Kelly Lee, of the High Point community, began her cancer journey in Feb. of 2010 at the age of 38.
“I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in my right breast,” Lee said. DCIS is the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast.
Lee came from a family history of breast cancer from her maternal side and was considered high risk. As a result, she began early detection screenings at an early age.
“I began mammograms at the age of 32. I had my first biopsy at age 36, I had another at age 38 and the diagnosis was DCIS,” she said.
After receiving the news, Lee said she was devastated. Two of her cousins from her mother’s side had received their diagnoses in their late thirties.
“My cousin Karen lost her battle at age 42. She left behind an eight-year-old daughter, and I had an eight-year-old myself,” said Lee. “My other cousin made it through her treatment successfully only to succumb to a more aggressive form 15 years later. She passed in July of 2020.”
Along with her maternal cousins, her mother’s sisters were both diagnosed, and eventually, her mother received the dreaded news in 2014. Lee’s mother passed away in 2016 from colon cancer.
Lee said thankfully, her cancer was confined and caught at an early stage. As a result, she began the treatment process shortly after.
“My doctor recommended a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation if they were able to obtain clear margins. However, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy due to my family history,” she said.
Lee underwent four surgeries in 2010 that included a reconstruction in May, a full hysterectomy in July due to estrogen receptor-positive, and a final reconstruction surgery in December.
“The main obstacle was just recovering from so many surgeries,” said Lee.
Through her breast cancer journey, Lee credits her family as her best support group.
“They were there to help with everything from meals and house cleaning to praying earnestly for healing,” she said. “I also had an amazing group of friends that sent their love and prayers through cards and messages as well as prepared meals for my family.”
Lee said although her journey with cancer has caused more devastation and loss than any family deserves, she felt compelled to help other women and encouraged them to participate in early and regular screenings.
“Several of my closest friends and I started a local organization to raise money for breast cancer awareness,” she said. “We held numerous fundraisers and participated in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day (60 miles) walk for a cure three years in a row.”
As a breast cancer survivor and advocate Lee encourages women to talk with their doctors about early detection and regular screenings, especially if there is a family history.
“I am thankful that mine was in its earliest stages. There is no doubt my journey would have been different had I not had my first mammogram when I did,” Lee said.