Hanson sisters rally against breast cancer

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Hanson sisters rally against breast cancer


By Shalee Hanson


Having lost their maternal grandmother to breast cancer, and then learning that their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 53, the daughters of the late Leonard and Mary Jane Hanson were told they each needed to be checked for the cancer. 
Linda (Hanson) Graham and Mary (Hanson) Davis are two of the six Hanson sisters who faced their own battles with breast cancer.

At age 43, Graham was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“I remember after my mom got cancer, she began apologizing to us because she knew we were at risk, too.  But colon cancer runs on my dad’s side of the family, and I told her I’d much rather lose a boob than have to carry around a colostomy bag all my life,” Graham said.

She had a lumpectomy and endured six weeks of radiation with her sisters by her side every step of the way.

Ten years later, breast cancer appeared in the same breast, and Graham went through with a mastectomy.  She said that at the time, the statistic was that one in six people would end up being diagnosed with cancer.
“I thought, ‘All right, at least we’re done with this; I took one for all the girls, and we were good,’ but that wasn’t the case,” Graham said.
Graham’s younger sister Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 49, just three years after her sister’s mastectomy.  Davis was a little more reluctant to deal with the reality of the cancer.  She was considering not going through treatment and keeping a “whatever happens, happens” attitude.

While sitting with her family one night around the table and discussing her options, Graham had had just about enough of her sister’s foolishness.

“So I reached into my bra, pulled out my prosthesis, and threw it at her,” Graham laughed. “I said, ‘This is what you have to look forward to if you don’t take care of it now.’”

This was enough to convince Mary, and she agreed to go for treatment.  Like her sister, Davis had a lumpectomy and then went through three and a half weeks of a double dose of radiation.  If the cancer comes back, Davis will have a mastectomy.

“If it happens, it happens.  We’ll deal with it when we get there,” Davis shared.

“They say the most important part of recovery is having a positive attitude, and that is so, so true,” said Davis, “and my sisters are the best support group there is.”

Throughout their story, Graham and Davis laughed and attributed their positive attitude to their family.

“It’s okay to have a moment every now and then; we call them ESP trips—Extreme Self-Pity trips,” said Davis.

“I remember the first time I cried about it was when I got fitted with my prosthesis.  I just broke down; I finally felt whole again,” Graham shared.

Back and forth the sisters recall memories from throughout their treatments and emphasized how vital their sisterhood was to their health. 

With two daughters of her own, Davis knows there is a chance she will meet with breast cancer again.  She urges women to listen to their bodies, talk about their bodies, and take care of themselves.

Graham and Davis share advice with all women: Be proactive, get a support system, ask questions, don’t be alone, and talk about your body.

“A lot of people like to keep stuff like this to themselves, but this isn’t something that you should have to go through alone,” Graham emphasized. 

In 2013 it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 2,240 for men.   One of the best ways to combat breast cancer is through early detection.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation recommends that women ages 20-39 should be having clinical breast exams as a part of their regular medical check-up and should schedule a mammogram once every three years.  Women ages 40 and older should be scheduling mammograms once every year.

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