Courage is something we all hope we might have if called upon to face our greatest fears or the challenges in life which call upon us to muster the inner strengths to overcome some of the most catastrophic encounters we might face.
From the Bible to fairy tales, ancient myths to Hollywood movies, our culture is rich with exemplary tales of bravery and self-sacrifice for the greater good.
So, when early one evening a month ago I received a text message from Lauren (Feinman) Ross, you can understand my shock and disbelief when I read that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is only 33 years old and I’ve known her since her teens. I watched her mom, dad and Lauren build Chef’s Express into an extremely successful venue for islanders and visitors to frequent over the years. She would then, as a young entrepreneur, work alongside her parents as the manager of the now extremely successful Mango’s Dockside Bistro at the Esplanade.
Who Lauren is, as a human being, shined through in that text message. She was looking to have me tell her most private of stories, allowing her to become an advocate for young women under forty to get tested and have mammograms for this deadly disease. Many medical professionals do not promote this early diagnostic procedure until after the age of 40 and some not until 45 or 50.
Approximately 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed each year. Another 64,000 cases of non-invasive carcinoma will be diagnosed on an annual basis. This is the earliest form of breast cancer.
Fewer than 5% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States are younger than 40. However, the percentage increases in women under 40 if there is a history of the disease within their family’s past.
Initially Lauren was experiencing some tenderness, however she and her physician believed that it may have been contributed to by her desires to become pregnant. Her physician at first discounted that discomfort, however as time progressed and upon further examinations and an eventual diagnostic mammogram, the presence of a cancerous tumor was revealed.
Although there is now genetic testing that can be done to determine whether there is a predisposition for the disease, it is not always accurate. After Lauren’s diagnosis, she was tested and the results came back as negative, even after she had been diagnosed. “Women my age have to become an advocate for themselves and continue to seek out the answers and be proactive in self-diagnosing,” said Lauren.
For Lauren, her journey has just begun. She has had her port installed for the weekly chemotherapy that will be administered in Naples, and a carefully laid out regimen of treatment is being overseen by the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Lauren will visit the Moffitt Center on a regular schedule for additional specialized chemo as they continue to monitor her progress.
Once her schedule of chemo is completed they will then proceed to a predetermined radiation treatment and then review their options based upon her progress.
“I can’t stress enough the need for self-examination and if you have had a family history of cancer, especially breast cancer, you should insist on a mammogram. A mammogram may detect a tumor almost two years before it might be felt by you or your health care provider. The early detection of breast cancer is vital to survival and can help to avert the spread of the disease to other areas in your body,” commented Lauren.
“I’m so fortunate to have such a strong family unit surrounding me. My husband Don, my mother, my extended family, our friends and the staff here at the restaurant are all the foundation of my strength, as is my faith in God. They give me the courage to take on this battle,” said Lauren as we finished. She flashed her trademark smile, helped the staff clear a couple of tables, and then disappeared into the restaurant.
The Coastal Breeze News will continue to follow Lauren and her progress as she continues her fight to educated and promote early cancer detection.