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How I saved my sister’s life

How I saved my sister’s life

My journey with breast cancer began 19 years ago in 1997 at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

I had just received a negative mammogram, and there was no reason to be concerned, since breast cancer didn’t run in my family. Six months later though, I started thinking about having another mammogram even though I didn’t feel anything when doing a self-exam. I kept thinking about it month after month, and my husband finally said that I should follow my gut and have another test. I did, and a suspicious area was found on my chest wall. It had been much too deep to detect with a self-exam at that point.

What followed was two lumpectomies and 50 radiation treatments, and I got through it just fine with my faith and my support group of family and friends. Our daughters were young, and I was primarily concerned about them and their worries. For the next 16 years, I had an annual mammogram and got a good report from radiology!

Through all of it, I never once said, “Why me?” Instead, I used my experience with cancer to lead other women to have their mammograms, including my sister. Because of my urging, she went in for her mammogram and was diagnosed with stage three invasive breast cancer. I believe this is the reason why I got cancer – to save my sister’s life! This was my, “Why me?”

I again had a routine mammogram in 2013 and got another glowing report. However, the next month, my breast started to change, and something just didn’t feel normal. Again, I followed my gut and was guided by my faith, and continued on to have many tests and imaging done. In July, I had an MRI and all indications were normal, but my breast was still changing, so I contacted a breast cancer specialist at Advocate Condell, and he thought I had a polyp in my duct.

When I had surgery to remove the polyp, they found I had breast cancer again for a second time! How could this be? I knew that there had to be a purpose behind this new discovery. The cancer had simply been hiding, and if I had not pursued testing and doctor consultations, I’m not sure where I would be today. I then had a complete mastectomy with reconstruction. I am doing well, and I love to share my story about early detection and self-awareness.

My testimony about breast cancer is to constantly listen to your heart and follow your intuitions. If you think that something has changed, please talk with your doctor or the breast cancer advocate at the hospital. There is also an incredible Cancer Resource Center at Advocate Condell just waiting for you to step in, and they will guide you through your journey.

I wanted to do something special for the hospital because of the wonderful care that I received, so my daughter and I had a fundraiser and created “Blessing Bags.” We delivered them with pride this year – all 60 of them! We were so excited about the contents of these bags, which were filled with personal toiletries, bottled water, a little devotional, lotion and other small essentials that I know will be helpful from my personal experiences.

The bags are given to every patient who goes through breast cancer treatments and/or surgery at Advocate Condell. It is a gift from strangers, and yet, we are commonly linked because of breast cancer and they show we care.  I loved giving back in this way!

Every day is a gift, and I do feel like I have been given a second chance to spread my knowledge to people in my sphere about life after breast cancer!

I wish you all good things…and think pink!

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About the Author

Gloria Brda
Gloria Brda

Gloria Brda is a two time breast cancer survivor. She has been a licensed Illinois real estate broker for 36 years and formerly was a physical education teacher. She currently works for Baird and Warner in Libertyville bringing buyers and sellers together in Lake and McHenry County-helping in all levels of service from first time home buyers, renters, relocation transferees, and representing sellers. She has a loving husband, 2 daughters and son in laws, and 3 precious grandchildren. In her free time she enjoys traveling, volunteering, and spending as much time possible with her family.