Kathleen Keohane diagnosed at 50

Despite eating healthy and organic, working out, running half marathons, keeping my weight down, managing life with four teenagers, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I was young. I felt great. I was invincible. It couldn’t happen to me. How could I have cancer?

I found a lump on my left breast during a self exam. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN who assured me I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. My last mammogram had not shown anything concerning, and my doctor said I should wait until my next mammogram.

A few months later, the lump felt “crunchy” around the edges—there is no other way to explain it.  Again, I was concerned because it had changed, so my OB/GYN asked for a 3D mammogram, which again showed nothing of concern. However, as always, the mammogram results came back with the warning that I have dense breast tissue and cancer is more difficult to detect. 

I was young. I felt great. I was invincible. It couldn’t happen to me. How could I have cancer?

Shortly after that mammogram, I happened to read a magazine article about a woman who discovered she had breast cancer after doing all the things I had just done. She then insisted on an ultrasound, because the mammograms had not shown any cancer. I still had a gut feeling that something was not right, and I saw this as a sign. I asked my doctor if I could get an ultrasound, and while reluctant at first, he agreed.  

Meanwhile, I celebrated my 50th birthday, with my twin sister, at a big surprise party. Life was good!

At the ultrasound, it was clear that the technician knew I had breast cancer, but she couldn’t tell me. The doctor who was there recommended a biopsy. He had seen that my mammograms showed no cancer, but he also knew the results of the ultrasound showed otherwise. I got the biopsy right away. That appointment saved my life.  

It took five days to get the biopsy results. I was standing in the checkout line at BJs, when my doctor called to tell me I had stage 2 cancer. In my gut, I already knew, and I was mad at myself that I had waited so long and not insisted on more tests when I first felt the lump.

I was lucky, though, that the cancer was ER/PR positive, HR negative, non-aggressive, and slow growing. I had a mastectomy and was fortunate to have clean lymph nodes.

While no one wants to hear they have cancer, it has changed my perspective on life. It has taught me to never take any friendship for granted, to treasure family moments and appreciate the little things in life. It also taught me to listen to your gut, know when something is wrong in your body and persist with your doctors. Even when they seem reluctant or give you a reason why you don’t need a test/treatment/appointment, advocate for yourself. Ask questions, educate yourself. It could save your life.


  • found a lump in breast during a self-exam