Breast Cancer Survivor Series: Crystal Lane Finds Power in Health Care Information after Breast Cancer Diagnosis

October 20, 2014

Crystal Lane was 26 years old and the primary caregiver for her then 10-month-old daughter and 15-year-old brother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. After losing her parents to cancer, she served as her brother’s caretaker and was unaware of the impact her family’s health history was about to have on her life.

Lane initially noticed a lump in her breast and sought the advice of medical professionals after noticing its continued growth. For two months, Lane was misdiagnosed until she consulted a new doctor at Emory University. Within 20 minutes, Lane was diagnosed with stage 3, triple negative breast cancer.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Lane began her personal fight against breast cancer enduring chemotherapy, a single mastectomy and radiation therapy. The dedicated support from those around her was both heart-warming and surprising.

“Starting treatment with chemotherapy was an interesting experience because my vulnerability was on display for the world,” Lane said. “People I did not expect came from every direction to help. My friends, family and even colleagues made sure I had meals, rides to appointments, a clean house and companionship. The outpouring of love with no expectations in return helped me maintain my emotional wellbeing throughout the course of treatment.”

Although Lane’s treatment plan may sound similar to other breast cancer stories, her experience took an interesting turn when her health care team inquired about her family’s history of cancer. She was initially asked about genetic testing when her parents died, but decided to delay testing services with the approval of her physician.

Lane’s breast cancer diagnosis immediately renewed her interest in undergoing genetic testing, which revealed she tested positive for BRCA-1, a gene mutation associated with cancer. In the midst of her treatment, Crystal launched into an investigative journey to uncover her family’s health history.

“I discovered most of my family history by reaching out to my aunts and uncles,” Lane said. “My family members were still recovering from the loss of my parents a few years prior. They felt like it was finally time to start digging for information since they did not want to lose another family member.”

Losing her parents to cancer was a sign of a long line of cancer deaths on both sides of Lane’s family. During her genetic testing process, Lane discovered she was living with the same mutation as nearly every person diagnosed with cancer on her mother’s side of the family.

Currently, Lane is still preparing to undergo future surgeries associated with her breast cancer treatments, but is now a proud advocate for genetic testing and understanding hereditary cancer risks.

“I would recommend doing extensive research into your family’s medical history,” Lane said. “It will be exhausting and you will encounter resistance, but you cannot give up. If there are red flags in your health history, seek out genetic counseling and testing. It was one of the best decisions I made during treatment.”

Lane’s story has many distinctive traits, but her story of surviving mirrors the stories of others that have found a new passion after beating cancer. In Lane’s case, she is now pursuing a career as a cancer research fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

“I understand the underlying biological mechanisms of how cancer develops and how it is treated. I also understand how public health works to increase cancer prevention and survivorship,” Lane said. “As a patient, I have experienced all aspects of health care, allowing me to better understand the gaps between research and reality. These experiences bring me full circle, giving me a unique perspective and a self-renewing passion for my line of work.”

After learning the importance of historial health data, fighting breast cancer for more than two years and finding a new life purpose centered on cancer prevention, Lane has fully embraced her new found respect for health care information – a sentiment she hopes to spread to anyone afraid to face the facts of their health.

“I can’t go back in time, but I can vow to never be silent,” she said. “I can help people who are struggling with this information. Having the information is power. You can save a life.”

To learn more about genetic testing services in Georgia, or to connect with an online community of cancer survivors, visit the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE) at www.georgiacore.com

About the Author

You might like...

July 12, 2018

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s Worksite Wellness facilitated a panel discussion highlighting employees’ experiences with cancer and their stories of survival during National Cancer Survivor Month.... 

May 3, 2016

Kesia Cobb, M.B.A., business operations director in the Division of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is now facing one of the toughest battles of her life.

Cobb discovered a lump in her breast during her monthly self-exam at home.

October 29, 2015

Breast cancer affects more than 200,000 women in the U.S. each year. Norma Mitchell never thought she would be one of those women.

“It was Nov. 17, 2011 and I was waiting for the doctor to officially tell me that it was breast cancer,” said Mitchell. “But while I was sitting there in the waiting room, I already knew.”