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You Are Your Best Advocate

Mary Ann Mitchell Holand learned she had stage 2B breast cancer in March 2012.

It was a second opinion that led to Mary Ann learning she had breast cancer. 

In 2010, she went to see her OB/GYN after she found a small lump. “I was told it was nothing,” she recalled. “The mammogram didn’t show anything.”  

But two years later, in 2012, Mary Ann could still feel the small lump. “It started to feel like something more was going on there. I decided to get a second opinion,” she said. “I should have gone sooner, but you can’t go back. I realized I needed to be my own advocate every step of the way.” 

Mary Ann’s second doctor referred her to a radiologist where she underwent a breast ultrasound. The next day, the radiologist called and sent her for a biopsy.  

Days later, while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, coming back from an estate sale, Mary Ann received the call that she had breast cancer. “I was in shock,” she said. “And I was mad. The first doctor had treated me like a hysterical woman and dismissed my concern, and I had listened to her and waited.”  

Mary Ann underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. She also took tamoxifen for five years. “If I had not waited two years to get a second opinion, my breast cancer might have only been stage 1,” she said.  

This experience has made Mary Ann realize how important it is to listen to your body. “If someone tells you something and you still don’t feel right, get a second opinion,” she said. “It’s your life. It’s your body. Women have good intuition. Listen to yourself.”  

She’s grateful for the work Susan G. Komen is doing to find cures for breast cancer. “It seems like even if you don’t have breast cancer in your family, you know someone who has been touched by it, who has lost family members,” she said. “When you support Komen, you’re supporting the research that could finally find the missing link.”

Mary Ann encourages people to advocate for themselves when something seems wrong. “Get a second opinion, get a third opinion if needed,” she said. “You are your best advocate. I’m just grateful to be here 10 years later, enjoying my children and grandchildren.”  

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.