- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) - Chantel Williams did not have any warning signs for breast cancer.

“I am fully representative of the person that should not have gotten breast cancer. I had no risk factors: I was young; I wasn’t overweight; I exercised regularly; I ate right; I never had hormone therapy; I have no family history; and I got it,” she said.

“I think I just want to tell people it can happen to you because I never thought it would happen to me. Never. And that’s one of the important things to get out of this . it can happen to you.”

Chantel spoke to The Register-Mail about her experience with breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with last October, and how she wants people to be aware. October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Peter Williams, Chantel’s husband, found the lump. Peter is also a radiologist at OSF St. Mary Medical Center here in Galesburg.

“He was extremely calm about the whole thing. I would be upset and he would say ‘they’re wasted tears, Chantel. It’s wasted tears because i know you’re going to be OK,’ ” she said.

She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at age 48 on Oct. 20, 2015.

“Within a week I had my surgery. They were constantly watching me. I started chemotherapy Jan. 4, radiation started in June and I finished everything up on July 26,” Chantel said.

“When you’re going through all that you know something is actively happening to stop that cancer and I didn’t even realize on the day of my last radiation treatment because for the first time in nine months nothing was being done to stop this cancer. I felt like they took the training wheels off and I was on my own.”

Peter, Chantel’s husband for 22 years, said his wife’s journey with breast cancer has helped him to better understand the emotional side of his patients.

“I see a lot of patients and I see a lot of success stories,” he said. “There’s a lot of ladies out there that have breast cancer that you don’t know about because they were successful.”

Chantel credited a California woman named Brandy, who recently died, that chronicled her own battle with breast cancer through videos on the internet. She also had a diagnosis similar to Chantel’s.

“I had followed her from October to July, which wasn’t very long in her course of treatment,” Chantel said. “She was always so positive. I never even met her … never messaged her. Never had any contact with her, but I just followed her and watched her videos. She was always so positive and so hopeful and smiling and that taught me … the grass is always browner on the other side of the fence,” she said, holding back tears.

“Sometimes when you think you have it bad, someone else has it a lot worse.”

While Peter detected Chantel’s breast cancer, he recommended that women perform monthly self-exams.

“We expect 95 percent of ladies that find their breast cancer will not die from it … (there’s a) huge impact on whether they find it early or not,” he said.

“Cancers don’t go away, they only get worse,” Peter said.

Peter further said self-exams are important because women “know where the change is and they can let (a doctor) know.”

“The important thing to learn is that it can happen to anyone at any time,” Chantel said.

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Source: Galesburg Register-Mail, https://bit.ly/2dU6sGQ

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Information from: The Register-Mail, https://www.register-mail.com

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