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Meet Beka: Battling breast cancer at 35

By Beka Apostolidis

Beka a nurse and
clinical instructor in Connecticut.

<img class=”asset asset-image at-xid-6a01157055c190970c017ee4702c2e970d” style=”border: solid 4px #BF6440;margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px” title=”Beka” src=” makes it easier to talk about it. The “it” in this case
is breast cancer.

When I was 35, I decided to go in for my first
mammogram. I admit, it was a bit earlier than most women, but I had that soft
internal voice telling me it was better to go in sooner rather than later. I’m
glad I did.

They found breast cancer.

Like many who have traveled the cancer road, my treatment
was all but glamorous. I was working full time, taking a graduate class and simultaneously
went in for radiation treatment every day, Monday thru Friday, for eight weeks.
In addition to a lumpectomy and radiation, I have spent the last five years on
Tamoxifen, a common drug for those of us facing breast cancer. (More on that later.)

Breast cancer is on a lot of our minds these days. Breast
Cancer Awareness
month has put pink ribbons on most products and fast food
chains, bringing breast cancer into public discourse. As a young adult cancer
survivor, I am here to carry the importance of breast cancer prevention. How much cancer could we prevent if we actually addressed the
many toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer?

I have a history of breast cancer in my family (but not the
genetic marker); my mother, aunt and grandma all had breast cancer. I’m sure
this was part of the nagging feeling that led me to get my first mammogram. But
all of the women in my family had breast cancer much later in life, well into
their 50s and 60s. What is to explain my breast cancer? And why I got it at
such a young age?  

“Being a young adult with cancer has its challenges and it
became clear that there weren’t many resources
for women under 40 facing cancer. “

The materials and literature didn’t address
the issues I was facing. Can I have a drink when I go out with my friends? Will
the fatigue from radiation inhibit me from doing regular exercise? And how do I
talk to my friends about this, when we all seem so young and unfamiliar with
facing cancer?

It was at a conference for women under the age of 40 where I
learned about the many toxic chemicals that are contributing to the
rise of cancer
in this country. BPA, a toxic chemical that has now become a
household name, is not only linked to cancer, but has also been shown in a scientific
to interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifen, the common drug
taken by breast cancer patients take to prevent a relapse.

This is unacceptable. Childhood and young adult cancer is on
the rise. More women like myself are faced with cancer at younger ages. We’ll
never know exactly what caused my breast cancer. But what we can do is address
the thousands of unregulated toxic chemicals in our homes, bodies, environment
and consumer products.

I’m doing my small part to share this message. I spend a lot
of time encouraging my friends and nurse colleagues to get mammograms. I also
ask them to call their Members of Congress and urge them to support the Safe
Chemicals Act.

In the meantime, I’ll celebrate a milestone of going off tamoxifen
in February of 2013, and will continue to be grateful for the friends and
family that have supported me along the way. I know that this journey doesn’t
end in February, that I will need to continue to be vigilant about my health
and spread the word about breast cancer prevention.

It is my hope that I can inspire others to take action where
we can: toxic chemicals.

Will you join me and take action today? Let Congress know
that October is about Breast Cancer Prevention and we need the Safe Chemicals


Please leave a comment or words of encouragement for Beka!