RICHMOND, Va. -- Mailoan Hale said she savors every moment of her life with her family. It's something the 37-year-old mother of twins has done ever since she felt a lump in her left breast while doing a self-breast exam. That was two weeks before Christmas 2014.
"I had already mentally prepared to hear those words, but nothing truly prepares you hearing it", Mailoan said about the breast cancer diagnosis.
In her 30's and diagnosed with stage 2, triple negative breast cancer, Mailoan underwent five months of chemotherapy. After the first round, she shaved off every strand of her hair. She did it in the comfort of her own home and surrounded by family. The chemo eventually shrunk the tumor, but it wasn't enough to give her piece of mind. So she had an elective double mastectomy.
The day before her surgery, the community came together and launched a social media campaign to wish her well on her surgery. The campaign went viral locally as friends, family and strangers held signs that said: Hale No To Cancer.
"You feel so loved and I think anyone going through an illness which is cancer or anything that's all you want to know at the end of the day," she said.
Mailoan said she is now living the "new normal." She blogs about her journey to show cancer can be beaten and pass along the lessons she has learned.
"I don't choose this path for anyone, but in some ways I'm glad I did go through it," she said. "I have a whole new outlook on humanity and the kindness of people."
Because of Mailoan's fear of a reoccurrence, she will most likely have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well. The risk of ovarian cancer increases if a woman has had breast cancer.
Removing the ovaries often eliminates the risk of ovarian cancer, Dr. Gilda Cardenosa, with VCU Massey Cancer Center, said. She added women should start doing self breast exams in their 20s.
The younger women can start with self exams, the more familiar they’ll become with their own breasts and they can better detect any lumps. Breast Cancer in younger women is often more aggressive and can be harder to detect because the breast is more dense. Sometimes a mammogram can’t detect it.