Breast cancer can strike any woman of any age. In fact, about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, making it the most deadly form of cancer in women.
When Jami Lanich of Springfield, Ohio, was just 44 years old, the wife and mother to two young daughters was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It was around my birthday in the summer of 2012," Lanich said. "I was scratching my left breast, and I found something that didn’t feel right."
Lanich’s doctor ordered an immediate mammogram and biopsy and on July 24, 2012, a diagnosis of breast cancer was confirmed.
"It was a whirlwind," Lanich said. "Everything happened so fast after that."
After setting an appointment with a surgeon who gave her options for surgery — either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, Lanich opted for the latter and surgery was scheduled for early August. After surgery, though the lump was gone, Lanich was referred to the Springfield Regional Cancer Center.
"They did a test on tissues from my breast and they showed that I was at immediate risk of getting the cancer back again," Lanich said. "I was at Stage 1, so that was the determining factor of getting chemotherapy."
At the center, Lanich and her sister, Jodi Biles, who accompanied her, listened as all the possible side effects of chemo were described. She understood that she would likely lose her hair and that the drugs could make her very sick. Her treatments were scheduled for every third Friday and each took about three hours.
"I was lucky that I really never had any side effects," Lanich said. "I did lose my hair and noticed in the shower it was falling out, but I didn’t freak out too much."
And Lanich has retained that positive outlook throughout chemotherapy and then radiation treatments that started shortly afterward. When her mother, Janice Mougey, 66, of Wheelersburg, Ohio, was diagnosed three weeks after her daughter, the women supported one another.
For the past several years, both Lanich and her mother have remained cancer free.
"I have my mammograms regularly," Lanich said. "And they have all come back normal. I am more observant and pay attention to my body, especially to my breasts, and I do the self-checks so it doesn’t happen again."
And she has taught her two young daughters, aged 11 and 9, to tell her immediately if they notice anything that doesn’t feel right on their bodies.
The entire family, including Lanich’s sister and mother, have walked together in several American Cancer Society Making Strides walks, and Lanich said the events are very emotional for her and her mother.
"I will never forget the first time I went (to a walk)," Lanich said. "I just cried my eyes out and couldn’t believe I was part of an event that was for survivors like me."
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