Margaret McGruder-Colllins, 45, knows the importance of performing monthly breast self-exams. In April 2014, she felt a lump in her right breast that doctors later diagnosed as a stage 3 cancer in the milk duct along with a second stage 3 cancerous tumor in another part of the breast. Following two lumpectomies to remove the cancers and multiple lymph nodes, the Amityville nurse and mother underwent chemotherapy. But three months later while she was still in treatment, she discovered yet another lump in the same breast. To her dismay, one physician downplayed the finding; another ordered a mammogram and a biopsy. The diagnosis:  cancer.

“Good thing I continued to do breast exams. If I had listened to that first doctor, I don’t know where I would be right now,” said McGruder-Collins, who opted for a bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstructive surgery. “You always have to stay on top of your health.”

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She has even begun to teach her 11-year-old daughter how to perform breast self-exams.  “Nowadays, cancer is not an old person’s disease,” she said, “even children who have started their menses are getting it.”     

McGruder-Collins credits her faith in God for seeing her through her arduous breast cancer journey, though one final milestone remains. After she recovers from her breast reconstructive surgery, she will undergo a preventive hysterectomy and the removal of her ovaries to reduce her inherited risk for ovarian cancer. 

“Now, I never take anything for granted,” she said. “If I’m not grateful for anything else, I’m grateful to wake up and see the sunrise on my birthday. Anything after that doesn’t matter.”

Did you know:  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women. An estimated 30,700 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African American women in 2016. [American Cancer Society].