Breast cancer survivor works to let others know of hereditary risk

- October is breast cancer awareness month, but a local woman works year-round to let others know about hereditary cancers. Ellyn Davidson says knowledge is power and if we know our risks - especially at a young age - we can do something about it.

A little over a decade ago, Davidson of Huntington Woods was working for an advertising firm. She happened to see a powerful piece they had just put together for an area hospital. It was a video that would change her life.

"I watched the spot, I was completely touched. She had young kids just like I did," she told us. "I went home that day and I started doing a self-breast exam and I found a lump. I know it's crazy."

Ellyn was only 36 years old.

"I didn't think younger women got breast cancer," she said. "I didn't know any."

She called her doctor who ordered a mammogram and ultra sound, which didn't show anything. Being her own advocate, she went back a couple months later to have the lump removed. 

"I remember thinking this was strange, why is he calling me at 9:30 on a Thursday night - and he told me I have cancer," she said.

Doctors told Ellyn she had stage two breast cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes. She went through six rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy, and reconstruction.

"I didn't know it was hereditary, I didn't know much about it," she said. "It was 11 years ago. It was pre-Angelina Jolie, it was pre-every celebrity coming out and talking about it." 

Ellyn didn't know anyone in her family who had breast cancer until she underwent genetic testing.

"It turned out there were a couple of cousins that were older and had had cancer and later pieced it together they had the BRCA mutation."

After discovering she inherited the BRCA mutation, which put Ellyn at a greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer, she had her uterus and ovaries removed as well.

"I want people to know their family history, knowledge is power," she said. "If you know your family history, you can do something about it."

Ellyn had the support to beat her cancer and now she wanted to help others. She is now the president of the organization FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. She works tirelessly to educate and inform young women about hereditary cancers, genetics, knowing their risks a what to do. 

"I am really proud to be working for an organization, they work on a really small budget, but they are so powerful and so impactful," she said. "I always feel like I don't need to worry about hereditary cancer because they have my back."

Because Ellyn knew her risks, she was able to do something about it. She now owns that advertising firm Brogan and Partners and appreciates her time with her husband and three children.

Ellyn also finds strength in running marathons, knowing if she can beat breast cancer - she can do anything.

"Sometimes when it is hard I think so is chemo," she said. "I did that, I feel like if I could do that, I can do anything. It has been an interesting journey but a positive journey and for me to be part of something bigger is really healing." 

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