Many of you have probably heard the story of my mom, Natalie. She’s the reason why Angela started KVINNA. Her cancer battle ultimately ended with her life and I absolutely wish it hadn’t, but with the tragedy it has lit a fire under me to personally share her story and the importance of breast screenings with the women in my community. I learned a lot from my mom’s experience but here are 5 things I want to share with you today.

Lesson #1 
Testing Negative For The BRCA Gene Doesn’t Mean You Are In The Clear

I grew up talking about breast cancer as if it was genetic. My grandmother was diagnosed early and fought it, so did her twin sister, and her sister’s daughter. Even though there was a clear connection that the women on my mom’s side of the family got breast cancer, when she did genetic testing she did not have the BRCA gene. Genetic testing can be very insightful and can help with cancer research, but it should not be relied on too heavily. They are still finding more genes related to breast cancer and my hope is, that it will help more women in the future. Until then, even if you don’t test positive for one of these genes make sure you are still getting your screenings yearly.

Lesson #2
If You Find a Lump, Even Shortly After A Clear Screening Result Don’t Ignore It!

After my mom’s clear mammogram, she noticed a lump. This had also happened to her a year earlier. She was given a hard time by the doctors when she wanted it checked despite her recent clear mammogram. So when it happened a second time around she was hesitant due to her last experience. She ended up waiting a few months before going to get it checked. When she did it was cancerous. Fighting for your health can feel like an uphill battle, but when it comes to breast cancer, you want an early diagnosis. It is worth looking into no matter what recent screenings show. I wish my mom hadn’t felt gaslighted by the people who should have been informing her that she needed additional screening for her dense breast tissue, but she was. This played a part in her cancer journey, resulting in a later diagnoses of an aggressive breast cancer that took her life. If you have a lump, even if you just received clear breast imaging, go in again and don’t let anyone give you a hard time about it. Your life is more important than someones ego.

Lesson #3
Reconstructive Surgery Might Not Be Worth It

My mom had a double mastectomy after her stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. She opted for a reconstructive surgery that took muscles from her back and brought them up front. This provided a more natural look but ultimately was something she regretted. The recovery was very hard on her body and we think this may have been related to her cancer returning in full force months later, this time progressing to stage 4. After watching my mom go through this I think its worth considering holding off on reconstructive surgery until after your body and immune system have time to recover.

Lesson #4
Mammograms Don’t Always Work On Dense Breast Tissue 

I know this is a topic discussed frequently at KVINNA. There are some great articles you can look up to learn more specifics so I won’t go into the details of why here, but most women don’t even know if they have dense breast tissue. It is not a topic that is discussed during most mammograms. My mom’s mammogram missed her cancer due to her dense breast tissue. My mom was not educated at the time of her screening. She learned about the need for extra screening for dense breast tissue after her diagnosis. Had she known, she would have asked for supplemental screening and she would likely still be here today. If you aren’t sure about the density of your breast tissue ask your healthcare provider or make an appointment with KVINNA!

Lesson #5
Healthy Living isn’t Always Enough

Lifestyle choices, exercise, diet, they all play a role in cancer. My mom wasn’t perfect by any means, but she was very aware of theses factors and didn’t want to do things that would potentially increase her chances of cancer. In a world where everyone is screaming what they think needs to be done in order to, stay healthy, loose weight, avoid cancer – fill in the blank. It is really hard to know what to do or not do. Honestly I think a big part of this is individual, but at the end of the day you can try to avoid certain foods, exercise, spend time in prayer/meditation, and still get cancer. I wouldn’t say that my mom lived in fear of getting breast cancer, but it was something that was on her mind intermittently. I am a big proponent for believing that our minds are very powerful. Focusing too much on what we want to avoid isn’t the route I would take, rather focus on keeping your mind and body strong and healthy. At the end of the day, we don’t have complete control so just do the best you can with what you have.

It has been two and a half years since my mom lost her battle with cancer. I truly believe that the education and technology KVINNA provides is and will continue to save lives. Instead of reading this and thinking, “I hope this doesn’t happen to me or someone I love,” let this be a gentle reminder that you can be the one to educate and encourage women in your life to take control over their health.


Written By: Nichole Launder
IG @littleurbanlife