‘This is something they can conquer’: Young breast cancer survivor from Austin warns others about risk

Simple Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hattie Sherman moved back to her hometown for her dream job.

Hired to design for a well-known hospitality group in Austin, she said she likes playing a role in how the city changes and grows.

Sitting on the patio at one of her company’s establishments, Josephine House, Sherman looked around and said, “I feel like I’m a part of that change.”

However, on her first day at her new job, the 27-year-old architect found a suspicious lump in her breast. Days later, she would get a call that would change her life personally.

“’Yes, you have a three-centimeter triple negative tumor,’” she recalls.

Sherman said she broke down in tears, mostly because this isn’t her first encounter with the disease. Her grandmother had battled breast cancer 15 years earlier, and even more recently, her mom beat it at age 46.

“So, I kind of knew I might have to think about this one day, but I was always told, punt it to your 40’s and 50’s,” she said.

That’s the age when doctors and the American College of Radiology recommend women start annual preventative screenings. Experts say the density of younger women’s breast tissue can make screening any earlier difficult.

  • Hattie Sherman said she was inspired by her mom's bravery after her breast cancer diagnosis 11 years ago. (Photo provided by: Hattie Sherman)
  • Hattie Sherman said she was inspired by her mom's bravery after her breast cancer diagnosis 11 years ago. (Photo provided by: Hattie Sherman)
  • Hattie Sherman opted for a double mastectomy, to lessen the chances her cancer could return. (Photo provided by Hattie Sherman)
  • Genetic testing will be important for the Sherman family: Hattie is a twin, and she has two identical younger twin sisters. (Photo provided by: Hattie Sherman)

“We know that this is a problem that happens to even younger women,” said Dr. Debra Patt, a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology and St. David’s Medical Center, who treated Sherman.

Dr. Patt told KXAN she recommends women with a family history of the disease start checking themselves at home much earlier, and even consider testing for the genetic mutations that could put them at risk.

In Sherman’s case, this kind of testing will be especially important for her family. She has a twin sister.

“Being an identical twin and having the same genetic makeup as me, I’m sure she’s scared,” said Sherman.

Her family is especially unique: she has two younger twin sisters as well.

“I hope I paved the way for them to see this is something they can conquer,” she said.

Sherman said it’s likely too young for them to be checked, but it’s a conversation the sisters will continue to have.

Inspired by her mother’s strength, Sherman made the difficult decision to opt for a double mastectomy, to lessen the chances her cancer will come back. After conquering a months-long recovery, she’s made it her mission to warn other young women and empower them to know their risk.  

“Learn what your risk factors are and check yourself, every month,” she said.

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