It’s October, which means that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and while more rare, a man’s lifetime chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is one in 1,000. In March of 2017, there were 3.1 million women in the United States with a history of breast cancer. Tragically, there are approximately 40,000 deaths expected from breast cancer in 2017, so we are endlessly inspired by women in politics and beyond who have conquered their diagnosis.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan
Although the former First Lady passed away in 2016, Mrs. Reagan was a 29-year survivor of breast cancer, which she fought when her husband was still in the White House. In 1987, she was diagnosed with the cancer and underwent a “radical mastectomy” in full view of the public. Even after her death, she continues to be an inspiration for women who are considering a mastectomy in the face of their diagnosis.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp
While running for governor of North Dakota in 2000, the Democratic politician was not only campaigning against her Republican opponent, but she was also battling breast cancer. During the campaign, she dismissed concern about her health by saying her hair loss would probably make her more memorable. Even though she lost her bid for governor, Heitkamp was elected to the U.S. Senate as the first woman from North Dakota in 2012 and was considered for President Trump’s Cabinet in 2017.
TV & Radio Personality Laura Ingraham
Ingraham was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2005. Luckily, the cancer was caught early, but after surgery, she underwent chemotherapy and lost her hair during the process. Two years later, however, Ingraham was on a book tour sharing her story in the public eye. Since her bout with cancer, she has been a leading voice in conservative media and spoke on the RNC stage in 2016.
U.S. Representative Sue Myrick
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, the nine-term Republican representative from North Carolina shifted some of her focus to women’s health. In 2000, she sponsored a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to women with cervical or breast cancer. Myrick was in the U.S. House from 1995 until she declined to run for a tenth term and retired in 2013.
Former First Lady of NJ Mary Jo Codey
The wife of now Democratic NJ State Senator Richard Codey, Mary Jo Codey used her position as New Jersey’s First Lady to advocate specifically for those suffering with mental health issues and breast cancer. Mrs. Codey lost her mother to breast cancer before being diagnosed herself. She used her platform to advocate for early detection and treatment. Since her time as First Lady of New Jersey, Codey and her husband have also begun a foundation for mental illness awareness.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Not only is Sandra Day O’Connor the first woman to sit on the bench as a Supreme Court Justice, but she is also a breast cancer survivor. In 1988, while serving on the Supreme Court, O’Connor underwent surgery for breast cancer at age 58. The cancer, luckily, was found early and O’Connor has been in remission ever since completing chemotherapy and a mastectomy. In 1994, she publicly spoke out about her battle with the disease.
Senator Claire McCaskill
In February of 2016, the Democratic senator from Missouri announced that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ten years before, McCaskill was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate by Missouri and has focused her energy on improving life for military veterans. By April of this year, the senator announced that she was cancer-free and that experience had been life-changing stating, “cancer doesn’t have a party affiliation.”
Former First Lady of MA Ann Romney
After her husband’s bid for the presidency in 2008, Ann Romney was diagnosed with breast cancer at “stage zero,” which means she required surgery and radiation but no chemotherapy. Since the completion of her surgery, she has been in remission but in an interview, mentioned she was concerned that the cancer could come back. Romney has also been diagnosed with MS and continues to be an inspiration to stay positive even in the face of health problems.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Although she fought breast cancer while in office as a U.S. Representative in 2008, no one knew about her battle until after it was over. In 2009, she publicly spoke about balancing her seven necessary surgeries with her congressional duties and personal life. Since then, one of her focuses has been to advocate for early detection. She discovered her own cancer with a self-exam.
Former presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina
Everyone remembers Carly Fiorina from the Republican primary and her standout performance in the primary debates. Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before she was going to announce her run for Senate in 2009. The former presidential candidate underwent a double mastectomy a few weeks later. After, she went through months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, all during her Senate campaign against Senator Barbara Boxer.
Former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman