I’m saddened to announce that this August I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I caught my cancer early while performing a self-breast exam and my doctors are optimistic about my chance for recovery. However, I have a long and hard road ahead with aggressive chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Needless to say, this diagnosis has hit me like a ton of bricks. At 55, I’m healthy, vital, and have lived my entire life committed to an extremely healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, I’ve also known that I was at increased risk for developing some form of cancer in my lifetime because of my family history; two of my four grandparents come from families where everyone gets cancer if they live past 30 – and one of these families is large! In these two families, breast cancer is sprinkled among a diverse collection of other cancers. With my cancer diagnosis, I’ve now learned that I carry the gene mutation for breast and ovarian cancer (though there is no known ovarian cancer in my family). My healthy lifestyle may have helped to delay my cancer diagnosis, but it could not prevent it. Because breast cancer is so common (1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime), I’ve always paid particular attention to lowering my personal risk factors for breast cancer and I recommend that everyone do this too (yes, even men get breast cancer).
As a doctor, I know that there are lifestyle choices we can make to lower our breast cancer risk or to make full recovery more likely should we develop the disease.
In my life, I’ve been dedicated to making healthy lifestyle choices for this reason; I’ve always kept up on my self-breast exams and my preventative doctor visits and mammograms; I’ve exercised my entire life, never smoked, kept my weight at recommended limits, and started my family before the age of 30. (This lowers the risk of breast cancer for women. I started my family when I was in medical school, which was a blessing for many reasons.) I avoided hormone prescriptions (even during menopause, which was very hard) and have eaten a mostly plant-based organic diet. I was still not able to avoid my genetic fate. Hopefully these choices will help me now as I fight my new disease.