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Breast cancer survivor shares message of hope, practicing awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but Elaine Barber, a two-time survivor, thinks it should be on everyone’s minds all year long (KTUL).

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but Elaine Barber, a two-time survivor, thinks it should be on everyone’s minds all year long.

Barber's fight began several years ago.

“In July of 2011, I was walking and it was summertime,” she said. “I would always walk in my exercise routine and I just felt like something wasn’t right on my left side. The following month, I was slipping on a silk gown to go to bed and my hand just happened to brush over my left breast and there was a lump there. It was marbled sized and hard.

“I didn’t really think anything of it until a couple months later, I was going in for a routine checkup and I just happened to mention to my doctor saying, 'Hey by the way I have a lump,'” Barber said. “She immediately had me go in and get a mammogram and then an ultrasound and then a biopsy all in the same day. I found out on Halloween 2011, it actually was breast cancer.”

Barber was diagnosed with HER2-Positive breast cancer and started treatments at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa.

Her current oncologist, Sagun Shrestha is proud of how far Barber has come.

“She’s gone through all the treatments and right now she’s cancer-free," Shrestha said.

In the United States, Shrestha said almost more than 200,000 patients are diagnosed each year with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer behind lung cancer.

“If they find anything abnormal in their breast and it seems different than it normally should be,” said Shrestha. “The first thing they should do is go to the health care provider and get it checked out earlier because an earlier diagnosis is better and the chance of having a cure is higher.”

She suggests early check-ups, yearly mammograms after the age of 40, doing self-breast exams and being proactive if other people in their family have or have had breast cancer.

She said there is hope with new advancements in technology, making the fight less of a battle.

“Making an early diagnosis, treatments are better, chances of having a full cure will be higher,” said Shrestha.

Barber just celebrated her five-year survival milestone but wants to remind woman the importance of being proactive.

“I had always exercised, eaten right, did everything that you should be doing,” she said. “It does affect every woman. It does not matter who you are or what you do.”

She will be celebrating her milestone with a trip to Hawaii later this month.

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