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WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie is almost unstoppable on the court, but when her mom, Christine Leslie-Espinoza found two lumps in her breast almost two years ago, Leslie's world came to a standstill. Luckily, the lumps turned out to be benign, but both Lisa and her mother became determined breast cancer foes.
"Having that scare so close to home, I had to become more educated about it," Leslie says. "I used to wear the pink ribbons, but I did not really understand breast cancer until [my mother's scare]. She recognized then that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women."
"A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Thank you. I saw your public service announcement and I got checked and they found a lump. It was benign,'" Leslie says. "People have told me so many different stories ..."
Lisa shared her story with you, and you had a chance to share yours with her. Below are a selection of stories from those who have been personally touched by this disease and Lisa's responses to your stories.
Hi Lisa. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on all of your accomplishments this year. I am a strong supporter of the L.A. Sparks because I am Tamecka's aunt and Stevie's mother. :-) I am looking forward to next season. I would also like you to know that I am with you 100% on the fight against breast cancer. I, too, had a horrible scare about 14 years ago. A lump about the size of an egg appeared one morning and it turned out to be one of the most traumatic experiences that I went through & and this was all in a four-day period. After consulting my doctor and a surgeon, having a mammogram (only to be told that it could not be read because the mass was too dense), and scheduling a bed for me in the hospital all in one day, then having to go through the weekend not knowing how my fate would turn out on Monday after surgery, I woke up to be told that the lump was benign. That was one of the happiest days in my life. I wouldn't wish what I went through for that weekend to my worst enemy. I respect the work you are doing (with the help and support of your mother) and pray you will continue to persevere!
Jeannie, Westfield, NJ
Lisa Leslie: Hi Tamecka's aunt! I'm happy to hear from you and will be happy to see Tamecka on Monday at the Sears WNBA Breast Health Awareness celebrity game. But you can tell Tamecka that she should watch out because I plan to bring home a victory as coach of Team Hope over her Team Awareness.
But, seriously, thank you for your support. I understand what you went through because of my mom's scare. Keep spreading the word that early detection can save your life!
When I was fourteen years old, I found lumps in my breast. Knowing that they were most likely to be benign I still sought medical attention. I had around 16 cysts removed from my breast. The cysts have now reappeared and I will be having surgery as soon as possible & most likely when the semester is over. I had surgery as a freshman in high school and now to have it again as a freshman in college is a bit different. It is different because I am getting older and slightly worried that my risk for this disease is increasing. Even though the research that I have found doesn't say, it I feel it. I have been researching this disease since the sixth grade and the effort to get more women to get mammograms and do self-exams has increased. It is such a wonderful thing that you are doing and I would like to say that it is most appreciated and acknowledged.
A Dedicated WNBA Fan
Leslie: Thank you so much for your support. You are a role model for what all women should do in relation to this disease ... get educated and take action (monthly self-exams, yearly check-ups and if you are over 40, yearly mammograms). Keep telling your story and spreading the word that early detection is the best protection!
I had a tumor removed from my breast about twelve years ago. I was afraid because my mother died of breast cancer in November of 1974 at the age of 49. She didn't see her 50th birthday, which would have been in December. I was fortunate that tumor was benign. I know how frightening breast cancer can be. It has alerted me to check my breasts more often.
Kaye, North Miami Beach, FL
Leslie: You're right; having a breast cancer scare will make you aware of how important regular breast health activities are. Be sure that you spread the word to other women so they can learn from your experience.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 at the age of 28. I discovered a hard lump under my left breast after my dog jumped on me. I scheduled a doctor's appointment and was told that I was too young to have breast cancer and had nothing to worry about even though my father died from brain cancer in 1988. Almost as an afterthought, he gave me a phone number to call to schedule a mammogram. I called the number and they scheduled me for the earliest available appointment -- eight weeks away because my doctor didn't think it was urgent. I went to Dr. Carmen Fadem upon the recommendation of a close friend partly because she had mammography equipment in her office and would see me immediately. Even though the mammogram results came back normal, Dr. Fadem didn't like the way the tumor "felt" to her. She sent me for a biopsy and the rest as they say is history. Within three weeks of the initial diagnosis and five weeks before the mammogram that would have come back "normal," I had a lumpectomy. I followed up with five weeks a daily radiation (done on my lunch break because I was just promoted and afraid I would lose my job) and five years of tamoxifen (an estrogen blocker). I always tell anyone who will listen that you have to trust your instincts. If you're not comfortable with your doctor's diagnosis, exercise your rights and your brain and find a physician you can trust with your life. The lump that I wasn't supposed to worry about was a Stage 3 malignant tumor almost sitting on my rib. I am fortunate to be alive and am fortunate to have the best medical care anywhere in the world. Dr's Fadem, Toth, Zehngebot and Guarneri all saved my life. I am still cancer free and look forward to my 10th anniversary of being cancer free in 2002. By the way, I am a Miracle Season Ticket Holder and sit right behind the visitor's bench in Section 113, Seat 3 & 4. We were the ones yelling MVP (we were moved a few rows back for the All-Star Game) for you. You played a memorable and awesome game. Wave at us next time you're in town.
Vicki, Orlando, FL
Leslie: Wow, what a story and congratulations on your recovery! You are right ... being informed and taking action is the best way to ensure you remain healthy. Thanks for the shout out at All-Star! Keep telling your story and best of luck for another 10 years cancer-free.
Last October, I had a mammogram after two and a half years. I hadn't had health insurance for five years. I finally had a stereotatic biopsy, which was inconclusive. A surgical biopsy was done the last of January. By then the tumor was 1.8 CM. I had a modified radical mastectomy on January 31, 2001. The incision failed to heal so I didn't start chemotherapy until the last of April. I have now finished chemotherapy. I was able to attend all the Phoenix Mercury games in spite of the chemotherapy. I feel very blessed that the radiologist was diligent and that the pathologists after the first biopsy suggested a surgical biopsy. The surgeon said after she saw all the films that they very well could have told me to just come back in six months or a year. As it was all of the lymph nodes were negative. Once I recover from the chemo, I hope to get more involved with breast health awareness. I had no family history of breast cancer and always took my health for granted. I really had not been good about getting regular mammograms or self-exams even though I had fibrocystic breast disease. Thank you for all you are doing to increase awareness. Also, even though you always give the Mercury a bad time on the court, I admire your game and how hard you have worked to get where you are. Thanks!
Sheryl, Sun City, AZ
Leslie: What a dedicated WNBA fan! I have worked hard to get where I am but, remember, you have worked hard, too, in getting your health back and I am happy to hear that you are well on your way. The best way for you to get involved with breast health awareness is to tell your story to everyone you meet and stress that early detection is the key.