Laura Farley is a big personality, who is just as quick with a laugh as she is with a question. All of these traits became vital when she underwent treatment for breast cancer two times in the span of about a decade. The first time, in 2002, doctors caught it early and she had a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of daily radiation. "I was so relieved," said Laura, who works in Cisco's legal department. "It was scary, but I got wonderful care and I thought I can wear the pink ribbon now and it really wasn't so bad."
Laura didn't let breast cancer dictate her life. She still went on a Mexican vacation planned before her diagnosis. "My radiation oncologist told me to go- let my burned tissue heal in the ocean water," Laura recalled.
Laura continued to get mammograms and see her oncologist and surgeon every six months. Five-years later, she was still cancer free, and those visits and mammograms became less frequent, happening about once a year.
She continued to get cancer free test results until 2013. "I was convinced I wasn't going to have to deal with it again, and it came back, and it came back in almost the same spot where I had it the first time," Laura recalled. That meant radiation was no longer an option. "I automatically knew this was not going to be quick and easy like it was the first time, and that was scary." Laura opted to have a double mastectomy, and doctors also advised her to undergo chemotherapy because the pathology of the tumor was invasive enough to warrant an extra measure of prevention.
Big advancements in breast cancer detection and recovery
Laura also chose to have reconstructive surgery, using her own tissue. "They take your own tissue and actually transplant and reconnect the blood vessel," Laura said. It wasn't an easy decision because it meant a 13-hour surgery and almost a week in the hospital, plus a long recovery at home.
"I would not have had the same options when I had breast cancer the first time as I did the second time," Laura said. "The advances allow us to be much more proactive and interactive in our own healthcare."But it's cutting edge technology like this that makes Laura hopeful about advances in breast cancer treatment and detection. "I would not have had the same options when I had breast cancer the first time as I did the second time," Laura said. "The advances allow us to be much more proactive and interactive in our own healthcare."
That's what new technology like the iTBra aims to do for millions of women. The Cisco sponsored documentary "Detected" shows how putting sensors into a bra can help lead to early breast cancer detection.
Finding support from co-workers
Four years after her second diagnosis, Laura is healthy and says she feels extraordinarily blessed. Going through her breast cancer treatment was extremely difficult and painful, but she credits her Cisco manager and co-workers for helping her. "I was just totally blown away by the level of love and support I felt from my work family and I had only been here three years," Laura said. Not having to worry about her job or health care benefits meant she could focus on recovery. "It made it a whole lot easier for me to laugh and get better because the company took away so many of my concerns. That was huge."
Talking about something so personal isn't always easy for people, but for Laura it is. "That's in part just who I am," Laura said. "I think it's important for me to be vocal and to maintain a sense of humor. You have to put it in in perspective and that's been easier for me to do because I never felt that my cancer was terminal." Laura knows that's not the case for so many other women, which is also why she's committed to doing what she can so that breast cancer can become a treatable disease for everyone.