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30 Years Since Breast Cancer

I hadn’t thought about it much. I’ll be turning 65 soon which means it will be 30 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 30 years. A lifetime ago.

I hadn’t thought about it really until I received an email from a fellow Temple University colleague this week with the attachment of this old newspaper article.

The Power of Sharing

Apparently, her mother, who’d been a breast cancer survivor, had cut it out of the paper and saved it with a binder full of medical records.

Lucille D’Emilio-Wilkinson wanted me to know her mom referred to my story sometimes to inspire other women to be strong advocates for their own health, and that her mom died at 93, not of breast cancer.

And that inspires me. Ha! 93. That’s a good long life. That gives me hope I’ve got lots of years left. It’s possible.

Lucille told me her sister-in-law, also found she had breast cancer after she pursued a lump that doctors first told her was benign. She says my story saved her life.

I found myself smiling reading Lucille’s kind note after she found the old yellowed print article in her mom’s papers.

As a reporter, I told thousands of stories during my 40-year career. I still believe this story I told at age 35 might have been the most important.

And I remember when I first decided to go public with my breast cancer diagnosis the station, WCAU (Now NBC10) had concerns that I would always be “the reporter with breast cancer”. No reporter back in 1991 had ever gone public with something like that.

As a young wife and mother, I was so angry and scared but I wanted others to know what I knew. Young women with no history of breast cancer in their families can still get breast cancer.

Breast Cancer: My Story Today

I’m grateful all these years later, there’s better mammography, better-targeted treatments and drugs. Many women, even with metastatic breast cancer, are living longer lives.

But there’s still no sure-fire cure. Women are still dying of breast cancer, so we still need to be vigilant, advocate for ourselves if we feel a lump, get regular checkups.

And we need to find reliable information and support from organizations like Living Beyond Breast Cancer. LBBC was created the same year I was diagnosed. I’ll be coming off the board this year as we both mark a 30 year anniversary and so glad I could serve this way.

Meanwhile, Lucille’s lovely email reminded me how important it is for us to share our survivor stories. They ripple out far beyond us and touch people we may never know or hear about. But sometimes, you do. Sometimes you are lucky and what you share boomerangs back to you in the sweetest way.

Lucille says her mom would be happy knowing that she reached out and shared the article with me. And now I share it with you.


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