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Cancer awareness month is important
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Editor, As we all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. You can see seas of pink shirts and pink ribbon magnets on the backs of cars — even some purple ribbons, which are reserved for the brave survivors of this deadly disease.
It is an extremely important month to me. I am not a survivor, but my mother, my aunt and my two great aunts are. My grandmother, unfortunately, is not a survivor. She lost her fight with breast cancer after nine agonizing years in 1991.
In October 2009, I went to see my doctor. As he looked over my medical history, he was astounded at what he saw. He saw that five members on my mother’s side of the family had breast cancer. He sent me to get a mammogram and the radiologist told me that I must get the BRACA test done as soon as possible.
The BRACA1 and 2 gene mutations are breast cancer strains that actually are genetically passed onto family members.
I went to the Curtis Anderson Cancer Clinic at Memorial Health University Medical C enter. I sat with a counselor who provided a detailed explanation of the test and the possible outcomes. I went through the tests and as I waited in agony for the results, I found out that my two aunts and my great aunt did carry the BRACA 2 mutation. They had to have radical mastectomies and hysterectomies because it is also linked to ovarian cancer, which is also known as the silent killer.
I figured my fate was sealed and prepared myself to make a decision. Would I just go ahead and have a double mastectomy at the age of 37 to cut my chances by
98 percent? Or should I undergo chemotherapy, which would throw me into early menopause? It was all too much for me to think about, and my husband was preparing to leave for his fourth deployment that same month. How would I do this all alone?
When I went to get my test results, I was prepared for the worst. But the tests came back negative for both strains. I almost didn’t believe it was possible.
I am not totally in the clear. I still have a strong chance of developing breast cancer, so my good test results don’t mean I am exempt now. I had a mammogram and an MRI just to be on the safe side, and I must undergo these procedures every six months.
So, to my mother Bonnie and my aunt Mary, survivors of eight years, my great aunts Linda and Mary, survivors of seven years, and to my grandmother Joanna, who fought so hard for nine years but is now watching over all of us now, I love you all. You are truly remarkable women.

— Shannon Erdman
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