While your risk of breast cancer increases as you get older, it's still important for younger women to be aware. It's not as common, but it happens.
For one young local woman, surviving breast cancer has turned her into an advocate for others.
At a breakfast kick off for City of Hope's Walk for Hope, 38-year-old Kandace McMenomy of Corona Del Mar gave her audience an inspired reason to raise research money for women's cancers.
"Maybe I was meant to have this journey to help others who are gonna be walking in my shoes," she said.
At the age of 30, McMenomy had just run her personal best for a marathon and she was a successful fitness trainer. Then, she discovered a lump in her underarm.
"That biopsy told me that I had stage 2 breast cancer," McMenomy said. "I had a lumpectomy. They removed 17 lymph nodes and seven were cancerous. So you have to dig deep within yourself and rely on your support team to help you through it."
After five years, she was cancer free. Then, another devastating set back.
McMenomy said, "Six months later I was diagnosed again. This time the cancer was everywhere in my body."
McMenomy's story is not uncommon. The CDC says about 11% of breast cancer cases are found in women younger than 45.
City of Hope's Dr. Joanne Mortimer, Baum Family Professor in Women's Cancers said, "Even doing the right things, some women get breast cancer and we don't understand why."
Yet, Dr. Mortimer points out eating well and exercising regularly lowers a woman's risk for cancer. Through chemo, radiation and more, Kandace never stopped exercising.
"It helped with the side effects, it helped with the fatigue," McMenomy said.
She will need to take oral chemotherapy indefinitely. Today, the cancer remains in remission. Money raised through the Nov. 3 Walk for Hope will support more patients like McMenomy.
Mortimer said, "There's a lot of hope. There are so many new drugs that are being developed that make the cancer more likely to respond to treatments that we use conventionally."
"Being at the City of Hope and everybody's smile and everybody's hugs, it makes me want to give back," McMenomy said.
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