WASHINGTON — For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are shining a light on local survivors who want to use their stories to help others understand the dangers of the disease.
Marjorie Cohen was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2018 after finding a lump in her right breast.
“I was at my primary care physician for my annual physical and she found a lump. I came home from the doctors and I was sort of a mess, mostly just shell-shocked,” said Cohen.
For the next year, she faced nearly five rounds of chemotherapy plus radiation every day for nearly a month and a half.
"Then I proceeded to get extraordinarily sick. Chemo had me in the hospital for palliative care. I lost 33 pounds over a short amount of time," said Cohen. “It hit me really, really hard and I got to a point I could not really take care of myself. I could not feed myself because I could not really stand long enough to make anything in the kitchen."
Cohen was just 43 years old with no evidence of breast cancer in her family.
“I was floored. Not only was I feeling much too young for this, but it turned out that the vast majority of women who get breast cancer don’t have any predisposition,” said Cohen.
According to the nonprofit, Here for the Girls, nearly 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years old.
The organization also said approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 39 women will die from breast cancer.
“I was at the beginning of [a] relationship and I was working full-time then all of a sudden, all of it came crashing down. I could not work full-time for about a year after my diagnosis,” said Cohen. “I’m very lucky. I had started dating somebody a couple [of] months before my diagnosis stuck by me and he stuck by me the whole time and we got engaged right after I finished radiation."
"It’s not just about breast cancer, but it’s about the aftermath. It’s about what your new normal is and how that happens," said Cohen.
Marjorie Cohen found a sisterhood and a support group through the nonprofit, Here for the Girls.
She was later featured in their yearly calendar alongside other breast cancer survivors.
"The calendar was amazing. It was so great. You got a little snippet of everybody’s information and how they were diagnosed and who they were," said Cohen.
"I would say you need to be an advocate for your primary care physician and say that you are 40, 41, or 42 and let’s start mammograms. Start them early," said Cohen. "Get checked and talk to people. Those are the two things that I really walk away from this with. Talk to people who have been there because it is really scary and it goes really fast. You don’t know the right questions to ask until they’ve been answered for you in a horrible way," said Cohen.