As you likely already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It is the second-most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. The sooner it gets diagnosed, the better your odds of surviving it. That’s why regular self-exams are so important.
In fact, it saved my friend’s life. This is one story I never imagined I’d be telling. My childhood friend, Kristin, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I found it myself,” said Kristin Schnebly-Dunn, who is a labor and delivery nurse. “I had been doing clinicals for school that day.”
Kristin was in her third year of getting her doctorate degree when she noticed something was wrong.
“I had done two breast exams on other women that day, so I was about to get in the shower,” she said. “Waiting on the shower to get warm, I did a self-breast exam.
“And I found a pea-size knot.”
Kristin’s mother, who is also a nurse, was the first to know the results of her mammogram and biopsy.
“She told me to sit down and she told me that I had cancer,” Kristin said. “And that was really scary.”
Just two months away from getting married, Kristin was in disbelief.
“There was no way I could have cancer because I was only 29,” she said.
Experts recommend doing a breast self-examination once a month so you know what your normal is. Doctors say the best time is a few days after your cycle ends. And don’t panic if you feel a lump because most women have lumps. Only about 20 percent turn out to be breast cancer.
Your breast won’t feel the same all over. What you are looking for are changes.
“It was just such a huge shock in my life, like, it just stopped everything,” Kristin said.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. Her fiancé Addison was scheduled to leave just three days later for firefighter academy. She urged him to go. Kristin decided to have a double mastectomy as her best option.
Addison would travel back and forth for the next eight weeks, taking care of Kristin on weekends.
“It really makes you get your priorities straight when something like this happens to you,” she said. “On my wedding day, I was able to really enjoy it. Really, it was like, the best day of my life.”
And that beautiful hair that was pulled up in a classic bun? She lost it. Two days after tying the knot, Kristin began chemotherapy. She said the hardest part was her husband seeing her without hair, but she credited Addison as being her strength through her fight.
Now, there’s only one part of her story she wants you to remember.
“I think it’s important to check yourself. It’s how I found mine,” Kristin said. “Saved my life.”
But there's great news to end this story. In July, Kristin had another scan and it came back clear.