A Survivor’s Story: Valeda Keys

Guest Writer: Valeda Keys, Breast Cancer Survivor

Everyone has a story to tell. No matter who you are, your life is worth talking about.

In 2007, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, 20 years after her first diagnosis. It was then that I had a vivid dream that I would have to go through this challenge as well.

I was advised to get mammograms starting at age 27 due to my family history of breast cancer. I have never missed a year getting my mammogram. On April 26, 2010, at 5:26 pm, I received a phone call and was told: “Mrs. Keys, you have Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.” I knew that meant CANCER. I was 37 years young at the time of diagnosis. With constant prayer, I knew I would get over this.

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

On May 13, 2010, a lumpectomy was performed on my left breast with some lymph nodes removed. After the lumpectomy, results from the genetic test I had taken revealed that I carried the BRCA-2 gene mutation. My identical twin sister also was tested and had the same result. During June and July 2010, I underwent radiation every weekday and began taking Tamoxifen.

On August 11, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. This time the cancer had developed independently in my right breast. I was now 39 years young. My medical oncologist suggested I have a double mastectomy. I felt like my breasts were trying to kill me. I felt like I had no choice. I wanted my breasts, but I couldn’t have them.

On September 12, 2011, I had the double mastectomy. Part of the healing process included physical therapy and emotional therapy. Telling my story is healing.

During this time of recovery, I was ready to start giving back. It was put on my heart to have a breast cancer awareness conference entitled, “My Strength Is Your Strength.” This name came from everything I’ve been through and for women who may have to take this same journey.

The November 2012 conference was a great success. A second conference is planned for November 2, 2013. Susan G. Komen St. Louis has provided me with lots of materials to bring awareness to our community, family, friends and even strangers. I will continue to follow my passion, which is breast cancer awareness and sharing the story of my breast cancer journey with others.

As I continue to deal with the aftermath of breast cancer, I ran my first 5K at the 2013 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. I remain hopeful in every area of my life.

Native St. Louisan Valeda Keys is a Licensed Practical Nurse and a two-time breast cancer survivor. She and her identical twin sister, Vanessa Robinson, trained for 10 weeks to run the 2012 Komen St. Louis Race 5K. Valeda was named the 2013 Honorary Team New Balance Member for the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®.


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