Local breast cancer survivor Heidi Sitton has battled through breast cancer twice and now uses the experience to advocate for more research and services, and help her keep positive.
Sitton talked with the North County Outlook to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The first time Sitton was diagnosed was in 2003.
"I had just had a mammogram and about two weeks later I felt something on my breast," she said.
She was called back in for another imaging at that time, however it initially came back negative.
"They said it was all clear, but then I said something about the lump and I don't know where I'd be now if I didn't say something then," said Sitton.
She could've had chemotherapy at that time but was advised that just radiation would be sufficient, and it was successful at putting the cancer into remission.
Nearly a decade later the breast cancer returned.
"I was passing the 10-year mark and was going in for a routine mammogram," which detected the breast cancer.
This time Sitton had to do a mastectomy.
"If you recall that time period, it was when the Seahawks were winning a lot, and I told my doctor that I wasn't going to have the mastectomy until after the Seahawks win the Super Bowl," she said.
She scheduled the operation for the Monday after Super Bowl XLVIII in which the Seahawks were victorious.
Sitton is thankful that she has been able to survive two bouts with cancer.
"One of the things I start to think about this year with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Eddie Van Halen [who have both recently died of cancer] … sometimes I have that survivor's guilt," said Sitton. "I think, why did I survive? Not just once, but twice."
To get past that guilt Sitton said she wants to become a voice of encouragement and advocacy.
"I'm so thankful to have survived twice and that I can be a positive force for others," she said.
Sitton has a background in healthcare and is a registered nurse.
"We need research, better treatment and better diagnostic tools," she said.
"My feeling is that the more we can contribute, the more we have a chance to beat it," she said.
She also hopes to help others through the experience.
"It is terrible, you just don’t know what to do," said Sitton. "Sometimes I have to walk them off that ledge they're on."
Staying upbeat and positive is what worked for her, Sitton said.
"I think the biggest thing was that I never let it get me down," she said.
The weekend before the Seahawks Super Bowl Sitton and her friends had a 'Last Girl's Night Out' party to stay positive before the mastectomy.
Sitton said her biggest regret was getting off of Tamoxifen, a drug that can prevent breast cancer in high risk patients.
After her initial fight with cancer, Sitton said she took it for five years and then stopped.
"Now the doctors are often prescribing it for more than five years," she said.
She advises everyone to check up on their bodies and keep a good relationship with their oncologist.
"Check your boobs and make sure you get your mammogram every year," said Sitton, who added early detection is the best way to make the cancer survivable.
She acknowledges that it can be uncomfortable though.
"I'm glad I don't have to get mammograms anymore. That is one of the silver linings," she joked.