• Cancer Patient Stories

    Mother, daughter share cancer journey twists, survivors’ advice

Some personality traits are inherited. A child may be introverted, agreeable or meticulous like a parent. Other traits are learned, such as mannerisms, speech patterns and resilience during adversity.

Resilience and strength are traits that Rae Reekie and Amy White have in common. This mother and daughter duo also live on the same street in Tomah, Wisconsin, and are professionals, mothers, wives, daughters and friends. Rae and Amy are each two-time breast cancer survivors, as well.

First diagnoses

Rae was 52 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. It was detected during a routine mammogram. Rae had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer years earlier, so she was diligent about annual mammograms. She soon found herself juggling cancer treatments with her busy home and work life as a certified nursing assistant. She had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer and underwent a series of radiation treatments.

"I worked my morning shift at the hospital," says the retired 75-year-old. "Amy would leave school to pick me up and bring me home. Then my husband or a friend would drive me to radiation."

The treatments were challenging. Rae was relieved when it was over and her cancer gone. She made it a priority to talk with her daughters, Amy and Christine Rox, about her experience. She also stressed the importance of being diligent with screenings and knowing your body.

This advice served Amy well when she discovered a lump on her right breast six years later in 2003.

"I was just 37 at the time. I went to scratch an itch and felt something that seemed like a tiny bump," says Amy, the 55-year-old high school teacher. "It wasn't big, but it was worrisome to me that it wasn't normal. My intuition was telling me what I needed to do."

Amy talked with her mom about what she discovered, and Rae encouraged her to get it checked out. The biopsy results confirmed what Amy's intuition feared – she had breast cancer.

"Emotionally, it was brutal," recalls Amy. "I had watched my mom go through her experience, and it felt surreal that I was facing the same thing."

Amy met with M. Kathleen Christian, M.D., a surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to discuss her options. Her cancer was classified as stage 1 invasive ductule cancer. Like Rae's treatment a few years earlier, Amy would need a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and radiation. She also had chemotherapy.

Amy leaned on the support of Rae and the rest of her family to get through the treatments. Amy's cancer responded to treatment. After a while, she was back to work and the family pressed on.

This article first appeared on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog. You can read the rest of the story there.