Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month it is important that we understand every woman can be struck with the bad news of “Your test is positive for cancer.” Breast cancer can and will strike younger women as well as older women. Early detection is the key element in survival and sometimes the mammogram tests just aren’t enough.
Even celebrities can be struck by breast cancer. For instance, Christina Applegate’s story is a tale that needs to be told, as she stands up to gain ground for all women to be tested early and properly. Her story begins like most cancer survival stories.
Little Kelly Bundy grew up in front of our eyes on the hit television sitcom “Married with Children.” As an adult, Christina Applegate kept audiences laughing through movies and her Broadway performances.
Christina followed suit by playing a lead role in “Samantha Who?” in 2007. She received both an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination for bringing her character to life in the comedy series. She was overjoyed and ready to fully bloom in her television career. Nothing could bring her down or so she thought.
Almost one year later, at 36 years old, Christina received the devastating news. She had breast cancer in her left breast. She decided to keep quiet about the disease that had infiltrated her body. Christina went through five weeks before telling anyone of her plight.
Christina decided to do one of the bravest things she has ever done. She wanted to tell every woman of her personal battle with cancer, including young women who don’t realize they are at risk.
We all hear the advice about getting a mammogram at least once a year once we hit the age of 40. In Christina’s case, she was 36 when she was diagnosed. She is an avid believer in the yearly mammogram testing process, however, her doctor informed her that a mammogram wasn’t enough. Her breasts were too dense. The doctor suggested she have an MRI to thoroughly test for the disease since she is the daughter of a breast cancer survivor.
She continued to work after the MRI even as difficult as it was to focus on the sitcom. One week later, the devastating news came. She had breast cancer.
The doctors explained the cancer was in her left breast and it was caught in the early stages. Christina immediately took charge and went in the following day to see a surgeon and an oncologist. She went through her first lumpectomy the next few days.
A biopsy was taken from her lymph nodes to ensure the cancer had not advanced into her system. The cancer was caught early enough that she could undergo six weeks of radiation treatment and the probability of it working was good.
Christina was also tested for a gene that is known to be the culprit for many breast cancer patients. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor and the gene held a good chance to be passed on through Christina. The test proved the BRCA gene was in Christina.
The radiation was a temporary solution to the disease and it still stood a good chance of coming back after radiation treatments. Christina decided to think it all through before receiving any treatments. Her options were to go through the radiation treatments, with continual lifetime testing in the future or she could have a double mastectomy.
With a bilateral mastectomy, both breasts are removed and so are the chances of testing positive for breast cancer in the future. Christina met with surgeons and her doctor to report she had made the choice to have both breasts removed.
She went through the surgery in July 2008. Christina claims it definitely left plenty of scars – both emotional and physical. She felt as though a part of her was gone. Experiencing grief and mourning processes was brought on worse each time she saw herself in the mirror.
Christina finally had saline expanders put into her breast cavities, where implants will take the place of her breasts. She feels the loss of part of her body but is very proud to have made the decision she did.
The cancer survivor reached out to family and friends for support. One friend, Melissa Etheridge, felt compelled to support Christina during her hard times. Melissa is a cancer survivor as well. The singer and songwriter shared her life story with Christina, pulling her through some of the most difficult times.
Christina now sees her ordeal as a blessing. She sees it as an opportunity to share her story with younger women who wouldn’t normally be tested until they are older. Early detection is the key and this is the story she wants to share.
Early detection may not be complete through the mammogram testing process. She wants to go to battle for women to create the knowledge that women need to be tested through MRIs and genetic testing too. Most insurance companies will not pay for the procedures.