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Cicero mom fighting cancer with faith

Michelle Morin Wilkinson never thought she'd get breast cancer, even though both her mother and grandmother have battled the disease.

"It just never occurred to me," Wilkinson said. "I mean, I took precautions. I got mammograms every year from the time I was 30. But I never expected anything to happen."

So it came as a surprise when Wilkinson, a single mother of three boys living in Cicero, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer on Jan. 30 after a routine doctor's appointment.

"I went in for my annual pap smear, and my doctor sent me immediately for a mammogram and sonogram," she said. "Then they referred me immediately to a breast surgeon."

By the time Wilkinson had the surgery March 4, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes; of 20 she had removed along with the tumor in her left breast, eight were positive. She just finished her eighth round of chemotherapy last week, and she'll undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in August, followed by six weeks of radiation.

"At this point, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Wilkinson said.

Though her surgeon and oncologist have declared Wilkinson cancer-free, she'll also have her ovaries removed as a precaution against developing ovarian cancer. Her doctors are taking that extra step because Wilkinson tested positive for BRCA-1, a human gene, some mutations of which are associated with a significant increase in the risk of breast and other cancers. A woman's lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Such a woman has an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (before menopause) and often, like Wilkinson, has multiple, close family members who have been diagnosed with these diseases. Harmful BRCA1 mutations may also increase a woman's risk of developing cervical, uterine, pancreatic and colon cancer.

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