Local woman stresses the importance of breast self-exams during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

There are 3.1 million in the United States with a breast cancer story. Some have beat it, others are fighting it, Spokane’s Lori Coughlin-Birnel.

“Then i got the call that says, ‘are you sitting down?'” shared Lori.

It’s the four words we dread most on the other end of the line.

She added, “I kind of went numb. I lost feeling in my legs. I kind of just felt like the rug got pulled out from underneath me.”

For 43-year old Lori, they were followed by a diagnosis she never thought she would hear.

“I have no family history of breast cancer, yeah. It was a complete shock,” she explained.

Lori had a fast-moving type of breast cancer. Having waited a month to get the lump she felt checked out, she knew there was no time to waste. She hung up and called Cancer Care Northwest.

“I met with my doctors, maybe even a week after that. Things got rolling really fast after that,” Lori added.

Countless chemotherapy sessions and a double mastectomy followed, but it wasn’t the hardest part.

Explained Lori, “having to tell my kids, my daughters. I have two daughters of my own and 5 stepdaughters. And my husband. We just, we got married a year ago. Like, we are newlyweds.”

They’ve been her lifesavers, encouraging her to just go out and live, even with each looming chemotherapy treatment.

“When I went to Vegas I was completely bald. It was so liberating because usually I wear a scarf or hat here all the time,” she shared.

Trips like that did a whole lot of good for her. It was there she says, she was approached by women wondering if she was sick. A question that before she wouldn’t have answered.

“As time has gone on, I’m discovering there are more and more women out there who, the thought of them doing what I was going to do, which was ignore a little minor lump. I don’t know I am so much more outspoken now,” Lori added.

Before, she hid the pink pieces her friends got her. Now she wears them proudly to spread her message; know your body and don’t wait to get help.

“It’s been an experience that’s kind of changed me,” she said.

Doctors at Cancer Care Northwest echo Lori’s message of the importance of breast self-exams. Their advice is to make performing them a routine, about once a month.

If while doing a breast self-exam you notice anything unusual – whether it be a lump, bump, swelling or discharge – it is important to contact your doctor to see if further testing should be done.