Mother-daughter duos talk simultaneous breast cancer battles: ‘We lift each other’

Written by on October 27, 2021

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Imagine being a mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and months later you find out your daughter was diagnosed as well. This is the reality two mother-daughter duos faced over the last year.

Sonia Jeffers and her daughter, Mysean Powell, from Savannah, Georgia, and Diana Serano and her daughter, Miriam Fajardo, from Miami, opened up on “The View” Wednesday about the unexpected journey of battling breast cancer side by side.

Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a breast oncologist from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, also joined to shed light on their situation.

“For a mother and a daughter to be diagnosed at the same time is not so common,” Comen said. “What is relatively common is for a woman who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer to have a first-degree relative, such as a mother or a sister or a daughter, who’ve been diagnosed.”

She went on to say that “between 10% to 20% of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer do have a first-degree relative who’s had breast cancer,” and that “about 5% to 10% of those women will have inherited a known genetic mutation.”

Jeffers, a 53-year-old veteran with two daughters, went to her routine mammogram in 2020 and later received a letter saying she needed to come back to the office. After another series of tests, her doctor called to inform her that she tested positive for breast cancer.

“I just screamed at the to top my lungs, ‘No, no, no, not me,'” she said on “The View.” To make matters worse, she lost the job the same day as her diagnosis, which put a “big financial strain” on her and the family.

Because Jeffers’ diagnosis carried the BRCA2 gene, Powell and her sister had an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

With her mom pushing her to get tested, Powell went and ultimately found out that she had breast cancer. “It was scary because at 32, you don’t hear about us getting breast cancer, so I just broke down,” she said.

“To find out that my child had it, I had to make sure that she makes it through it whether I make it through it or not,” Jeffers said.

“To have someone who’s there to understand everything you’re going through — the hurt, the pain, the tiredness — it was definitely a blessing,” Powell said.

Powell began chemotherapy in October 2020. She told “The View” that young women should examine themselves monthly to check for abnormalities because “who know[s] your body better than you?”

After getting treatment, Jeffers was considered cancer-free on Oct. 19, 2020, and rang a bell to signal the end of her treatment. Nearly a year later, on Oct. 14, Jeffers’ doctor told her the breast cancer returned and metastasized to her stomach.

Her doctors now say her cancer is stage 4 terminal.

Despite the news, Jeffers’ message to those going through metastatic breast cancer is don’t give up. “Just because I have a prognosis of terminal cancer don’t mean that you have to give up on life and give into the prognosis. Fight to continue to live even though it’s terminal,” she said.

Serano is a 60-year-old mother and grandmother who also went for her routine mammogram in 2020 and everything checked out healthy. Nine months later, she felt a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Hearing that my results were positive was a really scary feeling,” Serano said. “I was thinking about my children, my grandchildren, my mother.”

Her daughter, Fajardo, was with her when she was diagnosed. “It was very emotional, but at the same time, I was very optimistic,” she said. During her mother’s diagnosis, she also felt a lump in her breast and “decided to be an advocate” for herself and get a mammogram.

Serano knew that her daughter was at her doctor’s appointment and decided to give her a call. “When she answered the phone, all she said to me was, ‘I’m OK, mom, I’m OK.’ So right away I knew that it wasn’t OK,” she said.

Being that Fajardo is only 30 years old and her mother was diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer three months prior, she said the diagnosis came as a “huge shock” to her. “A positive mindset, it’s extremely important,” she said.

“My mother and I, we know and understand that we’re going to have bad days and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean you’re not strong,” she continued. “She lifts me and I lift her. We’re each other’s rock.”

“We lift each other,” Serano said. “On my bad day, Miriam lifts me. On Miriam’s bad day, I lift her.”

After six rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, Fajardo was considered cancer-free and rang the bell in celebration.

To help with the financial struggles these women have went through during their breast cancer treatments, woman-owned company and “The View” sponsor 84 Lumber gave $25,000 each to Jeffers, Powell, Serano and Fajardo.

“It will surely help,” Jeffers said in reaction to the surprise. “We’re truly grateful.”

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