Buddy Check 25: anyone, any age

By WEEK Producer

February 25, 2013 Updated Feb 25, 2013 at 11:30 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Imagine that you are a newlywed and recent college graduate. You have a world of opportunity ahead of you. Then you discover a suspicious lump in your breast.

You are certain that you are too young to have breast cancer. Still, you wonder, what if.

In this month's Buddy Check 25 report, Gina Morss shows us that you are never too young to practice breast self-exam. In fact, it likely saved the life of the young woman you are about to meet.

As oncology nurse Megan Rappleyea makes her rounds at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, she says she feels a great sense of empathy.

"There's nothing like talking to someone who knows what you're going through," said Rappleyea.

You see, Megan is not just a cancer caregiver, she is a former patient. This 24 year old is already a two-time breast cancer survivor.

"I think what women need to know is that age doesn't really matter anymore, but that this is a curable, treatable disease," she said.

Megan and her husband Ben had just graduated from college. She passed her boards in June and was ready to begin her nursing career when she felt a lump in her breast during a self-exam.

"It felt like a perfect marble, just round and hard and immovable."

Only 22 at the time, Megan had been doing self-exams for years.

"For me, it was important to get to know what was normal for me and that was invaluable because I did find my own cancer doing a self breast exam and it was definitely, distinctly different."

Since her diagnosis of Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carninoma in August of 2010, Megan has had seven surgeries, six months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation. She fought an aggressive recurrence less than a year after her initial diagnosis.

You might be surprised to know that she had no family history of breast cancer and genetic testing was negative. In many ways her diagnosis and dramatic recovery are a mystery.

"I really learned so much and I'm a different person, better person today than I was and so I'm grateful for that experience."

An experience she would never choose, but one she says has also made her a better nurse.

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