For one scientist, studying cancer suddenly got very personal.
Dr. Kristi Egland's working relationship with breast cancer began long before her personal one: She studied the genetics of breast cancer in her laboratory, as she does today. A molecular biologist originally working on leukemia and lymphoma, Egland realized that the same technologies used to study those cancers could be applied to breast cancer. She made the leap and never looked back.
Her personal relationship with breast cancer began five years ago, when her right breast did not return to its normal size after she finished breastfeeding her son. "Since I study breast cancer in the laboratory," she says, "I had wondered what it would be like to have cancer. Would it hurt? Would I know I had it? Would I be able to feel a lump? I figured that if I did acquire breast cancer, I would detect it early because of my awareness."
In fact, her diagnosis did not come particularly early on. She describes the feeling when she first discovered the swelling: "I felt a deep, empty bit in my stomach. Although I was not in pain or feeling sick, I knew something was terribly wrong. I felt like my body was deceiving me." The appointment with the radiologist after her mammogram was even more sobering. "When I watched the image of my breast with the large tumor mass show up on the screen, life stopped. I was not even sure how I should react to the news that I had breast cancer. Should I cry, be brave or identify other possible causes of the mass? My diagnosis was a triple negative invasive breast cancer with lymph node involvement."