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Dena Stern

Writer & Health Activist

San Francisco, CA

As hard as it was to share my story, if just one girl finds her cancer earlier than I did, then I know it’s worth it.

I found a lump in my right breast a few days before my 29th birthday. Before that I was a normal (healthy) girl, working 17-hour days at startups, dating, eating organic... and then the biopsy came back positive. To say that my world came crashing down around my shoulders was an understatement. I realized very quickly I wouldn’t be able to work for quite some time, so I went on disability.

And then I had to start telling people what was going on. The response I got over and over again was “How did you know? How did you find it? I don’t know what to do about mine, they seem so lumpy!” I realized I could do something that was bigger than myself – take this horrible, unimaginable thing that happened to me and make it into something that could help other people.

So I wrote a blogpost on my fledgling fashion blog (Dameazon) called “I have breast cancer and I am asking you for a favor.” In it, I implored women to just check their breasts – to know what they feel like normally, so if they feel something weird they can get it looked at by a doctor.

To this day there is no good way to for young women to screen for breast cancer; our breast tissue is too dense for mammograms to be effective until the cancer is more advanced. I have Stage IV metastatic breast cancer – and will always have it until science catches up with a cure – by the time I found my lump it had already spread to my bones. I am lucky I found my lump when I did, but at the end of the day, young women are our only hope to catch and treat breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common – and fatal – cancer among young women... and rates are on the rise. My blog post has now been viewed almost 40,000 times by young women all over the world who have promised me they will start to check their own breasts; the story has reached young women that may not have heard this message before. As hard as it was to share my story, if just one girl finds her cancer earlier than I did, then I know it’s worth it.

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