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Breast cancer survivor stories: ‘I was lucky because it was very small’

Editor’s note: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Chicago Sun-Times invited breast cancer survivors to share their stories. We’ll share these first-person accounts throughout the month.

I got my first mammogram when I was 49 and everything was fine. I waited until then because when I was in my 40s, there was a lot of controversy about when to start because of the risk of too much radiation exposure.

The next year I went again and got the dreaded call that I needed to get a biopsy as soon as possible. The radiologist had seen a line of calcifications that many times means cancer so I made an appointment to see a surgeon right away. Four days after the biopsy, I got the call from my doctor that it was in fact cancer, but I was lucky because it was very small. After some routine testing, I had a lumpectomy with clean margins about a month later.

My brother-in-law, who is a radiologist, was able to review my medical files and concurred that radiation therapy would definitely be my best option. I was so fortunate not to have to have chemo, so the seven weeks of radiation really seemed like nothing compared to what some of my friends have had to endure.

I had a couple of scares during the next three years with suspicious spots on the other breast, but the biopsies came back negative and I thank God every day for that. I’ve been cancer-free now for 14 years and feel that my yearly checkups are more important than ever.

Emily Taylor, 65, South Chicago Heights