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My Healthiest Age: 29
On September 1, 2009, my life changed forever. At 25, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few days earlier my coworker and I had been talking about his mother's recent diagnosis. That night I did a self-exam and found a lump. It turned out to be a stage II HER2-positive tumor, an aggressive form of the disease. I was shocked. The only relative I had ever known to have breast cancer was my grandmother, who was diagnosed in her seventies.
Fast-forward three years through six rounds of chemo, 28 bouts of radiation, 17 Herceptin treatments, and four surgeries, including a double mastectomy and lymph node removal. I was finally cancer-free. I had been given a second chance, and I felt a fire inside to go out and live.
I signed up with the group Boarding for Breast Cancer for a weekend surf retreat for young survivors. I fell in love with the rush of paddling through the waves, the calmness of sitting in open water with my legs dangling below, the power of standing on the board. At one point during the trip, as I floated in the ocean, I reflected on how lucky I was to be alive, and at that moment, two dolphins swam beneath me!
Since then I've taken several surfing lessons. The sea is a place where I'm not the girl with cancer. It doesn't pity me or go easy on me because of what I've been through. It challenges me, pushes me outside my comfort zone, and reminds me of my strength.
Cut Your Cancer Risk: More than 24,000 women under age 45 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the United States -- and they won't all have a strong family history of it or genes associated with the disease. These strategies can lower your risk: