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Name: Katherin Lujan

Diagnosed At Age: 45

Status: Two years cancer free

Bio: At 47 years old, Katherin has been married to her high school sweetheart for almost 20 years. She has a 14-year-old  son and 12-year-old daughter. Katherin works full time as a social worker.

My reaction when I was first diagnosed: I will never forget the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was June 13, 2011. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and had just gotten diagnosed with uterine cancer in May of 2011 as well.  By coincidence, she and my father were with me the day that I was diagnosed since her appointment was nearby mine on that day.

I was at the doctors for my yearly breast MRI which I had been getting for the last four years before this in addition to yearly mammograms. I started getting mammograms early, at the age of 35, due to my mother’s diagnosis and also a maternal cousin having breast cancer at an early age. The MRI went on as usual, but on this particular day, it seemed to be taking a little longer than usual. The doctor finished and then requested that I have an ultrasound right then. I was not worried or concerned at all at this point. My parents had been waiting in the waiting room a long time, so I invited my mother in with me while I had my ultrasound. My mother sat in a chair at the foot of the table. The ultrasound technician came in and starting looking around on my left breast. I still thought nothing of this. Then the radiologist came in and was looking intently at my left breast. I did not even catch in their eyes that they were concerned. I remember my mother asking ” Are you saying that she has breast cancer?” The doctor said yes.  I remember immediately crying in such pain. This is a pain like no other. I was devastated and in shock. My thoughts immediately went to my children. They were too young to lose their mother. Will I die? The doctor did an immediate biopsy. My father was in the room within minutes, and my older sister who worked nearby came right away. My next concern was how to tell my husband who was at work. I called my husband from the hallway of the doctor’s office. I couldn’t even stand up. I just sat in the hallway. I felt like I was going to faint. I was in sheer disbelief that this was happening to me. I thought, what will I say to my children? What’s going to happen next? It was an awful day, and I am very happy it is two years behind me now!

How I’m feeling now:  Today, I feel lucky every moment of every day that I am on this earth. I always had taken time to smell the roses in life and have always been appreciative of my blessings, but this is a different feeling now. I am proud to say that I am a survivor!

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My inspirations: My inspirations have always been my children. As a social worker, I knew that I still had to take care of my children and that how I reacted to this awful news would play a part on how they handled this news. My cancer was small, but due to family history (my mother and first cousin), I decided to have a double mastectomy. I decided that I would put a smile on my face every day, even if I didn’t want to. I knew that if I could convince myself to be happy through this that I would be.

My support system: My support system through this was my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I was helped by people who did not know me and people who knew me well. I was introduced via email to a young woman though a mutual friend who also was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name was Stefanie. Stefanie and I have never met to this date, even two years later, but we communicated with each other through this terrible time as if we were the best of friends. She was a great support to me.

I’m proud of: I am very proud of how I handled my diagnosis. In looking back, I know that I was very strong through the process. The words strength, courage and bravery mean so very much to me. I am proud that I walked in a breast cancer walk just one month after my surgery, and at my one-year mark I walked in a breast cancer two-day walk as a survivor. I’m also proud of how I continue to help others through life crises and major health issues.

I’m afraid of: I am, of course, afraid that my breast cancer could come back. Any ache or pain that I have makes me wonder if it could be cancer again.

I’ve learned: I have learned that I can only control certain things in life. You have to wake up each day and be thankful that you had that day to enjoy. The smallest things in life are precious, and I am so appreciative to be here on this earth for my children.

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My advice to new patients: My advice to new patients is to educate themselves about their medical condition. I would also advise to be willing to accept the help of family and friends. People want to help, so you have to let them. I also recommend finding a source of happiness to get you through to the other side of your treatment. My happiness was found in exercising and walking at the beach. Finding your happy place is important!

To see more of our 31 Survivors in 31 Days stories, click here!