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Buddy to Buddy: The power of sharing

Kerry Hekl wasn't planning to have another mammogram for five more years, but it's a good thing she decided to have one much sooner just to be safe.

FAIRFIELD, Maine — From pink ribbons everywhere to massive fundraisers, awareness about breast cancer has exploded over the last several years. So much so that, if you are younger than a certain age, it might be hard to believe that the topic was once completely taboo.  

In this month's Buddy to Buddy report, we have an example of how important it is for women to keep sharing their stories because when you put yourself out there, you just never know who might be watching and what impact you might have on their lives.

Just ask Kerry Hekl of Fairfield.  After getting her baseline mammogram at age 40, she was told she did not need to have another one until she was 50 as long as she continued to do her monthly self-exams. That advice was based partially on the knowledge that she had no family history of cancer.  

But five years later, like a sign from the universe, two of Hekl's good friends were diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.  "One was a little older than me. One was a little younger than me," she says, "And they shared their stories on social media. And when I saw that I said you know what I really think, I get a free mammogram every year with my insurance. I really just want to have one. It'll just give me peace of mind I'll just feel better."

Trusting her gut, Hekl followed through. It was a good thing she did. "What I was diagnosed with is called DCIS, which is like a pre-cancer. So it's non-invasive. It's Ductile Carcinoma In Situ which basically means that it's cancer cells that are within the milk duct. So they haven't yet invaded outside of that area. So what I had you don't find on the south breast exam. There are no lumps. There are no bumps. It's only found through mammograms."

That was in November. After two lumpectomies and radiation, Hekl was deemed cancer-free last month. Now, she looks ahead, grateful to her friends for sharing their stories; Glad she trusted her instincts; And with a message for all: "Early detection is key, ladies. Get your mammogram every single year."