October 26, 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: EveryStep's Cindy Winn shares her story
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. The average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer.
Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women; the death rate went down by 1% per year from 2013 to 2018. These decreases are believed to be the result of early detection, increased awareness and better treatments.
EveryStep Healthy Start director Cindy Winn is one of an estimated 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. She chose to share her story in hopes it may help other women. “If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” says Cindy.
Cindy’s experience started late one wintry Sunday night when she says something just didn’t “feel right,” so she did her first breast self-exam in years.
“The strangest thing happened,” says Cindy. “I felt something; I felt a little marble in my left breast.” Cindy called her doctor first thing the next morning and was in for an appointment in less than an hour. Her doctor scheduled her for a mammogram and breast ultrasound.
“I wasn’t too worried and went in for my mammogram – it was clear. Then I went into the next room and had the ultrasound,” says Cindy. The ultrasound confirmed a mass was present and a biopsy was scheduled to determine if it was benign or cancerous. The biopsy confirmed Cindy had breast cancer.
“The next several months were a blur. Lots of doctor appointments. A bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Then drains, meds and more doctor appointments,” says Cindy. Chemotherapy followed and by mid-summer, her scans came back clear. Because of the type of breast cancer, Cindy will take estrogen blockers for the next 10 years.
Cindy credits a friend who had gone through breast cancer years before as being the reason she acted quickly when she felt the “little marble” in her breast. “She is the reason I called the doctor immediately the following morning after finding my lump. Early detection is key. Routine medical check-ups with an established medical home are vital,” says Cindy. “Had I waited to see the doctor or not taken the lump seriously, my story could have had a different outcome.”
Free mammograms are available to eligible women through the Iowa Department of Public Health “Care for Yourself” program. Visit https://www.idph.iowa.gov/cfy/Free-Cancer-Screenings for eligibility requirements and contact information. To learn about breast cancer signs and symptoms, visit https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-cancer-signs-and-symptoms.html.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or, complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at https://www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.