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After diagnosis, young Lexington mom encourages breast self-exams

May (19 of 74).jpg
Posted at 5:30 PM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 17:53:40-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Along with high-risk mammograms and MRIs, monthly self-exams were part of Emily May's routine after she lost her own mom to breast cancer in 2005.

She kept the habit up even when she was pregnant with her second son.

"With pregnancy you have lots of breast changes and whatnot, so when I was doing my self exam, I was like this doesn't feel right, but could it be because of this?" May, who works as a supervisor of oncology services at CHI Saint Joseph Health, told us.

The 35-year-old found a lump in her left breast earlier this year, just days before she was due to give birth. She quickly made a mammogram appointment when a biopsy revealed triple negative breast cancer.

"You quickly shift to survival mode," May said. "I want to be around for my kids. What can I do to survive?"

May credits the support of family and friends and the quick care at the hospital for what happened next. She gave birth a week after she was diagnosed and started chemotherapy a few weeks later. Twelve treatments in, the mom of Harrison and Bennett is tired but grateful.

She's also spreading awareness about self-exams and the importance of taking your health into your own hands.

CHI Saint Joseph Health's Director of Breast Care Kelly Toponak echoes that message.

Yes Mamm! 5K for CHI St Joe
Yes Mamm! 5K for CHI St Joe, Saturday Oct. 15, 2022 in Nicholasville, Ky. Photo by Mark Mahan Mahan Multimedia

"It can be the first thing you notice," she said. "And that, along with your regular annual mammogram, can truly save your life."

For May, "I'd like to say that saved my life," she said of the breast self-exams she performed for years. "I've spoken to doctors who said if you hadn't done this, six months from now we'd be having a different conversation. So that really hits home for me."