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Mission Moment | Salimah

"I'm trying to get back to the real world. Every day, you have to remind yourself of who you were before cancer."



December's Mission Moment was written by Alicia Roberts, CBF Volunteer.

Salimah Lee was 31 when she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ but she thinks she had an inkling at least a year before that something wasn't quite right.

That's why, every time she walks into The Pink House, she sees it as an opportunity to connect with young survivors and spread the word about being an advocate for yourself.

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"I just want people to know, no matter what, women's intuition is real," she explains. "If you feel something (in your breast), don't stop asking questions. Don't give up on something you're not sure of."

When Salimah first felt the lump in her breast, she scheduled an appointment with her gynecologist immediately. The doctor confirmed the lump and told Salimah it probably was just a swollen milk duct, a side effect of breast feeding her daughter.

Salimah trusted the doctor's determination. But the lump grew. About a year later, on Sept. 6, 2022, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction that finished in October of this year, Salimah is taking tamoxifen for five years to lower the risk of that cancer coming back.

This single mom's motivation to stay healthy is her 5-year-old daughter. Her first thought when she received her diagnosis was fear over who would care for her daughter.

"Who's going to love her the way I love her? Nobody," Salimah says.

Overcoming that fear and learning to be OK with asking for help have been the biggest challenges of Salimah's breast cancer journey. During the past year, she has tried to uplift herself with the reminder that she's still here. She's alive, and she's caring for her daughter. Carolina Breast Friends has been central to that process.

Salimah heard about CBF and The Pink House from her nurse navigator at the Levine Cancer Institute. Her first experience was speaking with CBF staffer and breast cancer mentor Charmaine Tyson.

"Her spirit is just so welcoming," Salimah says. "She doesn't look like what she been through. She beat cancer numerous times. ... It made me think I'm going to be OK."

Now, she attends Young Survivor Nights so she can connect with women who understand, and live her story. And she can pass on her advice to newcomers, as well.

"Advocate for yourself," she tells them. "You're the only one who can."


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