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Mother-daughter duo who survived breast cancer share their stories to inspire others

A mom and daughter who survived breast cancer are participating in the Komen "More than Pink" walk

ST. LOUIS — Thousands of people will participate in the Susan G. Komen "More than Pink" walk Saturday in Tower Grove Park. 

Among the walkers will be Gloria Sargent and Brandy Reagan, who are sharing their stories in hopes of inspiring others. They are more than walking buddies -- they're mother and daughter, and they're both breast cancer survivors.

"As I was pouring the coffee into the cup, I felt something. I physically felt something on the left side. Immediately I thought, 'Well, that's strange'. Ran back to the bedroom, laid flat on the bed to do a breast exam. And I was hoping that I would find that it was symmetrical. That wasn't the case," said Gloria. 

A single mom of three, Gloria had a clear mammogram just eight months earlier.

"So the first thing I did was call my dad and I said, 'I have cancer and I'm not ready. I don't have a will made up. Who's going to take care of my kids?'" Gloria said.

They are decisions that needed to be made quickly.

"I had a grade three tumor, which they explained was nothing like your normal cells. Grade zero is your normal cells just in abundance all the way to grade three. So we knew it was aggressive and I knew I had three children. So I said, let's be as aggressive as we need to be," Gloria said.

Chemotherapy followed. Brandy was just a teenager at the time.

"Personally, I wanted to avoid what I saw my mom go through, if at all possible. So I had opted to get tested for the BRCA gene or the BRCA1 gene mutation, just to better prepare myself and empower myself to make those decisions for the future," said Brandy. 

A decade after learning she carried the gene, Brandy opted for a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. 

"If you have the BRCA1 mutation, you have an 87% chance of having breast cancer. For me, that seemed pretty substantial," said Brandy.

Five days after the surgery, news Brandy never expected. Tests on the breast tissue that had been removed revealed cancer.

"It felt like, you know, this foundation that my life was built on just suddenly crumbled around me. You know, I took steps to be proactive in my own health. And even with those steps, I was still going to take on this battle that just was so unexpected," said Brandy.

"She came to the door, came to my office where I was working, and just looked at me and I said, 'You have cancer'. And she said, 'I do'. I said, 'I am so thankful that you had that surgery', so thankful that she had that surgery. And I said, 'You will get through this, you are strong,'" said Gloria.

"I got to see how she overcame that with such grace and just strength and dignity in general," Brandy said. "And so when I got that diagnosis, I had faith in myself that, hey, you know, I've seen my mom overcome this, and I can overcome this, too, with her right by my side."

A year and a half later, both women are looking to the future, appreciating what their journey has taught them.

"I just feel so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by the family and friends that I have to be in good health, you know, to be able to go to the gym again. I can run miles again. I have this free time where I can focus and be proactive and empower other women to trust their gut and trust their instincts and maybe do something radical that other people don't agree with. But that feels right to you," Brandy said. 

Gloria said one thing she learned from going through treatment is to not take anything for granted. 

"I took so many things for granted before treatment, little things like the taste of your coffee or being able to eat a ribeye, which I love to do. Hearing the birds sing. Right? Having an able body, my arms, my legs, and I could walk. I can breathe. I could see all of the things that I didn't appreciate until I went through that experience and realized that that was so precious," she said.

Gloria and Brandy will be walking with family and friends Saturday at the Susan G. Komen "More than Pink" walk in Tower Grove Park. 

Kay Quinn will serve as emcee for the program and Scott Connell will be there with 5 On Your Side's Storm Tracker.

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