Annette and familyMost women in their 20s or 30s don’t think about getting breast cancer. After all, it’s a fairly rare disease among younger women — only around five percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40.

But Annette’s story shows how important it is to think beyond the statistics.

In the spring of 2013, Annette felt something unusual during a self-exam. There was no way it was worth worrying about—she was only 35 at the time, and there was no history of cancer in her family. Statistically speaking, the numbers were on her side.

AnnetteShe was also a busy attorney with twin one-year-old boys at home. This was a time when life was really taking off, not a time that should be interrupted by something like cancer.

For peace of mind, however, she made a doctor’s appointment. She had a sonogram and then a biopsy, and waited for the results.

That’s when the story took an abrupt turn.

The tests were not only positive, but the breast cancer had already advanced to stage II and spread into her lymph system.

Annette says she left the doctor’s office in a daze after hearing the news. And although her family and friends were all there waiting, ready to offer support, she kept thinking, “Can I really do this?”

The next couple of weeks were difficult, but she eventually realized that the only option was to move forward and get healthy again—for herself, her friends and family, and especially her children.

“Hopefully, by this time next year, I’ll be all done with surgeries and treatment, cancer-free and back to living a normal life,” she says. “Most of all, I’m hoping that this ordeal is far in the past by the time my boys are old enough to comprehend any of it.”

Annette’s advice to other young women is to make sure they take time to empower themselves.

“Don’t live in fear, but take your health seriously. I caught my cancer as early as I could, but it was still able to get into my lymph nodes. Know your body and know the signs, and don’t wait to talk to a doctor if there’s something unusual going on. It may be nothing, but it’s not worth the risk.”

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