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CNHI News Service Originals

October 17, 2013

A journey of courage

OTTUMWA — With no family history of breast cancer and a healthy lifestyle, Laura Salter thought she was doing all she could to prevent breast cancer.

So she believes it was divine intervention that she grazed herself on the corner of a filing cabinet at work. That’s when she first noticed a tender spot under her arm, and she made a mental note to keep an eye on it.

On Friday the 13th in May 2011, Laura’s husband had already gone to bed and she was getting comfortable on the couch. That’s when she found the lump.

“Maybe not all women are, but I was pretty aware of my health,” she said. “It was already alarmingly large, the size of a quarter. But I was more aware, tuned in to that area. Without that, it could have been longer before I learned about it.”

Laura was fortunate that she found it, as it was a fast-growing type of cancer. She was triple negative and part of the 10 percent of women with breast cancer that isn’t hormone-related. Because of this, doctors don’t know as much about it, and there are fewer treatments for it.

The decision was made to treat it aggressively. Her doctor told her she could be treated as they would treat a 35-year-old because of her good health.

“My doctor said, ‘We’ve got one chance at this.’ I remember when I was diagnosed, you think you’re pretty healthy, then you’re thrown into the world of cancer,” she said.

She vividly remembers sitting at the doctor’s office filling out the forms. She was checking “no” on every question because there was no history in her family, she wasn’t unhealthy and had no other reason to suspect cancer.

“I was so mad,” she remembered. “I was digging the pen into the paper. I don’t belong here. How can this be happening to me?”

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