By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Bernice Bynum was good about getting her yearly mammograms. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, 65.3 percent of women over 40, went in for a mammogram.
On top of getting mammograms, Bynum would give herself breast examinations. During her self-examinations she didn’t notice anything, but her mammogram told a different story. After her first scan, the radiologist noticed something and asked her to come in for a second scan.
“I was diagnosed on May 15, 2017, a couple weeks before my birthday,” Bynum said.
Bynum explained that the lump that had been found was small, about seven to nine millimeters in size.
While it could have been mistaken for a lump of fatty tissues, a biopsy was performed just in case.
“I would have never found it myself through a regular breast exam,” she said.
Bynum said that she knew something was off the moment she was asked to return for a second mammogram. But being diagnosed with cancer, still caught her by surprise.
Upon hearing the confirmation, that she did in fact have breast cancer, “my stomach dropped,” she said.
As is common with most people when they hear the word cancer, Bynum’s first thought was about death.
According U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Although incidence rates are dropping, breast cancer death rates are higher than other cancers with an expected 41,760 women to die this year from breast cancer.
When it comes to breast cancer, women who have a close relative like a mother or aunt are more likely to be diagnosed as well. Bynum explained that part of the reason her diagnosis came as a shock, was because no women in her family had cancer.
Her mother’s side was cancer free. Her father’s older sister had cancer, but it wasn’t breast cancer.
Despite the diagnosis, Bynum was told she would only have to do radiation and not chemotherapy. So, for 33 days, Bynum did radiation at Columbia St. Mary’s in Ozaukee.
“All I would do is pray every day,” she said.
At first, Bynum struggled to tell work, but eventually she told her department what was going on. She also told her family, which includes her daughter and two grandsons, the prognosis. Her friends and families and church members rallied around her and helped her pull through.
Bynum explained that she didn’t want to hide what she was going through. In addition to talking about her breast cancer, she also encouraged the women in her family, especially her mother and daughter, to get a mammogram.
She said people showed their support by calling her to check in and bringing over healthy food.
After her radiation ended, Bynum proudly said, “I’m a survivor.”
Since being declared cancer-free, Bynum has adopted a healthier lifestyle, which includes eating better.
She’s also been there to support other women, including a co-worker who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Every situation is different, but you can help,” she said.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, Bynum along with hundreds of women and their families throughout Milwaukee will be at the Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin’s MORE THAN PINK breast cancer walk hosted by Kohl’s. For more information on the walk go to https://komenwisconsin.org/walk. For information regarding where to get a mammogram call the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or the American College of Radiology at 1-800-227-5463.