LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- During the month of October the color pink is everywhere, in recognition of breast cancer awareness month.
About 4000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the state of Wisconsin according to the American Cancer Society. It's a disease that usually impacts older women but that's not always the case.
"I had first noticed a lump in my armpit after the end of an inpatient rotation," said Alisha Husfeldt, a 3rd year family medicine resident at Mayo Clinic Health System.
Dr. Husfeldt knew she had to get it checked, and assumed it would be nothing. After all, she's only 31 and just seven percent of breast cancer patients are under the age of 40.
"I thought geez, I'm so young, I don't have a family history," she said. "This happens to my patients, not to me."
But just four days after discovering the mass came the diagnosis: breast cancer. And Husfeldt transitioned from doctor to patient. First came four months of chemo therapy, then instead of just removing the cancerous area, Husfeldt opted for a bilateral mastectomy-- which means removing both breasts.
"Younger women do have a higher risk of developing a breast cancer on the other side in the future, and a lot of them just don't want to face what they're going through now again," said Dr. Kathleen Christian, breast surgeon and Husfeldt's doctor at Mayo Clinic Health System.
"Having two little kids at home, just brought it to a high level of fearfulness, what if Mommy didn't come home? That was hard," Dr. Husfeldt said.
Dr. Christian says it takes about six weeks to recover from a mastectomy and even longer when it's done right after chemo.
And it didn't end there, Dr. Husfeldt underwent six and half weeks of radiation to reduce the risk of a re-occurrence.
Her last treatment was August 1.
Dr. Husfeldt is now a survivor, something her doctor says she considers all her patients from the day of diagnosis.
"These women are truly my heroes," Dr. Christian said. "They give me inspiration. They're really wonderful people."
Dr. Husfeldt is now back in full force both at home and at work.
"When you're healthy and you're complaining oh the long hours and on call and now it's like oh good, I get to do call again and I'm gonna be here and I'm gonna be normal," she said.
And she's not taking a single minute for granted.
"Everything is just special. Any moment you have, you need to make it special somehow."
For Dr Husfeldt the only sign of cancer now is the pink bracelet she wears around her wrist; the mark of a survivor and a supporter of all those still fighting.
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