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It Takes an Army - Mary’s Story

Meet Mary.  This is her story, in her words…

She explains how Breast Cancer is “not pretty and not pink!”

In January 2006 I noticed a chronically inverted nipple to be more so. Regular mammograms had never shown any problems, but as I was slightly overdue for one, I scheduled it immediately. As usual, nothing showed up. However, the ultrasound told a different story, and the subsequent biopsy indicated infiltrating ductal carcinoma, grade 2. Thus the disruption of my life began and continues to this day.

Mastectomy has left me severely mutilated and uncomfortable, even all these years later. A second cancer in 2007 was, also discovered by me. This one was missed not only by mammogram, but ultrasound, breast MRI and Cone Beam Scanner! So much for screening, at least for me. I am better off letting my “fingers do the walking and talking”!

We found out my daughter was pregnant in September 2007.  I discovered the second Breast Cancer in November of that same year and we also found out that we were Grandparents-to-be of twins.  As my daughter was a “geriatric”  Mom, at 38, it was considered a high risk pregnancy, thus I decided to keep my situation from her.  I decided on a lumpectomy with rads as the quickest fix, given the time frame of her pregnancy.  I had the lumpectomy in January 2008 and I did a shortened, one week course of targeted rads, twice a day.  I finished the rads in February of 2008 and my daughter came to stay with me in March, as she had to stop working and was put on modified bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy.  I did tell her after, during the time I spent helping her, for about 6 weeks, following the births.  I must tell you we were giddy with exhaustion!  Our good sense of humor, through out the whole “baby” experience, brought us closer than ever.  Almost 4 years later I still suffer from the effects of radiation treatment, that continues to worsen. I am currently being treated, by a Lymphedema therapist as I now have issues on both sides.

Two breast cancers led me to the Army of Women. I joined as soon as I heard about it and have taken part in several of the studies. I am more than grateful for the opportunity to participate in meaningful research, sans the pink ribbon hype that is so pervasive in our society. Breast Cancer is not pretty and not pink! It is an ugly, mutilating disease, that takes so much from too many women and men. Too many of the funds, raised by the pink movement, go to the manufacturers of “Pink Products” and not to meaningful research.

My personal experience with breast cancer is that the “informed consent” for treatment is not informed enough and that needs to change. We are not informed of, or prepared for many of the aftereffects, down the road. I have found it difficult to have my discomfort and needs met, after the fact. Don’t get me wrong, I do pretty much all I did before. I give back to the community, by volunteering. I garden, travel, have many hobbies and live a full life. The discomfort and exhaustion makes all these things more difficult and not as enjoyable as they used to be!

I have done up a Breast Cancer Primer, of sorts, that warns of the many aspects and side effects of various treatments, that are not properly “advertised”. It is down and dirty. It is the real deal of what breast cancer treatment is about and definitely NOT “pretty and pink”!

The Army of Women is at the forefront of change in addressing more meaningful avenues for Breast Cancer research. We need to know the cause, of not just breast cancer, but all cancers, so they can be addressed, properly. You (the Army of Women) have changed my life and hopefully having cancer and joining with the Army of Women, will help change, for the better, the lives, of those who come after me. Please less emphasis on “slash, burn and poison“! Let’s get to the root cause, concentrate on prevention, and find kinder, gentler treatments for those who may be afflicted in the future!

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A program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, the Army of Women is a unique partnership between researchers at top universities and women who want to help find the cause of breast cancer so we can learn how to prevent it. To date, the Foundation has recruited more than 359,000 women (and some men) into the Army of Women program, with 50,000 of those volunteers engaged in helping 52 breast cancer studies.

After signing up at, members are then contacted via email blast about new studies seeking volunteers. They can either sign-up for the studies online, or if they do not qualify, they are encouraged to forward the information to a friend or family member. Every woman over 18 is welcome to participate, whether a breast cancer survivor or someone never affected.

There are currently more than 20 breast cancer studies seeking volunteers through the Army of Women. The studies are looking for a variety of women – some seek healthy women who have not had breast cancer; other studies need breastfeeding moms or pregnant women; another study needs women who have the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 or BRCA 2); a few studies are specifically seeking African American women; while some studies are looking for menopausal and post-menopausal women; and another study is seeking those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

The full list of open studies seeking volunteers are listed

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