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Research Is the Reason I Can Go the Distance
Yen Lam credits research for helping her survive invasive lobular carcinoma and get back to what she loves: running
After Yen Lam, 44, was sent for a biopsy on her left breast following a suspicious mammogram and ultrasound, she didn’t have much time to worry about it. She was busy traveling for work in the days that followed. On her first day back in the office, she got the call from her gynecologist confirming the lump in her breast was cancerous.
“Time stood still for me, even though my coworkers were moving all around our open office space,” she said. “It was just absolutely shocking.”
Yen said hearing she had breast cancer was, in part, so alarming because she had no family history of the disease and considered herself very healthy, as a runner who has completed 11 marathons, countless half marathons, and numerous other shorter races to date.
Yen was diagnosed with stage I invasive lobular carcinoma, a form of the disease that begins in the breast lobules (the glands that produce milk). Because Yen didn’t have children and would receive hormone-suppressing therapy as part of treatment, her doctors recommended that she first go through fertility preservation treatments. “That wasn’t something I never even knew would have to happen for breast cancer patients,” she said.
After a mastectomy and round of egg retrieval, Yen got her score from Oncotype DX®, a genomic test that helps inform whether a person with breast cancer will benefit from chemotherapy. Yen’s results showed she was in a gray zone for chemotherapy and radiation, and her doctors told her it was her choice.
Yen opted to do chemotherapy, thinking about how her cancer had spread to a lymph node, staging her at 2a after her mastectomy. At the time, with all that was racing through her mind, she recalled wishing her doctors would have told her what to do.
“But in retrospect it was nice to have the ability to do my own research and think about it what was best for me,” she said. “When I thought about the day I got the call that I had cancer, and all those emotions I felt, I decided I didn’t want to have to hear that again. I wanted to prevent the cancer from coming back later by being aggressive now.”
One of the hardest parts of her experience with breast cancer, Yen said, was the fact that she couldn’t be as active. She went from training for marathons and lifting weights, to only managing a walk around her neighborhood with her dad, who temporarily relocated across the country with Yen’s mom.
Like many runners, Yen had always wanted to cross the finish line of the TCS New York City Marathon. She noted that 2020 would not only mark the 50th anniversary of the race, but the year she finished treatment for breast cancer.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it—and that cancer didn’t stop me from doing what I enjoyed,” she said.
Yen joined Team BCRF to secure her place in the marathon and fundraise for lifesaving research. Though the 2020 marathon was canceled because of COVID-19, Yen plans to run with Team BCRF at the next marathon and has already raised more than $6,300 for research.
“Having been through this journey, I know research is important,” she said. “I felt like I got through my treatment fairly unscathed, and my journey was easy compared to others. I want to run for BCRF so we can fund more research to help more patients.”
Read more personal stories about breast cancer from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason campaign here.