I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 1999 at age 27. At the time, I had a 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Amber. I had no family history of breast cancer.
After having a clean bill of health from a physical two weeks before, I found a large lump on my left breast.
After several tests and a lumpectomy, it was confirmed that I had stage 3 breast cancer, and it had traveled to my lymph node system.
I had a radical mastectomy on the affected breast, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
I have been on cancer therapy medicines since 1999, some of which have caused side effects such as lymphedema (extreme swelling of the arm), ovarian cysts resulting in a hysterectomy and the development of osteopenia (arthritis).
In November last year, an immediate family member was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 1.
Based on that new information, I completed the cancer genetic testing and was told I was a carrier of the breast cancer gene, which increases my recurrence rates significantly.
My oncologist strongly recommended a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction in June.
I have completed all of my surgeries this year and by doing this have reduced my risk to very minimal.
While I was going through all of this, the worst thing for me was losing my hair and my breasts. Y
ou think, "Oh, it's just hair, and it will grow back," but to a woman, it's really not that easy.
Also my husband, Dave, played a huge role as my caregiver!
He was my rock through the whole thing, and the support of him and my family made the whole ordeal easier — it still does!
I feel that fighting cancer is 25 percent medical and 75 percent spirit and mind!
If you think you can beat it, you can! Dr. Richard Conklin was my oncologist and he is the reason I am here.
At the time I was diagnosed I was his youngest patient with breast cancer.
I am proud to say I am a 12-year survivor!
— Robin Engraf, Aberdeen
A survivor's story: Fighting cancer with spirit and mind
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.