Dana Koman

Age: 33
Profession: Marketing Consultant and Reporter
Type of Breast Cancer: Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Year of Diagnosis: 2015
Number of years as a survivor: Almost 3
Relationship to Susan G Komen: Race Participant

For most of my life, I didn’t know much about breast cancer and erroneously thought it was a disease only older woman got. When my mother was diagnosed in her early 60s and my paternal aunt in her early 50s, my belief was reinforced. However, their journeys with breast cancer taught me a lot more, including that I was now at a higher risk.

After my aunt died from breast cancer, I knew that I didn’t want to wait until 40 for my first mammogram. For my 30th birthday, and with the support of my primary doctor, I obtained a referral for mammography. Despite being covered by insurance and my family history, I was repeatedly told that I was too young to get breast cancer. Just six months later, I found a big lump in my right breast. Again, I had to fight to be taken seriously by doctors who dismissed my concerns because of my age. With the help of my mother, a 5-year survivor at the time, I obtained a referral to a breast specialist who diagnosed me with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I know it is because I had my mother as my personal advocate that I am alive today. I hate to think what would have happened had I listened to the many doctors who dismissed my concerns.

It’s been almost three years since my diagnosis, and it hasn’t been easy. I had a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and reconstruction. During that time, I remember feeling hopeless, ugly and had a general dislike for my new body. It was after I met other young women diagnosed with breast cancer that I started to feel whole again. I realized I wasn’t alone. My fellow Warriors helped me remember just how amazing life can be and that breast cancer doesn’t define or control me. They also taught me never to give up the things that bring me joy, even when at my worst. One thing I never gave up was walking my dog. Even on the days when every bone in my body ached, I took my beloved yellow Lab for a walk, even if just around the block.

Thanks to my husband’s support and encouragement, my doctors and local organizations, I found an unlikely sisterhood who supported me and encouraged me through my diagnosis, treatment and beyond. This disease has changed my life, and I am stronger today. Because of my diagnosis, I found a new appreciation for life and feel empowered to do more. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill, spoken during Breast Cancer Awareness month to advocate for young women and breast health, and helped co-found a young survivor non-profit. I continue to fundraise for great organizations that are making waves in the breast cancer world. Because of my experience, I found a more defined purposed to my life. Today, I work hard to not only support my fellow Warriors but to be a voice for young women everywhere and their breast health.

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