WASHINGTON – Baltimore native Lindsay Ruland was working in a pathology laboratory – she had just received a promotion and was making headway in her life outside of college – when she found a lump in her breast.
It was during a self-exam that she discovered it – the pea-sized lump on her right breast that hadn’t been there before.
The Coppin State University student was unsettled by her discovery. She said she “told everyone about it and everyone just sort of laughed it off.”
“I just waited and didn’t do anything. People said that,‘Oh,it’s probably just a cyst. It’s probably nothing,you’re so young.’”
But it wasn’t “nothing.” Five months later and days after a mammogram and an ultrasound,she was told last year that,at 26,she had Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma.
Her struggle – the fear,through chemotherapy and radiation – is one of the reasons Ruland walks for breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen 3-Day,60-mile event,to meet others who understand what she has gone through and to raise money for research and awareness about the disease.
She began walking with 1,000 other participants Friday morning,starting in suburban Maryland and finishing at RFK Stadium in D.C. on Sunday afternoon. The event breaks the 60 miles into 20-mile stretches. Walkers camped at sites where medical volunteers and Komen crew members provide care,food and entertainment.
Walkers in the 3-Day event Sunday had to raise at least $2,300 to walk – and the walkers raised about $2.7 million at the D.C. walk. The D.C. event is one of 14 3-Day walks Komen hosts.
Dr. Erica L. Mayer,a breast cancer oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers,treats patients and works on clinical research to improve breast cancer treatments.
She said one of the greatest advances in breast cancer treatment over the past 10 to 20 years has been the identification of the different subtypes of breast cancer and the treatments that work best for each.
What’s next for breast cancer research is “trying to harness the power of what’s call genomic analysis and use that to translate into effective treatments,” she said. “It’s designed to allow us to learn even more.”
Having more information helps doctors choose the best treatments and medications for a person,Mayer said.
“Making progress is something that happens over a long period of time,over small steps,” Mayer said. “Foundations like Susan G. Komen are incredible organizations that provide much of the funding and support that helps this very important research move forward. We are incredibly fortunate to have received over $20 million – the majority of which has supported a significant amount of breach cancer research.”
Ruland has been in remission since her last radiation treatment Dec. 31.
She was determined to be done with her breast cancer by the end of last year,she said. And she is determined to get on with her life,slowly but steadily.
According to a study produced by the American Cancer Society,fewer than 8 percent of women diagnosed this year at age 40 and younger will die from breast cancer. Women in their 20s and 30s often have a more aggressive form of the cancer or are diagnosed later,making treatment more difficult.
Of newly diagnosed women 40 and older,13.5 percent will die from the disease. The ACS study projects 296,980 new cases of breast cancer in women,with 39,620 deaths,or 13.3 percent.
Dr. Sheri Phillips,the Komen 3-Day walk spokeswoman,said U.S. one in every eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
A physician and breast cancer survivor,Phillips said someone,somewhere in the world dies of breast cancer every two minutes.
“So events like the Susan G. Komen 3-Day are so critical because we’re raising funds in the fight to end breast cancer.”
There will not be a Washington 3-Day walk next year because of a lack of enrollment. Phillips said Komen has been looking at participant data since 2009,and with the decrease in participants,has elected to cancel half of the 3-Day walks – eliminating Boston,Chicago,Cleveland,Phoenix,San Francisco,Tampa Bay,Fla.,and Washington.
“We will continue to evaluate the program and look for opportunities where we can continue to give as many dollars possible back to the cause,” Phillips said.
The decision to cancel the 3-Day events comes nearly two years after the Komen organization chose to stop donations to Planned Parenthood – a controversy that may have caused the decline in participation since 2012.
But 3-Day walkers can still participate in Atlanta,Michigan,Philadelphia,San Diego,Seattle,the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Reach reporter Jessica Wray at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.