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Live, Learn, Love: Breast cancer survivor says self-exam saved her life

Three years after being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, Julia Crowley is now cancer-free and says early detection saved her life.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Julia Crowley was just 37 years old with no family history of breast cancer when the mother of two young boys felt a lump.

“As I was getting into bed, I just felt like something came over me and just wash over me and tell me to do a breast self-exam,” Crowley said. “I believe that was the Holy Spirit, but I got up and I was like 'I don't know how to do a breast self-exam.'”

A quick search online showed her how to do a self-exam, and the first thing she touched was a large lump on her left breast. That lump turned out to be Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer.

“From the day I found out what kind of cancer I had to the day I lost my hair was only 14 days, so it was really fast,” Crowley explained.

After six months of chemo, she had a double mastectomy followed by 35 sessions of daily radiation and five reconstruction surgeries.

“This month is actually three years since my cancer diagnosis, and so I have no cancer and no treatments. I'm super thankful for that,” Crowley said. “The doctors say it looks great for me, and I'm going to have a long sweet life with my family.”

Had she not found her breast cancer when she did, the outcome she said would have likely been much different.

“My doctors told me that it probably wouldn't have been very long before they would not have been able to stop the spreading of it,” she said. 

That is why she is so passionate about encouraging women, especially those under the age of 40, to do a monthly breast self-exam.

“You are never too young and never too old to do a breast self-exam,” Crowley said. “You are your best weapon, and so you taking action and checking your body regularly — you know your body more than anyone else, and so it's a lifesaving tool for you.”

She’s grateful to have found her cancer early, so she can be here to raise her two sons.

Now is the perfect time to get a free Buddy Check 12 kit. Just call our partners at Baptist at 904-202-CARE to have a kit mailed to you. Then, on the 12th of every month, you and your buddy can remind each other to do a breast self-exam.