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Breast cancer survivor credits early detection, annual exams saving her life

Posted at 5:50 AM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 05:53:56-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The downtown West Palm Beach waterfront will become a sea of pink Saturday morning for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Among the dozens of survivors participating will be Heather Clay, an employee at Good Samaritan Medical Center, who says early detection may have saved her life.

Her message to others is "go and have your annual exams and your screenings, see your doctors."

As a healthy and active 35 years old, Clay never expected to hear the words "you have breast cancer" two years ago, but a routine exam at the gynecologist changed everything. She said her doctor felt something on her breast.

"Even when she said, 'Feel here,' I couldn’t feel anything. So, she literally saved my life," Clay said.

She says after her diagnosis and surgery she had genetic testing, which was recommended to her because she was so young.

"It turned out to be BRCA positive, so with that both my mother and my sister got tested. My mother was BRCA negative, my sister was positive, so she had some decisions to make," Clay said.

A few months later her mom felt a lump on her breast and was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Both me and my mom, we discovered our cancers early, so it was very treatable," Clay said.

Clay is now two years cancer free and says she has a new perspective on life.

"Even on the bad days you wake up, and you’re like, 'My life is pretty awesome. I’m pretty lucky,'" said Clay.

With this weekend's Race for the Cure, Diagnostic Radiologist Courtney Hoey said it is a great time to focus on early detection.

"I do think it's important to keep eyes on breast cancer at all times of the year and I think it's a great opportunity to get everyone together and meet some people who have survived breast cancer and have some inspirational stories to share," said Hoey.

She also wants people to know they can come to Good Samaritan Hospital's breast center for a mammogram at any time.

"If you are a woman who is 40 years old and just regular risk, you are able to walk in and get a mammogram. You don’t need a prescription from your doctor. It's something we call self-referred at this breast center. So, you can come in and get your annual mammogram as long as its been a year since your last one and most insurances do cover it, so you don’t necessarily have to wait to see your doctor," said Hoey.

Click here to register or donate to the race on Saturday, Jan. 26 in West Palm Beach.