Two friends battle breast cancer together

About one in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.  While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages.

"You cannot assume you are protected, everyone is at risk," said Baptist Health general surgeon Dr. Sue Ellen Petty.

Local 6’s Mychaela Bruner spoke to two local women, who are friends, and are battling the same disease.

Lori Smith and Tracy Underhill have a lot in common.

"Her mother and her went to our church," said Lori.  

They have been friends for almost three decades.

"Just knowing that she’s there, anytime of the day or night, I can text her or call her," said Tracy.

They’ve celebrated the good times.

"We laugh together, we make fun of ourselves," said Tracy.

However, they have also been through the hardships.

"It was devastating. devastating. I had been through ovarian cancer with my mom, it’s been 14 years since she passed," said Tracy.

A few years later, Lori also lost her close friend, Amy.

"She wound up having breast cancer and it killed her," said Lori.

Those painful memories would soon become Lori and Tracy’s reality.

"I still to this day can feel and hear what happened that day, you’ll never forget it…That Dr. looked me straight in the face and she said Lori I’m sorry.  It’s something when you hear the c word, cancer," said Lori.

Lori is now three-years breast cancer free.  

"I think it’s one of my proudest things to be, a survivor. I get to live," said Lori.

Tracy was by Lori’s side through it all, never knowing she would fight the same battle.
"I was sure it wasn’t anything, I thought this is just a cyst, they are going to remove it, I didn’t tell my family until the day I found out it was cancer," said Tracy.

Her diagnosis, stage 2 breast cancer.

"Mine is 2.5 centimeters, which is very small," said Tracy.

Living with the unknown is what scares them most.

"I survived something that could have killed me and it still can down the road," said Lori.

Tracy said, "The Lord woke me up this morning, it’s a good day, some days are better than others, but everyday I’m here is a good day."

It is a fight both Lori and Tracy refuse to lose.

"I have faith. I’ve never questioned that I will be healed, I know I will be ok, I can’t wait until five years down the road that this is a distant memory," said Tracy.
Dr. Sue Ellen Petty said it is important to always trust your instincts.  A woman knows her body better than anyone else.  Dr. Petty reminds everyone that early detection is key.

"The biggest misconception is it can’t be me because I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, the most common person I diagnose is someone who doesn’t have that many risk factors," said Dr. Petty.

Every woman wants to know what she can do to lower her risk of breast cancer.   Some of the factors associated with breast cancer: being a woman, your age, and your genetics.

Dr. Petty says other factors, such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes, and eating unhealthy food are all risk factors that you have control over.

"Women that don’t have any risk factors, you’ve got to take care of yourself, everyone is at risk. The primary ones that everyone needs to do is low fat diet, maintain healthy weight, exercise, not just for breast health, heart health and to live a long and healthy life," said Dr. Petty.

For more information about breast cancer, click here.

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