Twice in a Lifetime

Apr 02, 2022 | Stories

Elizabeth Braun has undergone treatment for two different types of breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2007 and again in 2018.  

Elizabeth Braun and her husband were on vacation in 2007 when, one morning, she felt a weird sensation in her right breast. “It was like a bruise under the skin, but you couldn’t see it yet,” she said. She called her doctor when she got home. Within a week, Elizabeth was diagnosed with stage 0 (also known as DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer.  

“At the time I learned I had breast cancer, my very dear friend, Molly, had been undergoing treatment for four years,” Elizabeth said. “She passed away the morning I met with my surgeon for my initial consult.” Elizabeth struggled with how to tell her children, especially her daughter, who was in sixth grade at the time. “They knew Molly had breast cancer, that was their frame of reference,” she said.  

Elizabeth underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. Over the next 10 years, the world of cancer slowly faded from her view. “We celebrated one year cancer free, then five years cancer free, then 10 years cancer free,” Elizabeth said. “And then the rug was pulled out from under us.”  

In 2018, after feeling the same sensation in her breast, Elizabeth was diagnosed with a second type of breast cancer. “I thought I was out of my mind,” she said. “I go in for annual mammograms and breast MRIs. No way was there a lump in almost the exact same spot at 10 years prior.”  

Elizabeth underwent a double mastectomy. “For four weeks, my recovery went great,” she said. “Then, one of the incisions opened.” She underwent additional surgeries, but continued to have issues with scar tissue so her doctors recommended latissimus flap surgery, where a large muscle in the back along with skin and underlying fatty tissue are removed, and the tissue is used to reconstruct the breast. She then underwent chemotherapy.  

Prior to her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, Elizabeth was active – she loved to swim, run and attend bootcamp. After the latissimus surgery, there was concern about how well she’d recover from surgery and what kind of range of motion she’d have. The process was slow, but Elizabeth is now back in the gym. “I’m able to do a pull up, something I wasn’t sure I’d get back to,” she said.  

Elizabeth is thankful for the support she’s received from her husband and children. “Not everyone has that support,” she said. “I want to be there for others undergoing breasts cancer.”   

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.