NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Breast cancer awareness is arguably at an all-time high.
Deaths from the disease have declined 39 percent in the U.S. from 1989 to 2015.
One survivor says there’s more work that needs to be done and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make it happen.
Orisel Bejaran is a breast cancer survivor. The 32-year-old says she wouldn’t have that title without her “tribe” which is what she calls her support system of family and close friends.
“Last year in April I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and the idea of having breast cancer as you can imagine is more overwhelming than anything else,” Bejaran said.
It’s an idea she’d already considered. Her mother and one of her maternal aunts are breast cancer survivors.
So are two aunts on her father’s side. At 31, she was still three years away from her recommended early mammogram when she was diagnosed.
“I felt an itch and when I went to go scratch my nail grazed against the lump and that’s how I found it,” Bejaran added.
“Even though I knew it could be, when the doctor actually said you have cancer you kind of blank for a moment and then you’re like what do we do next?”
For Bejaran, what came next was three months of chemotherapy followed by a lumpectomy. A course of treatment that saved her breasts and her life.
“I feel like I beat cancer in such a short period of time because I had so much love around me… how could I not beat it?”
For women who don’t have the support they need right when they need it. Bejaran says people from Susan G. Komen often step in to fill those gaps.
So it’s important that all of us support them so they can continue that work.
“The fact that they’re offering an ambulatory scanning bus… They’re reaching into communities where there may not be a lot of support where they may not be able to afford these things… so please write that check and please show up to the race,” Bejaran said about this year’s Race for the Cure on Sept. 8.
The Washington Heights resident says if you can’t do that make sure you and the women you love know their risk of getting breast cancer and get screened regularly.
The “tribe” that supported Orisel Bejaran will be front and center on race day this Sunday.
The event kicks off at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West.