NEW YORK (CBS 2) – When Lisa Mills was just 30 years old and 29 weeks pregnant with her second child, she discovered something that would change her life forever.
She found a lump in her breast.
“My first thought, not me. It wasn’t going to happen,” Mills said of the breast cancer she was diagnosed with five years ago.
But being pregnant may have saved her life. That’s because the type of cancer she had fed off of estrogen, and she had a higher level with her pregnancy.
“Because Lisa was pregnant, Lisa was probably more attuned to changes that were going on in her body. Before that she probably didn’t do self exams,” said Dr. Marc Hulbert, executive director of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
Because of her estrogen levels, the rapid growth of the cancer caused changes that allowed her to catch the cancer early.
“It might have grown at such a rate it would have spread on its own and we would have never caught it. Sometimes we do find ourselves saying it did, it saved my life,” she said.
Breast cancer during pregnancy is not rare, especially since one out of every 1,000 women will be diagnosed with the illness. It tends to affect women the most during their 30s.
Shortly after being diagnosed, Mills had a lumpectomy.
“I’m pregnant so they strap me to the table, start doing whatever they have to do. I start blacking out because you’re watching your baby moving and getting all sweaty,” she recalled.
Her diagnosis forced her to have a C-section five weeks early and a week later, with her baby still in the hospital, she underwent a mastectomy.
“My biggest concern was I wasn’t going to be able to hold my baby,” she said.
As a survivor, she now walks for breast cancer awareness for Team Lisa, which stands for ‘Life Is So Amazing,’ something that connects her with the thousands of others also fighting breast cancer.
“I think that connection with others who are facing something similar can help you through those emotional stresses,” Dr. Hulbert said.
The emotional stress also brought her a sense of pride, something she said she’ll happily share with others.
“I get a lot of people that ask how did you do it, how do you do it and my answer is you just do it,” Mills said.
Team Lisa will be walking in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on Saturday and Sunday.