“My journey with breast cancer has made me a better person. It humbled me.” - Melinda Linas
MK: What was your life like before you were diagnosed with breast cancer?
ML: I was 41 years old, and in the best shape of my life. I was eating healthy and very active. I went for routine mammogram, and had no symptoms or family history. My mammograms showed “calcifications” which, based on statistics, are usually nothing. I had the option to keep an eye on the calcifications for six months or to get needle biopsy done of them. I opted for biopsy because my best friend, at 38 years old, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, months earlier. After testing, it was determined that I had Stage 2, hormone receptor positive breast cancer.
MK: How did your breast cancer diagnosis change your life?
ML: As a mother of small children, I was faced with my own mortality, and it was scary. It made me slow down and re-evaluate my priorities. I am a mother of 2 young girls (8 and 5), a wife, I have a full-time job, I volunteer, golf, exercise and participate in many other activities. This diagnosis made me realize what it means to “live in the present” or to “live in the moment”. I realized that I didn’t always have to be planning ahead or seeking a new challenge or looking at what is coming up next. I realized that being present in the current situation is much more fulfilling and enjoyable. I have realized how lucky I am to have a wonderful husband and daughters that will do anything for me. It also made me reevaluate the integrity of some relationships and truly appreciate those who care about me.
MK: What do you wish you'd know before being diagnosed with breast cancer?
ML: That no two people go down the same exact paths. I wish I’d known ahead of time about the important, critical and informed decisions I’d have to make. I didn’t know that there would be curve balls in the form of genetic test results, family history findings, more tests and scans. I didn’t expect to learn, after I woke up from surgery, that the cancer that spread to my lymph nodes, and could be in other parts of my body.
MK: How has this experience awakened you to yourself and your purpose?
ML: Dealing with cancer has renewed my desire to help others. It has empowered me. I want to share my strength with other women and I want to put my energy into finding a cure and better treatments for this disease. I want to make an effort to ensure breast cancer never cuts short the life of a friend and I will work to ensure my daughters’ generation will never have to endure the treatments I did.
MK: Tell me about your advocacy work with Komen Chicago.
ML: Komen Chicago has given me a platform to share my story. One thing I find very important about my story is the key to early detection. I stress how I did not have any signs, symptoms or high risk history. I was healthy and active and 41 years old. I was busy with my children, family, work etc. but I still went for my mammogram. And once I received the results, I became an advocate for myself. Setting goals and with the help of my outstanding Drs, I achieved those goals. For the Mother’s Day race, I raised more than $25,000. It also has been wonderful to meet with women who have been helped by the money we have raised. I am honored to be celebrated as one of 20 Komen “More Than Pink Heroes” at the Ignite the Fight Gala on October 21st in Chicago, along with others who are making na impact and working to end this disease.
MK: What word do you wish you could take out of the breast cancer vocabulary?
ML: Terminal. I am excited about Komen Chicago’s commitment to Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) research. . There are too many women, young women who are battling MBC. Even though I am now cancer free, I still have a fear of my cancer coming back. It’s a fear that I wish I didn’t have to live with. For those living with MBC it is not just a fear, it is their reality. Something needs to be done to end MBC.
MK: If there was one thing you could change about breast cancer and how people view it, what would that be?
ML: Breast cancer is so dynamic and specific to each individual, so it’s not fair to judge one’s decision for their treatment plan, or the way they feel at various points in their treatment and recovery.
MK: What would you tell a newly diagnosed young woman?
ML: I would tell her that they have now been thrust into a club of remarkable, strong warriors, and to take advantage of any help offered. It is amazing how many people come out of the woodwork with stories of survival, words of encouragement and acts of generosity and kindness.
MK: Has cancer changed how you see adversity?
ML: It has given me a different perspective. It strengthened me.
MK: What word defines you?