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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Petrak: When cancer is in the family, the fear is real

I'd been walking by the doctor's order, unopened in an envelope stuffed in my important paper slot, for months. The postmark was right before Halloween. It wasn't until I awoke with a start from a nightmare a couple of weeks ago, in which a woman in a white lab coat and foreboding expression announced, "You know why you're here, right?" that I finally made the phone call to schedule my yearly mammogram. With my family history — my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 16 and died an agonizing nine years later — I knew that I had earned the pangs of guilt I felt when I walked by that envelope, day after day. It's easy to put off....