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Miss Resilient: Living through Three Unrelated Breast Cancers


Read Time: 3 minutes
Author: Marilyn Morris

Photo Marilyn Morris and Husband

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

At the age of 46 in January of 1990, I went for a routine mammogram. Though my mom had died from breast cancer just three years earlier, I still had hope everything would be fine.

When I got the phone call telling me I had breast cancer, I was totally shocked and petrified. I told myself I was too young for this, too young to die. I had two teenage boys and needed to be there for them. I searched for the best doctors and treatment. I wanted to be sure I knew all the possibilities so I could make the best decision.

I was overwhelmed with all the information I received. The night before surgery, I still didn’t know what I was going to do. With lots of support from my family and friends, I chose a lumpectomy followed by radiation.

Marilyn prepping for radiation

After 20 years of being cancer-free, I had a party with all my friends to celebrate! That was in March 2010. Much to my dismay, exactly one year later, I was diagnosed with cancer in my other breast. It was unrelated to the first diagnosis. By now, I knew the doctors I wanted to see and had another lumpectomy followed by radiation.

This time I was put on Arimidex, a breast cancer drug for postmenopausal women. I was sure all would be fine. Everything was okay during my checkups. I was busy with my life and put cancer behind me.

Marilyn with grandchildren

Then, another bombshell hit. In 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. After my last mammogram, three tumors had developed where my first cancer had been. Because of the particulars of my case, my only option was a mastectomy. Initially, I was devastated. The good news was I did not need radiation or chemo. But for five to ten years, I need to take Tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug that blocks estrogen.

The interesting thing is all three of my cancers were unrelated. They were not recurrences, but new cancers, which is very unusual.

Here I am now, at 77, in good shape, active, and enjoying my life. I hardly notice my mastectomy. My friends have nicknamed me "Miss Resilient." I’m sharing my story with the hope that a newly diagnosed woman will know she can rise above this disease. My support group was so beneficial. We helped each other through treatments. I learned as much as I could, and I have always believed knowledge is power. Involve your family and friends, accept help, stay positive, and be active. Always remember YOU are the author of your own life!

Marilyn with her family

Cancer touches all of us.