October is our Breast Cancer Survivor issue, and the one we’re most proud to assemble each year. The stories we print in October are uplifting and inspiring. We are often at our best when life takes a sudden turn for the unexpected. In talking to Sherry Palmer at Driven by Heart (previously Breast Friends) for another article, I found one woman’s experience worth sharing. This is Sarah May’s journey, as told by her.

“In February 2015, my life changed forever. I was 35 years old, happily married with a wonderful two-year-old daughter, and life was very good. Then my husband discovered a large lump in my left breast. My OB/GYN checked it out and, after some testing, it turned out that I had a different type of cancer in each breast. I was shocked, terrified and devastated. Because I had no known family history (my father was raised by his aunt and his family history was unknown, and my mother was adopted), I underwent genetic testing and found out that I was positive for a genetic mutation (BRCA2). Not only did I have to deal with breast cancer, but also with the idea that for the rest of my life I would be on high alert for developing other types of cancer. I picked myself up and powered on through my treatment plan, and on my daughter’s second birthday, I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I felt that my surgery was my very special gift to her, hoping it would mean that I would be around for a very long time. After 16 rounds of chemotherapy over a period of five months and many surgeries, I am now healthy and thriving, living my ‘new’ normal.  In May 2017, I also opted to have a prophylactic hysterectomy and oophorectomy, a difficult decision because it meant that I would not be able to give birth to another child, but I chose to have the surgery to greatly reduce my risk of developing ovarian cancer.

“I’m now an outspoken advocate for genetic testing. Knowledge is empowerment; the identification of a genetic mutation can allow women to manage their risk for cancer. It can open so many doors for insurance coverage, allowing for surveillance and preventative screening for
related cancers.

“It was uplifting to witness the many ways that people reached out to support my family, from cooking a meal, to taking me to doctor appointments, to caring for our daughter. I will always appreciate the support and kindness my family received during that time, and it is my hope that my story will touch someone and that they are encouraged to start a dialogue with their doctor about medical testing.”

Read more inspiring stories starting on page 44