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Rogue Valley mothers working throughout their breast cancer journeys

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MEDFORD, Ore. -- Battling breast cancer has become more common among women who are under the recommended age for mammograms, which is between the ages of 40-45.

BreastCancer.org reports, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women. Overall, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower. Ashkenazi Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer because of a higher rate of BRCA mutations.

Newswatch 12 spoke to Family Health teacher at South Medford High School, Miranda Gillaspie who said she received her diagnosis the day before her 37th birthday, years before the recommended age for mammograms.

She said, during a self-check, she found a lump in her armpit the size of a grape, which her doctors told her was an enlarged lymph-node and was determined as invasive ductal carcinoma.

Gillaspie says she had to navigate the news at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when schools shut down. She also said it was gradual conversations with her two young daughters and not using the word "cancer" for a while to help them understand what she was going through. Now, she tells Newswatch 12 those conversations are more open and she wants to use her voice to spread awareness about early detection so women can catch lumps when they are the size of a grape and not the size of a kiwi.

"The rest of that school year I kind of went through that first process."

During the time, Gillaspie says elective procedures were being shut down so her process was expedited. She said realizing that she would be losing her hair from chemotherapy was the most shocking.

"That's a big thing when you hear chemo. Your head goes to chemo, 'like no hair chemo, that's what, we're really going that route.' that was just kind of intense."

At that time, visitors weren't allowed into the treatment sessions, but Gillaspie's sister who is a nurse listened in on phone calls to help her process the information.

Since completing chemo therapy and radiation, Gillaspie has been placed on a 7 year process of hormonal blockers.

She tells Newswatch 12 she even took it a step further to stop producing estrogen.

"Just a couple weeks ago I decided to go ahead and have my ovaries removed, which removes the rest of the estrogen."

Medical Assistant at Providence in Medford, Trisha Martinson told Newswatch 12 she values a strong support system. She says before going through her own battle, she watched people in the oncology center go through the fight alone.

Since going through her battle, she realizes how "lucky" she was to have her family's help.

Martinson said, "I know how lucky I am that I had that kind of support system. My youngest, she had shaved her head when I shaved my head and it was really sweet."

She says staying positive is important when going through breast cancer but says it's important to acknowledge the good and the bad.