Ally Race for the Cure – My Personal Story

My company asked me to share my breast cancer journey to provide a “story” behind the “cause” for our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year.  Thought I’d share it here too – in case you get encouraged to donate or join our team!!  The first part below was written by someone else (didn’t want anyone thinking I refer to myself as a princess – ha).

Charlotte’s Ally Team Honorarium for Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure®: Danielle Murray’s Story

Danielle Murray works in Audit Services and has been with Ally since November 2010. She was diagnosed with a high risk and aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 30. She is sharing her story with VAN Charlotte to provide a story behind the cause. She is a “princess warrior” – a courageous woman who didn’t have the standard risk factors for breast cancer and went misdiagnosed for almost a year, resulting in her cancer being very aggressive by the time it was finally diagnosed. Her journey took her down many roads. Now in remission, Danielle – a wife, mother, daughter, sister, co-worker – hopes that by sharing her story with VAN Charlotte, she will encourage participation and support for Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year. At a minimum, she hopes it raises awareness that breast cancer can strike at any age and to never listen to a doctor who tells you a lump is nothing to worry about, even when you have no risk factors at all.  [See below] to read Danielle’s story in her own words.

Please support Ally’s Team for the Charlotte Komen Race For The Cure this year! Join Danielle Murray and our team to run, walk or even Sleep-In For The Cure®. Donations are also welcomed! As a part of the Ally team, for every dollar you raise, Ally will match up to $10,000!  For more information, please check out our Team site at http://charlotte.info-komen.org/goto/ally.

Charlotte’s Ally Team Honorarium for Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure®: Danielle Murray’s Story

My name is Danielle Murray. I work in Audit Services and have been an Ally employee since November 2010. I was diagnosed with a high risk and aggressive form of breast cancer (HER2+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) in 2009 at the age of 30. I was honored when I was asked to share my story with Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team and the Charlotte VAN to provide a story behind the cause. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is the global leader of the breast cancer movement and has become the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. Ally has established a goal of raising $10,000 this year for this worthy cause.

Women under the age of 40 generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer; however, I am proof that breast cancer can strike at any age. Some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer at a young age include a personal or family history of breast cancer, evidence of a genetic defect, heavy alcohol use or obesity. I had none of the risk factors, yet I got cancer anyway. Because of my age and lack of apparent risk factors, I went misdiagnosed for almost a year, resulting in my cancer being very aggressive by the time it was finally diagnosed.

It started in July of 2008, when I found what I described as a ripple in my right breast. My doctor assured me it was nothing to worry about. About 8 months later, in February 2009, a lump appeared under my arm. A different doctor assured me both were nothing to worry about. I became pregnant a few weeks earlier and was told that they were cysts from the pregnancy and completely normal. Two weeks later, I miscarried. The lumps did not go away. I asked about them again and was told a third time not to worry – they may take some time to go away. After years of fertility issues, I was more wrapped up emotionally in the miscarriage than I was worrying about the lumps.

On March 10, 2009, I heard Dr. Oz talking about medical mistakes on Oprah. He mentioned a case where they switched two women’s mammogram scans – one had breast cancer and the other did not. These two women went about their lives – one started chemo and had surgery to remove her healthy breasts, and the other went about her life while the cancer grew inside her. This story was my wake-up call to insist on a mammogram.

My doctor assured me it wasn’t necessary but ordered it anyway after I insisted. I scheduled the mammogram for March 17, 2009 and was told that day it looked like cancer. They immediately performed a needle biopsy. I anxiously awaited the pathology results and received the call with the confirmed diagnosis on March 24, 2009, the day before my 31st birthday. After many scans and tests, they could clearly see four tumors – two in my breast (which is why they felt like a ripple instead of a lump) and two in my lymph nodes. Later, following surgery, they stated it was evident there were more we just couldn’t see.

Breast cancer is “staged” on a scale of Stage 0 to Stage 4. Stage 4 is considered incurable. Mine was borderline Stage 3. I was told I had a 40% chance of “disease free survival” and needed to start on chemotherapy immediately – there was no time to prepare and no time to recover from having surgery first. The doctors’ primary goal was to prevent it from spreading anywhere else.

I started on three different kinds of high dose chemotherapy on April 1, 2009, lost my hair about two weeks later and continued receiving chemotherapy and/or intravenous hormone therapy until I reached a year out from diagnosis. This amounted to about 66 hours sitting in the infusion room over the course of 52 weeks, a humbling experience at every visit. Immediately following chemotherapy, I had surgery to remove the remaining cancer and then underwent 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments. My husband Dan (also an Ally employee), mom, dad and sisters were by my side through the whole process.

Thanks to my just-in-time diagnosis and an aggressive treatment plan, I am now in remission. As I began the road to recovery and my prognosis improved (from 40% to a 90% chance of “disease free survival”), my husband and I adopted a baby boy. I won’t be able to become pregnant for another 3 ½ years while I finish 5 years of Tamoxifen treatment (a daily breast cancer pill that interferes with estrogen production). While I would never call cancer a “gift” as some cancer survivors do, I recognize that it brought us to our son and allowed us to finally complete our family (or at least got us started – we look forward to adopting again possibly next year).

I hope by sharing my story with you all, you will be encouraged to provide support to Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year. At a minimum, I hope it makes you more aware that breast cancer can strike at any age and to never to listen to a doctor (or two doctors in my case) who tells you a lump is nothing to worry about, even when you have no risk factors at all.

Here is a link to my personal page: 

http://charlotte.info-komen.org/site/TR?px=5312878&pg=personal&fr_id=2256&et=nmLRsS4y8UvelzeVqzeDpw..&s_tafId=71059

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: