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Cancer doesn’t care about age

Stefanie LaRue gets diagnosed at 30

Posted: October 2, 2008 9:40 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Stephanie LaRue (center) gets together with Terry Bucknall (left), director of the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, and Tora Brown, program chairwoman of Soroptimist International Greater SCV.October is breast cancer awareness month.

 

Imagine being a young, attractive woman out on a date with a man you've been seeing for some time. The chemistry is good, the mood is right and all systems are a-go for what promises to be a very romantic getting-to-know-you-better evening.

That is until the young man says, "What's this?" as his touches become more intimate and he happens upon something out of the ordinary. "Who cares?" you answer back in the throes of passion. But he's insistent so you try to bring yourself back to the here and now.

Imagine further that from this point forward your life will change and the world as you know it will begin a frightening downward descent into the perils of breast cancer.

It happened to Stefanie LaRue who at age 30 was living the dream - educated, young and healthy, fully committed to her exciting career in entertainment, and no family history of the disease. That was until her boyfriend found a lump.

But the story doesn't end there. Because LaRue didn't fit the profile for breast cancer, she was misdiagnosed by three doctors convinced it was an infection or mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland most commonly associated with breast feeding. Considering she had never been pregnant, the latter was highly unlikely.

After four rounds of antibiotics and Vicodin for the pain - the lump had grown from two centimeters to the size of a baseball within two weeks - LaRue became insistent that her doctors biopsy the lump. What they discovered surprised them all - stage four breast cancer that had spread to the bone. This young, attractive and otherwise healthy girl who didn't fit the profile was given a year to live.

LaRue recently shared her story at the Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley September luncheon. A true fighter and unbridled spirit, two and one-half years have gone by since that fateful discovery. With all the youthful exuberance of a 32-year old, she now devotes her life to promoting breast cancer awareness among young girls.

"It is really important, regardless of age, if a young girl or woman finds anything suspicious, they must insist on a needle biopsy or ultrasound," said LaRue when explaining that raging hormones can cause the disease to behave more aggressively. "Everyone's a survivor of something in life."

Today LaRue has no signs of recurrence but the disease left her infertile and menopausal. She is a remarkable woman who chooses grace and humility in how she deals with her situation. LaRue has started a foundation, a fashion line for young women, and serves as spokeswoman for UCLA's metastatic support group.

The Stefanie LaRue Advocacy Movement educates young women in their teens, 20s and 30s that they too can get breast cancer even with no family history. A delay in correctly diagnosing the cancer often allows the disease to progress to a later, more critical stage. Since the type of breast cancer that typically occurs in younger women is particularly aggressive, treatment can be more severe and less effective. Many times the prognosis is terminal. Young women are dying needlessly who might otherwise have survived, given early detection and proper diagnoses. It is critical for young women to be their own advocates.

Self-exam, clinical breast exam and mammography are the leading forms of detection, said Terry Bucknall director of the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center located on the campus of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. When a lump is found, the imaging center will perform a biopsy 99 percent of the time.

"Our goal is to get patients on the road to recovery," Bucknall said.

October is breast cancer awareness month and the new Soroptimist club presents "The Wine Affair ... Sip, Stroll and Savor the Sounds" from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, along Town Center Drive in the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Proceeds help support breast cancer awareness and the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center.

Participating venues include Bella Sport with wine poured by Vino 100 and Raven Oaks Vineyard, Lee's Wine Bistro, Ro,Ma Jewelers with wine poured by Loose Goose, Salt Creek Grille, Sisley Italian Kitchen, South Point Grill, Valencia Wine Company and Vines Restaurant Bar. Additional food will be provided by Affair Extraordinaire, Babe's Desserts, Be A Guest At Your Own Party and Mojito's.

Admission is $40 in advance; $50 on the day of the event. For tickets send a check to SIGSCV, Attention: Sheryl Geraci, P.O. Box 801352, Santa Clarita, CA 91380-1352. For more information, e-mail sheryl@scvleasing.com, (661) 877-5544 or visit http://www.sigscv.org/.

The next Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley luncheon will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the Tournament Players Club in Valencia. Marjorie Gilberg, director of development with Break the Cycle will speak on issues surrounding domestic violence. She will be joined by Karen Kaplan, who will share her story about how living in a violent home affected her life. The public is welcome to attend. For more information or to make a reservation, visit http://www.sigscv.org/.

 

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