We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer in some way shape or form. Sadly, Just Dance Roanoke instructor, Blythe Heffelfinger has watched this terrible disease plague many of her family members. She was kind enough to share her story with us.
I don’t ever remember a time when my life has not been affected by breast cancer. My grandmother, Dorothy was diagnosed in 1956 at the age of 42. In 1965, she lost her fight, leaving behind her husband, 5 children and her first grandchild (my brother) on the way. Before I was born this disease robbed me of the chance to know my grandmother. This picture is of Dorothy, with my mom, Mary on her wedding day in 1964.
In 2005, I recall hearing the news that my aunt, Jean (my mom’s sister) had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember breaking down and thinking that she was going to die. Thankfully, there have been many medical advancements since the 60’s, when my grandmother died of breast cancer. My aunt Jean is alive and healthy today. She just celebrated the birth of her 2nd grandchild and it makes me happy to know that she is able to be here to watch those children grow. This is Jean.
My world was shaken again in 2006, when my sister, Susan was diagnosed with Ductal carcinoma at the age of 37. It was so surreal seeing my sister go through something so unthinkable. She opted to have a bi-lateral mastectomy and later had reconstructive surgery. She fought her fight with bravery and grace. She was featured in several newspaper/magazine articles. Here she is in one of the photo shoots for one of those articles.
From this point, I had to start early screening for breast cancer. In 2012, I found a lump in my one of my breasts. The surgeon thought it was best to remove the lump and I had a lumpectomy. The pathology report determined that the lump was Lobular carcinoma in situ or LCIS (pre-cancer). That same day, my mom called to tell me that she had just been diagnosed with Invasive Lobular carcinoma. She had a lumpectomy as well. She is doing well at 73 years of age. She takes very good care of herself with a healthy diet and daily exercise. This picture is of my mom and dad celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary last year. Together, they have 4 children and 11 grandchildren.
My sister, Susan had a relapse in 2013 when the cancer returned a second time. She underwent radiation and is cancer-free again today. She is an entrepreneur and runs her own business as a professional organizer. She is married and has 2 kids, ages 15 & 17.
I went through genetic counseling earlier this year and with all of my risk factors, I have a 67% chance of obtaining breast cancer in my lifetime. Scary stuff for sure. I do my best not to allow it to define me, or to overtake my life. I try to eat right and exercise daily (so thankful for JDR) and I do my best to educate myself as much as possible. I continue to be diligent about my screenings. I get mammograms and ultrasounds yearly and am closely monitored by my doctors. If the day comes that I get diagnosed, I hope to catch it early.
One tool I’ve found helpful is http://www.safecosmetics.org/ You might be surprised to learn what harmful chemicals there may be lurking in common products you use every day. Be aware of what you put in your mouth and on your body and live your life to the fullest!
Let’s dance to end Breast Cancer. Join us this Sunday, for the Party in Pink.
Sunday, October 22
Blythe Heffelfinger is a stay at home mom of 3. She has been a Zumba fan for many years, but just started teaching at Just Dance Roanoke on Friday mornings at 9:30a.