Santa Barbara
66° F
Clear
Clear
Santa Maria
50° F
Clear
Clear
San Luis Obispo
53° F
Clear
Clear
Ventura
56° F
Clear
Clear

Young women also at risk for breast cancer

By Adam Brooks
Published On: Sep 16 2011 04:04:15 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 16 2013 09:24:11 AM CDT
young breast cancer survivor

istock/ftwitty

YouBreast cancer rates rise as people -- especially women -- get older.

But about 10,000 women under age 40 get diagnosed with breast cancer each year according to YoungSurvival.org..

Some survivors and the families of those who have been through a diagnosis early in life find that doctors sometimes doubt what their patients are seeing. Sometimes good comes from the early doubt, such as a young California woman who tries to keep a positive attitude as she goes through treatment and a Virginia man who became an awareness activist after he lost his sister.

Cathy White found out that she had breast cancer early this year before her 23rd birthday.

Though some groups advocate that women of any age examine their breasts regularly for changes, White says she never had. But before getting in the shower one day in February, she noticed a lump on the right side of her breast, near her arm pit.

"I don't know why I did it," she says. "I just did it."

Her mother felt the lump, too, and decided she should go to a doctor.

White was at first told it was probably related to her period, since she was so young.

Still, the doctor did a needle biopsy and said that it looked benign.

"She left me with nothing but a bruise," White says.

A month later, though, she went to a breast care center for an ultrasound, which found a second lump. Three days later, she was told she had cancer.

"My world just kind of stopped," she says. Though she knew the doctor was talking to her, she couldn't really understand the words, and could only ask if she was going to die.

Doctors told her to come back the next day when she was more under control.

"At first, I didn't believe her. I was waiting for her to say, 'We were wrong.' That call never came," White says.

When she started to hear about all the tests, scans and appointments she needed, "That solidified that 'this is real.'"

Then she was able to get a grip and realize she had to be strong. After agonizing about whether to get a double mastectomy -- as one doctor suggested -- White had a lumpectomy and started a course of six chemotherapy treatments over six months. "Chemo really makes you feel like a cancer patient," she says, because it can leave her weak and tired and makes her feel like she's not in control of her body.

"It's hard (but) I've always been really positive and try not to let the little things get me down," she says, adding that she tries to stay upbeat so others around her can, as well.

She has days where she wants to break down, but "it's just not worth it."

But cancer did allow White to think a bit more about what she wants to do with her life.

Before she got sick, she was working 40 hours a week in for a company that sells auto parts and had taken some college-level accounting courses.

But the illness has led her to think more about going to school with a particular goal in mind.

"I don't want my life to be, 'Oh, I worked in an office.'"

She says she would now like to change majors to something that would help her learn how to help others, possibly by opening a breast cancer clinic in the Philippines.

Finding Missing In Cancer

Shawn Gardner, a 41-year-old teacher from Washington, D.C., was also pushed to do something for others by breast cancer. He became a vocal fighter after his sister died when she was 26 years old.

His sister, Heather Gardner Starcher, had complained many times about pain under her arm. But doctors could not find a cause.

One day as she rolled over in bed, "the tumor popped out of her breast," Gardner says. Still, the doctor she had been seeing told her that women her age could not have breast cancer and sent her home.

She quickly got a second opinion, and the next day was diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors said that from the size of the tumor, she could have had it for 10 years.

Still, Heather did not like that her doctor dismissed her concerns. Gardner says she wrote a letter to the doctor saying that she hoped she would never send another young woman home without checking things out thoroughly.

The doctor tried to reach Heather, but "Heather was a little stubborn" and did not want to have any more contact, Gardner says.

Watching his sister battle, Gardner formed a team in her honor for the National Race for the Cure. Initially, the goal was just to support her, not raise money.

However, the effort grew year by year, even after Heather died and their parents decided not to participate. In 2003, Team Heather raised $5,500. Now, the team raises more than $50,000 a year.

Gardner has also become a local spokesman for Susan G. Komen for the cure. The group got interested in the story, and Gardner has taped some public service announcements and testified in front of Congress.

His advocacy efforts highlight young women, but he hopes to raise broader awareness.

"I want people to just be aware of your body, of the women in your life," he says.

Comments

The views expressed are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms Of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. 
blog comments powered by Disqus
  • fatal_accident_investigation

    Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    3 Dead In Early Morning Accident, Driver Arrested For DUI

    The 101 southbound through Santa Barbara reopened just before 12:30 Monday afternoon as authorities investigate what they say was a deadly two car DUI accident.

  • fuzion_store_business_santa_barbara

    UCSB Group Boycotts Business For Promoting Deltopia

    A UCSB student group is boycotting a local business for creating the Deltopia Facebook page, which they said brought in thousands of outsiders to the small college town.

  • girl_child_coughing_sick_whooping_cough

    Contagious Diseases Making a Comeback in California

    Deadly diseases that were a thing of the past are making a comeback in California.

  • Witnesses to Fatal Crash

    Eyewitnesses See Triple Fatal Crash from Roadside Camp

    A homeless couple watching the freeway from their campsite in Santa Barbara this morning, witnessed the triple fatal accident that took the lives of two teens and a young man.

  • Parents of Mallory Dies Sue Congresswoman, Her Former Aide, and U.S. Government

    The parents of a young Santa Barbara woman killed in a high profile, DUI case are suing Congresswoman Lois Capps, her former aide Raymond Morua, and the U-S government in federal court.

  • State Street Benches Gone

    Benches Removed in Two Block Area of Downtown Santa Barbara

    Benches have been removed in a two block area of State Street between Haley and Ortega Streets in downtown Santa Barbara.  The city says they are being cleaned and repaired.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    DUI Driver in Fatal Early Morning Accident Ordered to Detox Program in 1995

    The Santa Barbara woman arrested for DUI in the early morning accident that left three people dead early Monday morning has a lengthy court record out of Ventura County. Kimberly Kreis, 52, was ordered to serve 30 days in a detox program as far back as 1995.

    The car that Kreis was driving crashed into a disabled Mazda near the Castillo off-ramp of the southbound 101 freeway in Santa Barbara. Two 17 year old North Torrance High School students were killed in the accident- Jessica Leffew and Danielle Murillo. 20 year old Brian Lopez also died in the wreck. The driver of the Mazda, Eric August, is hospitalized in critical condition.

    A NewsChannel 3 investigation found records out of Ventrua County that appear to show that Greis has at least one prior conviction involving drugs and or alcohol, and in 1995 she was ordered to serve 30 days in a Cottage Hospital detox program.

    CHP investigators are still trying to piece together why the Mazda veered right into a guardrail, causing it to flip onto it's roof before coming to rest in the middle of the southbound freeway, which set into motion the deadly accident.

    CHP Officer Jonathan Guiterrez, said "A lot of things could have happened, He could have fallen asleep. We just don't know at this point."

  • Lupita Nyong'o

    REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

    People's 'World's Most Beautiful' list 2014

    People magazine recently named Lupita Nyong'o its "World's Most Beautiful" for 2014. See which other ladies earned a coveted spot on the annual list.

  • Slideshow: Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.