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Breast cancer awareness is very important to me because there have been so many people in my life who have lost their lives to the disease or been affected by it.

I almost missed knowing my grandmother because she developed breast cancer. My grandmother is a fighter, and she opted to have a mastectomy as well as chemotherapy, and I’m glad she did, because she’s now 89.5 years old and very fit for her age. She never gave up; she got treatment and kept fighting. I went to the Susan G. Komen™ and Bank of America Everyday Portraits site and created a portrait of my grandma, made from my own words. Through Everyday Portraits, Bank of America felt it was important to put faces to those who have been fearless, heroic and courageous in their fight against breast cancer, and my grandma definitely belongs in that group! For every portrait made in the month of October, they are contributing $5 to Susan G. Komen™.

When I was in my early twenties, during a regular exam I found a lump in my breast. My first gynecologist blew it off, saying I was too young to worry about breast cancer. After 8 months it felt like it had gotten larger, and I was worried. I had lost my insurance at this point, so I went to Planned Parenthood. The gynecologist I saw there determined that yes, I did have a large lump and they were unsure what it was. Because my grandmother had had breast cancer, they said it was possible I had it, too. At 22 years old, I was scared that I would die from breast cancer. Luckily, my Planned Parenthood had an angel donor who paid for my surgery to have the lump removed. The surgery was painful, but the three days after the surgery were the worst, as I had to wait to find out if the tissue they had removed was pre-cancerous or cancer. I cried tears of joy when I realized that I didn’t have breast cancer and I wasn’t going to die. I was grateful that I did monthly exams on my breasts and that I was lucky.

A few years ago, my best friend felt lumps in his breast tissue. His grandfather had breast cancer, but it wasn’t something his family really talked about. Since cancer runs in his family, though, he went to get his lumps checked out. That exam showed that he did have calcification in his breast tissue. To be safe, his doctors recommended that he have a bilateral mastectomy. He went through this very painful procedure. Waiting for the results was nerve-wracking. Thankfully, he was found to be cancer free.

There are so many myths that surround breast cancer–that men can’t get it, or that young women can’t get it–but many of them are simply not true. Anyone can get it. It is always important to check with your doctor if you find a lump.