Friends take breast cancer awareness to heart

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. 

GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – Two Trumbull County friends have very personal reasons to support the fight against breast cancer.

They started a team for the first-ever Panerathon fundraiser and it has grown tenfold in the last five years. But they realized that raising awareness could only go so far if they did not take their own message to heart.

“This is the last picture I have with both of my grandmothers,” Brittney Murphy of Hubbard said.

She and Stacie Curtis of Girard have been friends for years. They often talk about breast cancer because both have a family history of the disease.

Curtis’ maternal grandmother, Dorothy, was a breast cancer survivor.

“She first found a lump when she was 51 years old. Was diagnosed seven years later,” Curtis said.

Dorothy Curtis later died of complications.

Murphy’s grandmother, Eva Jean McCracken, was 52 when she passed away.

“My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 51. She had first noticed a lump at 44,” Murphy said.

McCracken fought for her life by getting a double mastectomy, but the cancer eventually spread, killing her a year after that surgery.

More than 20 years later, Murphy also lost her paternal grandmother to breast cancer. Mary Murphy was 71 when she died of the disease.

“After she had passed away, we had found out that the bone where the cancer had originated, there was like a 95 percent probability that it originated in her breast,” Murphy said.

These matriarchs are the inspiration behind Curtis’ and Murphy’s desire to raise awareness. Their Panerathon team is now 40 strong, and it all starts with them.

“If I am saying to people ‘Be proactive. Do early detection,’ then I need to be doing this myself,” Curtis said.

“And it really kind of felt like hypocritical, like ‘hey, you should be aware’ and we should walk for awareness but we’re not doing anything to protect ourselves, to protect our bodies,” Murphy said.

Both women now do self breast exams and educate themselves about breast cancer.

Curtis is only 29 and Murphy is 31, but they decided planning for the future should not wait any longer.

“I didn’t know that not having a child before 30 is a risk factor until Stacie and I had started researching those risk factors. And that kind of stopped me in my tracks a little bit, and I was like, ‘okay, maybe I need to be a little bit more serious about this’,” Murphy said.

That’s why Murphy and Curtis talked to their family doctors and got prescriptions for mammograms. On Tuesday, WKBN 27 First News will follow them as they get a risk assessment to determine whether they need one now or it can wait.

To find out more about the risk factors for breast cancer, click here.

 

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