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One Young Mother's Battle Against Breast Cancer

5:37 PM, May 31, 2010   |    comments
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NOKESVILLE, Va. (WUSA) -- Growing older does increase a woman's risk for breast cancer, but the disease knows no age, and it can affect younger women.

Jual Harmon, a mother of three, knows that all too well. She will be running in this year's Global Race for the Cure for herself and her family. Jual has three children, or little birds as she calls them, six-year-old Ella, four-year-old Pierce and two-year-old Ryder.

In 2007, in her late 20s, Jual was pregnant with her youngest, Ryder, when she noticed a change in her breast. Her left breast got large and a rash appeared.

Her obstetrician felt something but chalked it up to the pregnancy. So did a lactation consultant and a general surgeon, even though they knew she had a family history of breast cancer.

Jual told 9NEWS NOW, "My mother had breast cancer. She was diagnosed before 50; I think she was 45, and her mother, my maternal grandmother, also had breast cancer. She was diagnosed in her sixties."

Most would think her history would throw up red flags for sure, but her doctors assured her she shouldn't be concerned.

"They said I was too young for breast cancer, that cancer didn't grow that fast, and they were 99% sure it wasn't cancer," Jual shared.

Her doctor didn't want to perform an unnecessary biopsy, but after four weeks and no change, Jual insisted on a biopsy. The results came back, and it was breast cancer.

At that point, the doctors were in a hurry. They wanted her to start chemo and do surgery, and she was still trying to process the fact she had breast cancer.

Jual then went to Georgetown for a second opinion, Dr. Shawna Willey immediately biopsied the rash, which turned out to be inflammatory breast cancer. IBC, as it is also called, is one of the most virulent forms of breast cancer.

Jual started aggressive chemotherapy first, while she was still pregnant, then after she delivered a healthy boy, she had a mastectomy followed by more chemo and radiation.

"Life was getting back to normal my hair was growing back I was feeling great," Jual said.

But the road to normal hit a bump. A 2008 scan showed cancer had spread to her breast bone.

Doctors then decided the best treatment would be to remove her uterus, put her on hormone therapy and give her monthly infusions of the drug, Zometa. It all seems to have helped stabilize her condition.

With so much to live for, Jual surrounds herself with her family and positive signs of life. She's thankful for every moment and filled with hope.

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