IN 2004, LILI MYERS FELT A PING PONG ball-sized lump in her breast. Her mammogram, however, was normal.
By the time of her 2005 annual exam, the lump had become the size of a tennis ball. Again, nothing abnormal showed in the mammogram. The doctor cleared her as healthy.
Still concerned, Myers brought up the fact that the lump seemed to be getting larger. Checking her chart and confirming the notation, the doctor told her to raise her hands to check her symmetry. He became concerned when he saw how uneven her breasts were.
He ordered a biopsy immediately.
“If you have really dense breasts, looking at a mammogram is like trying to find a dove in a snowstorm, and women with dense breasts are at a higher risk for breast cancer,” says Myers. “I should have asked more questions, pushed for a second opinion when I felt the Ping Pong ball-sized lump, I should not have waited a year until my next exam.”
Myers’ biopsy came back a triple negative, one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.
She had a lumpectomy, and then developed a staph infection after the surgery at Santa Monica’s Breast Center. She had to wait for the infection to clear before she could begin chemo treatments.
After six months of chemo, Myers had bilateral mastectomy in December 2005, followed by seven weeks of radiation, starting in 2006.
“It doesn’t matter if your doctor is the best, the nicest or the most well known, Myers says. “You know your body, and you know when something is wrong. Get a second opinion and don’t be satisfied by hearing what you want to hear because you think breast cancer can’t happen to you.”
Myers is Susan G. Komen for the Cure, San Diego’s 2012 Survivor of the Year. She will serve as a bilingual spokesperson for the 2012 Race for the Cure, helping the message of breast cancer early detection and awareness reach a large audience, including San Diego’s large Hispanic community
“Lili Myers is an exemplary woman, who has worked tirelessly to give a voice to the challenges that women face when battling breast cancer,” says Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, San Diego. “She is a true advocate/activist. Since her diagnosis, she has shared her story with others, empowering women to be proactive about their medical rights and about breast health.”
Myers credits Michael, her husband of 32 years, with providing the support that made a huge difference in her recovery. He was committed to being there when her battle against cancer took several challenging turns.
“I wanted to support my family, and it required me to confront ignorance and fear,” says Michael. “There is no way to be prepared, you just have to be there. Become knowledgeable, and do the things that need to be done. Remind yourself what you really care about, and make that the priority.”
Lili Myers was born in Chile, to Hungarian parents, who fled Hungary after the Holocaust. Fearing the same dangers they had escaped in Europe, her parents fled Chile to America in 1970, when President Salvador Allende came to power. They left everything behind. And started over, again.
“She knows what it means to face adversity, to survive and to start again,” says Farmer Sherman. “Her story, her ability to span two cultures, is vitally important as we share life-saving messages with the San Diego Community.”
Pictured above: Michael and Lili Myers