Mother, 55 and daughter 25, share heartbreaking details of their JOINT breast cancer battle – as both are diagnosed within a few years of each other
- A mother and daughter in Florida were both diagnosed with breast cancer
- They travelled thousands of miles to care for each other
- READ MORE: Spike in premature cancers in young people in Florida sparks alarm
One of the biggest nightmares for any parent is their child being diagnosed with cancer.
But for 63-year-old Doreen Wesley from Ohio, watching her 33-year-old daughter undergo cancer treatment was uniquely horrific – because just a few years earlier, she’d been in the same boat.
Doreen – who now lives in Florida – was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2015 following a routine mammogram, she said during an emotional interview with Today.com.
The disease brought her closer to her daughter, Madeline, then 25, who flew 4,000 miles from her home in London to support her mother through 16 rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and a double mastectomy. Thankfully, Doreen was declared cancer-free within a year.
But six years later, Madeline was performing a regular self-check when she found a lump. Five days before her 32nd birthday, she was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer – triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Only one in 10 women with this type of disease survive more than five years if it has already spread when spotted. In other types of breast cancer, the figure is one in three.
TNBC tends to grow and spread faster – and is more common in women under age 40, black women, and those with genetic vulnerability.
Madeline credited her mother’s illness for the vital early detection of her disease – she practiced regular breast checks following Doreen’s diagnosis.
‘The immediate feeling is denial, Madeline said. ‘It’s like, ‘This can’t be happening. This can’t be real. And then, there’s fear that kicks in.’
Unsurprisingly, the hardest part of the diagnosis was breaking the news to her mother.
‘I just said, mom – come.’ Madeline had recently moved to Bradenton, Florida – 240 miles from her mother’s home in Miami.
Doreen said: ‘There was no question that I was going to be there and care for her as she cared for me. She’s my baby.
‘It was far more difficult to hear that she diagnosed than to hear my own diagnosis, and that’s mostly because I knew what she faced. It wasn’t an unknown…’
Ms Wesley (here) was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2015 during a routine mammogram. She underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and a double mastectomy
Mother and daughter Madeline and Doreen both traveled to care for one another as they underwent treatment for breast cancer
Like her mother, Madeline underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. However, her age meant she faced a different set of challenges.
‘My mom was wonderful and took care of me throughout the journey,’ said Madeline. ‘But she couldn’t relate to being presented with fertility options or what it’s like to be in your 30s and battling triple-negative breast cancer,’ she told Moffitt Cancer Center, where she and her mother were both treated.
However, Ms Mordarski found support groups for young TNBC patients going through similar struggles, such as freezing her eggs and trying to date while battling cancer.
‘I just kept thinking I’m so thankful for my life. I’m so thankful for the people in my life. I’m so thankful for the experiences that I’ve had. But I’m not done yet. This can’t be it,’ she said.
Madeline Mordarski (left) and her mother, Doreen Wesley, were both diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer
In July, the family received the news that Madeline was cancer-free – although she will continue to undergo maintenance chemotherapy until the end of the year.
‘For us, to hear that she was cancer-free was probably the best news of my life,’said Doreen.
It is not clear if the pair shared genetic characteristics that made them more likely to inherit breast cancer.
For instance, women with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes – which affected Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie – can increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers by up to 85 per cent.
A child of a parent with a BRCA mutation has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the gene.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in both the US and the world. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates there will be more than 300,000 new cases this year, along with 43,700 deaths.
Death rates have plummeted 43 percent between 1989 and 2020, after successful public health awareness campaigns, better screening and new drugs. Today, nine in 10 patients are expected to survive after five years.
Madeline Mordarski underwent treatment for triple negative breast cancer in 2022, after spotting a lump during a regular breast check. She said that if her mother hadn’t suffered the same disease, she may not have performed the crucial self-examination
As of July, Madeline Mordarski is cancer-free. She will continue to undergo maintenance chemotherapy for the rest of the year
In May, a leading health panel recommended the age at which women undergo regular breast screening be dropped from 50 to 40, amid a rise in younger people developing the disease.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said an extra 20 million women in their forties would benefit from a mammogram every two years.
Currently, all women aged 50 to 74 are advised to get checked via a mammogram – a low-energy X-ray of their breasts – every two years.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
It comes from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding tissue it is called ‘invasive’. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in those over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men, though this is rare.
Staging indicates how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast-growing. High-grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest X-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focused on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops them from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying.
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 means more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancernow.org or call its free helpline on 0808 800 6000
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