Real Women, Real Stories: The effect of family history on breast cancer

woman holding a little girl

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) Density, tumors, cancer, dense tissue. These are hot topics in women’s health and on June 1, 2015, a new law will take effect that will require Michigan women with dense breast tissue to be notified of their density when they receive their mammogram results.

A lot of these sound like health buzzwords, but they are far more important when they are about your mother, sister, or friend. Kirsten Platto, a recent GVSU graduate, shares her story of how her family history of breast cancer affected her life:

My name is Kirsten Platto and I am 21 years old. I just graduated from Grand Valley State University last week and will begin interning for Spectrum Health on Monday in hopes to spread awareness on health and wellness. I will be working in their field of communications and social media.

I say this because living a healthy life is very important to me. Ever since my Aunt Wendy and Grandma were diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago, I have always strived for health and wellness. Which is why I am so thankful to begin my career at Spectrum Health working on things I am passionate about.

 

She was only 37 years old, and her kindness, laughter, smile, strength and inspiration is still so vivid in my mind.

My Aunt Wendy was like a mother to me growing up. She was my roll model and inspiration… still is to this very day. Every act of breast cancer awareness that I do is for her in hope to help at least one individual. Aunt Wendy had a rare form of breast cancer, triple negative. She fought hard, and showed her strength every day. No matter how good or bad of a day she was having, she always knew how to light up a room and think of others when she was fighting for her life.

The amount of strength that I saw in her has given me enough strength and inspiration to last my whole life. Aunt Wendy passed away July 19, 2004. She was only 37 years old, and her kindness, laughter, smile, strength and inspiration is still so vivid in my mind. The past ten years have had its majority of highs and lows. I got to a point five years ago when I was able to look at her passing as a positive thing. She was no longer in pain and fighting. Five years ago, I made a promise to myself to do whatever I could to keep her alive on this earth and spread awareness so nobody had to go through what my family had to go through.

The past three years, I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day. The event consists of walking 60 miles in three days. In order to participate, each walker must fundraise $2,300. As I write this, I realize all the money, awareness and dedication I have put into such an amazing foundation. I have walked 180 miles and fundraised $6,900, and I am not even 21 years old.

It feels wonderful, and it’s all in honor of Aunt Wendy! In our family, a dragonfly symbolizes her beautiful soul. So, Last summer on July 19, I got a dragonfly tattoo on my wrist in honor of her. Also, when I graduated from GVSU two weeks ago, I decorated my cap with the pink ribbon and breast cancer pins in hopes to spread awareness. I will not stop until this disease is cured because everyone deserves a lifetime.

I have such a huge passion for spreading awareness and I will continue to so so for as long as I live. Aunt Wendy is my sole inspiration for life.

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