Jessica Baladad has had a long history with self-examinations after a breast cancer scare in her early 20s. This habit helped save her life, and she wants to ensure other women remember get into the same habit.
Baladad was in college when she says she accidentally stumbled upon a lump in her breast.
She told WTVF in Tennessee, “It turned out to be a benign occurrence called a fibroadenoma. I had it surgically removed and it was that experience that put me in the habit of doing self breast exams.”
I probably don’t have to say it. You already know where this is going … 😂
This is what led her to discover another lump at the age of 33, years before mammograms are recommended. She says she’d actually had her annual physical exam just two weeks before her regularly scheduled self-check. As a result, she was thinking about skipping it this time, but thought better of it. The persistence ended up being a good thing: She found a lump, one her doctor had not mentioned. It turned out to be breast cancer.
She says, “My heart sank. I was really scared. I was in the process of losing an aunt to breast cancer at the time.”
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What followed was 16 rounds of chemo, 24 rounds of radiation, a double mastectomy, a hysterectomy, and reconstruction.
Her experience, and the fact that she caught her cancer due to diligent self-checks, gave her an idea: An app to remind other women to check their breasts and to know how to do it properly. That’s how she came up with Feel for Your Life.
In March of 2018, I wasn’t taken seriously by the practitioner who didn’t tell me about the lump in my breast. But…
Feel for Your Life helps women understand when and how to do self-exams. It has different breakdowns for pre- and post-menopausal women, but stresses that it’s important to do them at the same time each month. The app can also send reminders when that time is popping again. It provides information on preventative screenings and genetic testing, as well.
Baladad says, “I wanted women to…be able to track and monitor their progress through their exams, and I wanted them to be able to set reminders so that they knew when to do their self breast exams. This is really just a tool to help women communicate with their their physicians better and to say, ‘Hey, you know, back, two months ago I found this lump and then I took notes and a month later, here I have, you know I’m taking more notes and I’m noticing it’s starting to change a little bit.’”
Going forward, she hopes to add a telehealth option once enough women sign up. She also hopes that her personal story will remind women that breast cancer can happen at any time, but if caught early, there are more treatment options.
August 3, 2018: I had a biopsy that would later confirm my lump to be breast cancer. August 3 2021: I’m celebrating 3 years of cancer survivorship! Preliminary labs looked “fantastic,” per my oncologist! 😀
If you’re interested in learning more about her efforts, visit the Feel for Your Life website.
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