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Breast cancer survivor shares knowledge with others

Posted October 13, 2011 11:09 a.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2011 6:55 p.m. EDT

— A breast cancer survivor from Cary has published a book to help other women navigate the often confusing and scary information about the disease.

A health and fitness professional who lived what she preached, Pam Schmid thought she could prevent things like breast cancer with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Then, in 2004, at age 46, she was diagnosed with the disease.

"That was a big wake-up call for me," Schmid said. "What I learned is you can reduce risk, but you can't prevent everything."

She had gotten regular mammograms starting at age 40. Because of dense breast tissue that can make detection more difficult, though, her cancer wasn't detected until it had grown to a stage 2 tumor.

"I had very aggressive treatment. I had (a) mastectomy, chemo, radiation and followed up with drugs," she said.

Schmid decided to write a book about her experiences, mixed with all the information she wished she had known before her diagnosis. Her book, "101 Things You Should Know About Breast Cancer," is sold at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh.

"The best thing you can do is to detect it early, so that you don't have aggressive treatment like I had," she said.

Schmid knocks down myths about what causes breast cancer, like using antiperspirant, or that small-breasted women can't get the disease.

"The point of that is we need to arm ourselves with facts," she said.

Since experiencing a mild recurrence of breast cancer, Schmid has learned that every breast cancer survivor lives with the disease for the rest of their lives, always looking over their shoulder for it to return.

A recurrence can't be prevented, she said, but the risk can be reduced by a healthy lifestyle. She's drawn from her professional experience to eat healthy and stay as fit as possible.

Schmid said breast cancer is life changing because of what's lost.

"I was going to lose my breasts. I was going to lose my bone density and my muscle. I was going to age 10 years in one year, and that was devastating to me," she recalled.

Amid all that was lost, though, Schmid found a gift – "understanding that life is short and we're all going to die," she said.

"For survivors, it's in front of us, so we tend to live out loud. We tend not to take things for granted."