Kara Shemeth diagnosed at 42

Fire Captain and Mother of Two

My health was good; I was an active Fire Captain, a mother of two young kids, and a lifelong athlete. Five days after my annual physical (including a breast exam), I noticed that my right nipple was inverted a bit. I looked it up and saw that this was a common sign of breast cancer, and got back in touch with my GP. I was in the next day for a mammogram and an ultrasound. They could tell something was there but couldn’t pinpoint it, so I had a video conference with a radiological oncologist in Boston before leaving the hospital. A plan was put in place to get me to Boston early the following week for an MRI. I felt fine, other than the noticeable change in my body. The stress of waiting for results was difficult, especially with young kids. My team in Boston (and at home on Martha’s Vineyard) was amazing; everything moved very quickly from diagnosis to treatment.  

If you notice something off, check it out. DO NOT WAIT.

If you are diagnosed, your family, friends, crew, and community will want to help you. Let them. It is sometimes hard for first responders to accept help; we’re the ones who are supposed to be helping. Let people help. It takes a burden off of you and your family and allows people who love you to lend a hand.

I was more aware of changes to my body because several friends had recently had breast cancer and shared their stories. I am generally a private person but am very open about my cancer journey because if one person I talk to schedules a mammogram, then sharing my story is worth it. If you are diagnosed, share your story when and if you are ready.


  • inverted nipple