Although the American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older get a mammogram annually, Cynthia Wood was tested every six months. “I had a history of fibrocystic breasts, so it made the mammogram hard to read,” says Wood.

Over the years, Wood had many needle biopsies, given to determine whether a lump was malignant. All had been negative, until December 2006, when she received her breast cancer diagnosis.

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Wood has a history of the disease in her family, including her grandmother, who was diagnosed at 77. “She never talked about it; it was seen as shameful,” recalls Wood. Her grandmother became very depressed; even though she lived to be 100, it impacted her life in very negative ways.

Wood was determined not to let breast cancer destroy her spirit, and she knew that silence and isolation were not the answer. She feels blessed to have connected with Sisters of Greater Long Island (www.sogli.org), a support group geared toward African-Americans. “We share our experiences; we laugh, sometimes we cry, but mostly we laugh and listen.”

Knowing that other women understand exactly what you are going through makes an enormous difference, says Wood. “Listening to their stories, you realize you are not alone. You know you are strong and that you will survive.”