Given her mother’s older age when diagnosed with breast cancer, Kristin wasn’t too worried when she found a lump. She did however, bring it up to her doctor, who suggested more testing. She notes, “I was in denial because my mom was so much older when diagnosed. Up until the minute they told me, I was convinced it wasn’t cancer. I should have, but I didn’t see it coming.” Indeed, at 34 years old Kristin had breast cancer.

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Barbara Bigelow is a force in the world of breast cancer. Cancer has been apart of her life for twenty years. She was originally diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and entered treatment. What proved to be even more shocking was that in her first year of treatment, her two sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, one sister passed away of metastatic breast cancer.

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Donna Brady, Robin Tamburrini and Linda Heney are closer than your average sisters. Together they have faced unimaginable grief. In 1979 their grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would battle the disease for many years before succumbing in 1999. Similarly, their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and passed away in 2012. As a result of the family history, the three sisters were diligent about self checks at an early age. It would turn out to be life saving for Linda, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, one year after her mother’s death. She received a lumpectomy and radiation. Though a nine year survivor, Linda notes, “it scares me because both my grandmother and mother had the same pattern- clear of cancer for a number of years before the cancer returned and ultimately, they both lost their battle.”

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Rebecca Kitchen was on her way to urgent care when she decided to stop home for a quick shower. While showering she noticed a lump in her breast. Not thinking much of it, she brought it up to the urgent care doctor just in case. He too believed it to be a cyst, or something minor given Rebecca’s young age of 30. To be safe he sent her for a mammogram and ultrasound, both of which came back inconclusive. Three biopsies later, Rebecca was diagnosed with stage three ductal carcinoma breast cancer. It came as a complete shock: “it was so far outside the realm of possibilities for me. I would never have even thought it was possible.” Indeed, Rebecca had no family history and later genetic testing would reveal she also had no precursors.

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Cassy Villalta beams with positivity. One would never know the journey she has been on in the past decade. At just 35, with a 3 and 5 year old at home, Cassy was diagnosed with grade 3 ductal carcinoma. She would go on to have a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation and immunotherapy. It was grueling schedule, but Cassy remained upbeat throughout: “as long as it was fixable, I kept a smile on my face.” Her main priority was her children and ensuring their lives were uninterrupted by her diagnosis. She remains steadfast in her motivation to have her children’s memories of growing up not be tainted with images of her sick.

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