Ellyn Davidson has been cancer free for 11 years, but she is sharing her journey with breast cancer in hopes of helping others.
"I was 36 years old. I had just finished breastfeeding my third child, and I found a lump," she says.
At the time, she wasn't worried about cancer because she thought she was too young. She still went to the doctor, but a mammogram and ultrasound didn't show anything. When the surgeon removed the lump, it was cancer. Davidson was immediately sent for genetic testing because of her young age. After that, she learned she had the BRCA gene mutation that's often associated with hereditary cancer.
Davidson says she was completely unaware of her family history, but since her diagnosis, she has been a tireless advocate for raising awareness about hereditary cancer. She says it's critical to know your family history and risk factors.
"Had I known I had a mutation, I may have been able to avoid a cancer diagnosis or been diagnosed at an earlier stage," she says.
Melissa Mally, 34, also a mom in Huntington Woods, says her aunt died of ovarian cancer. She got tested to see if she had the BRCA gene mutation. She tested positive for it at the age of 25. Ever since then, she's been doing preventive screenings.
"Unfortunately, I did get a diagnosis, but it was stage 1A; very, very early. So, I am lucky that I was looking out for it. My cancer is nothing I would have ever felt because it was so small," says Mally.
That early detection helped her fight the cancer quickly. Mally just finished chemo in July and is doing great. She and Davidson, who both have different stories, have the same message. Knowledge is power that could save your life.
"Be your own advocate," says Davidson.
To learn more about National Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Week from 9/30 to 10/6 go to: http://www.facingourrisk.org/index.php
October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.