Photos and text used with permission
of Teri Fuller
I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at age 31, which is the same age my mother was when she died of the disease. I am the tenth woman on my mother's side to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the past three decades. My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, and several great-aunts and cousins all developed breast cancer. Some women inherit wide hipbones or freckles; we inherit BRCA1, a breast cancer genetic mutation.
At the time of my diagnosis, my daughter, Lily, was nine months old. My greatest fear was leaving her motherless - as I had been - so I did whatever I could to stay alive. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and a prophylactic oophorectomy.
Mine is just another story that reminds us that this disease must end. It needs to end not just for my daughter, who may also carry the breast cancer genetic mutation, but also for the myriad others who are currently battling the disease or will in the future.
And I am not the only one who is working towards an end to the disease. I have been fortunate to work with the Illinois chapter of the Young Survival Coalition: A group dedicated to educating and uplifting young women with breast cancer; I have also served as a peer mentor for Imerman Angels: An organization that provides one-on-one cancer support for people battling the disease; I was trained to be a breast cancer advocate and lobbyist by the National Breast Cancer Coalition: A national breast cancer advocacy group committed to ending breast cancer by 2020; I co-founded END Breast Cancer Illinois: A state advocacy group also committed to ending breast cancer; and I have served as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) in Washington, D.C.
It is my work as a consumer reviewer for the BCRP, in particular, that gives me hope-hope that we WILL find a way to end the disease. Dedicated to high-risk, high-impact research that is both innovative and paradigm-shifting, the program aims to stop people from dying from the disease and prevent people from developing the disease in the future.
Today, I am grateful to be alive, to be a mother, and to have my Lily, and, as a consumer reviewer, I will continue to advocate for an end to the disease - for my own daughter and all of our collective daughters, too.
Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016