31 Days of Impact – Day 27, Dr. Kristi Egland
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
DR. KRISTI EGLAND, SIOUX FALLS, SD – BREAST CANCER SCIENTIST AND SURVIVOR
“We know a lot about breast cancer, but a lot is to be learned. Susan G. Komen is providing us with funding to pursue research that is saving lives.”
“My breast cancer journey has only ignited my research and empowered me to keep fighting on behalf of all the women facing breast cancer in their lives now.”
I knew breast cancer before it knew me, before it put my life on hold and made me feel like I was the most vulnerable human being in the world. I’m a research scientist and I study the genetics of breast cancer – I’m an associate scientist at the Cancer Biology Research Center at Sanford Research and assistant professor in the Department of OB/GYN at the University of South Dakota – I know breast cancer really well.
Diagnosed at age 37 with no history of breast cancer in my family, you can imagine the incredible shock I felt, especially with a diagnosis of triple negative invasive breast cancer with lymph node involvement. This was not early stage, and I was definitely not prepared – I did not even know how to react when I saw the tumor on the screen; I felt devoid of any emotion, empty. But I stuck to what I knew: science. My doctor advised I move forward with a double mastectomy, which was then followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments.
Although I was scared, I found courage and hope in my family – I needed to see my kids grow up; I needed to see graduations, weddings and meet my grandchildren. This hope is what got me through my treatments.
I started studying breast cancer in 2000 at the National Institutes of Health, and currently the focus of my research is on new targets for therapy, as well as a diagnostic blood test. I am the recipient of a Susan G. Komen for the Cure Career Catalyst grant and am very grateful for Komen’s funding. This grant has allowed me to apply what I learned as a breast cancer patient back to my own research.
I see breast cancer through a different lens now, and I would love to see a research scientist included in the process of treating a patient – the knowledge they can provide to help direct and personalize treatments is invaluable. I donated my own tissue to my research institution as part of Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research, and I would like to encourage women to donate both their cancerous and healthy breast tissue to research because these tissues can help us find the next breakthrough. Learn how to donate breast tissue.
I am very fortunate to have been able to overcome my battle with breast cancer, and each and every day I am thankful to be here. The journey has empowered me to be as aggressive in my breast cancer research as my breast cancer was with me.
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About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.