The youngest of three girls, Dish Woodard has faced multiple phone calls within the last three years that most people dread. The first from her older sister Julia, who revealed she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Her treatment was brutal and extensive. The second came from her mother, a year later in 2020, with a stage 1 diagnosis. The third, from her oldest sister, Anna, in 2021 who was also diagnosed with stage 1. With each phone call, Dish reacted the same: “my whole body turned cold. It was horrible and selfishly, my thoughts were oh my gosh, I’m next.” Even today, Dish struggles to speak about the myriad of emotions that came when she heard about each diagnosis. For her, each of the absolute closest women in her life have faced the unthinkable. Though daunting, she says, “I remain hopeful. What else can I do?”
With the obvious family connection to breast cancer, Dish sought out resources to understand her risk better. First, she went to the B Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where her risk was assessed at 40%. Dish’s internal struggle began to grow. Feeling like a diagnosis was a ticking time bomb, she met with a specialist to talk about options. Ultimately, she decided on a preventative double mastectomy. The surgery occurred in July of 2022: “I feel good. Let’s just do this. To me, this is not as big a deal compared to my sisters and mom who have had actual cancer in their body.”
A large driving force behind her decision was her own family. Of her two children, ages 8 and 10, one is a girl, Caroline. It’s a thought that creeps into Dish’s mind constantly. She hopes her daughter will benefit from the ever evolving breast cancer screening, testing and advancements. She also takes solace in the fact her daughter, thanks to their family history, will get screened early and often.
Of this entire experience, Dish is adamant about one thing: “Julia saved our lives.” Julia’s diagnosis prompted immediate and frequent scans for the rest of the family and it is why her mother and sister, Anna were able to catch the cancer during stage 1. It is also why Dish has been given the ability to control her own fate and decision making when it comes to the disease. Indeed, though scary, Dish is forever grateful to her sister for allowing the rest of the family the ability to wield this knowledge into powerful action.