Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A breast cancer survivor answers the questions you have always wanted to ask
Melanie Samko, on her journey from being a person with breast cancer to a survivor. Get to know her story and how we support this cause through our extensive research chemicals & reference standards portfolio.
For #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth, we asked our colleague Melanie Samko some big questions about her breast cancer experience.
1. Can you share your breast cancer diagnosis story? When were you diagnosed, and what were your initial thoughts and emotions?
I found a lump one day, and I couldn't believe it. I was 42, and I didn't think of having a mammogram at that age, so I never bothered - I had breastfed, and I had a very healthy lifestyle, so breast cancer never occurred to me. I remember going in for the mammogram, and they kept calling me back for more scans, and then they told me I needed a few further scans. That's when I knew something wasn't right. After an hour and a half, the doctor came out to tell me they found multiple lumps and they needed to do a biopsy.
The biopsy was fast, not painful at all, and the results came back the next day. There was cancer all over my breast and lymph nodes, and it was malignant. So, I had breast cancer.
The reassuring part was they knew what treatment was needed. The doctors had a plan. The science has so progressed in this area I'm astounded as to what developments have been made.
2. What were some of the most significant challenges you faced during your breast cancer treatment and recovery?
Honestly, I desperately wanted to keep my life as normal as possible, so I didn't want to let cancer interfere. I tried to be totally there for my boys and not be sick and tired. I tried to keep working relentlessly because I loved my job, and I didn't want to give that up. That was the hardest part. I had to take a break from everything and accept that I needed some time to heal. It's not in my nature, but it did benefit me greatly.
3. What is one thing you wish you knew before you started treatment?
There are so many other women out there who have gone through this - there is definitely a support network - and you need to use it. I sent messages daily to some of my group members on Facebook and other sites, and I got so much support. You may feel like you're going through this on your own, but you definitely are not. Even within LGC, I had people reach out who had gone through this, and I leaned on them and still have relationships with them. You will never go through this alone.
4. How did you find the strength and support to navigate your breast cancer journey?
As anyone does in a time of crisis, my friends and family supported me. The women, in particular, were incredibly strong and rallied around me. There is no limit to what women can do as a united group, and surviving breast cancer has made this so much more apparent to me.
5. Can you discuss the importance of early detection and the role it played in your experience with breast cancer?
I didn't get a mammogram when I was 40 like I was supposed to do because I assumed I wasn't at risk at all. It seemed silly, but I would tell all women now, please get your mammograms. They're the only way we currently have to detect breast cancer.
I know from speaking with my colleagues in the UK that women aren't automatically booked for mammogram screenings until around age 50, but by that time, I would have been dead - it's too late. Please speak to your doctor about starting screening earlier, and petition your government to start screenings at age 40. And I think there is something to say about diet and lifestyle. Even once you're past the age of having children, we all still have to take care of our bodies. Try to eat clean and be healthy. I'm not an expert, but that's the best advice I can give.
Thanks Melanie, for sharing your thoughts with us. Your words and advice will no doubt help those currently fighting.
For more information about breast cancer, click here.
LGC Standards Response: A Commitment to Health and Hope
We are proud to support cancer research and the development of innovative medicines through our extensive portfolio of research chemicals and reference materials.
Our teams have supported researchers worldwide in the development of new, more effective, targeted combination cancer therapies designed to combat mechanisms of resistance, including those driven by mutation of the EGFR protein.
We want to emphasise that your work significantly impacts this cause, as it helps the scientific community to obtain the tools they need to perform and progress their studies and new findings in this field.
Read more in our latest news: Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Celebrating the critical work of drug development scientists.