Being persistent may have saved Tracie Metzger’s life. At 30 years old, she found a lump in her breast after her daughter Grace suddenly stopped nursing.
“It felt exactly the same as a lump that I had had about seven years earlier that was called a fibroadenoma, which is like a fatty little tumor,” she says. But Tracie wasn’t alarmed because those tumors are common and benign. "It's not like I thought it was breast cancer, I have no family history of breast cancer," she explains. “It was more just something inside of me as a mom, as a woman, saying I have a lump in my breast, you know, I need to get this checked out.”
Tracie’s doctor thought the lump might be a clogged milk duct and suggested the young mom come back in six months. Tracie’s reaction: "There was really just something inside of me saying I'm not comfortable waiting… and I thought, 'You know what? I've got a foreign lump in my breast. Why am I taking any kind of chances? I want it out. I want to know what it is.'"
After surgery, Tracie’s doctor came into the recovery room looking grim. The diagnosis? Stage 1 breast cancer. “I immediately started crying and the vision of my two little babies popped into my head," she recalls. “And I thought, ‘Who in the world do I know that has breast cancer? How can I be 30 and have breast cancer? You know this doesn't happen to women that are 30 years old.’ And so, you know, life changed right there and my journey began right then at that point.”
When Tracie opted for a double mastectomy, she longed to find someone she could relate to. Someone, she says, who could answer questions like, “How do I care for these little babies when I'm throwing up every twenty minutes after my chemotherapy? And how do I get my eleven-month-old in and out of the crib with a double mastectomy? You can't lift anything for six weeks…I really couldn't find any support out there that was specifically geared to young women."
So the Ohio mom started “Pink Ribbon Girls” in 2001. The non-profit provides cancer patients with meals, transportation, babysitting and housecleaning in the Cincinnati area. "We want you to simply fight your breast cancer," Tracie explains. "You beat it. We're gonna help you with everything else."
"Pink Ribbon Girls has been so helpful to me" says 38 year-old Eugenia Williams-Nsabimana. The mom of three is battling stage 4 breast cancer. "There are days when I'm just like I really can't go any further. But yet I have to feed the kids... there's so many day-to-day responsibilities and tasks to take care of," she says. "And so just being able to pop a meal out the freezer, you know, is really helpful."
Hearing comments like that makes Tracie smile. "That's what gets me motivated to keep going," she beams. "I want to be the person that I never had 12 years ago; the cheerleader, the supporter, or just the shoulder to cry on."
Find out how you can support breast cancer patients at pinkribbongirls.org. And if you know a breakthrough woman like Tracie, don't keep her a secret! Tell us all about her on the "Breakthrough Women" iReport assignment page.