Every year, roughly 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Forty-thousand die.
As part of breast cancer awareness month, WFMZ is bringing you a comprehensive look at the disease through the eyes of one local family.
It's the story of two sisters who discovered breast cancer doesn't care who you are or what your family has been through.
Like a lot of sisters, Chrissy and Deb Beitelman can recall a childhood rich with shared memories -- opening Christmas presents, clowning around for the camera and maintaining a healthy sibling rivalry that kept their parents on their toes.
But it wasn't until Chrissy got married in 2009, and the sisters were closer than ever, that the duo discovered they were in for the battle of their lives.
When Chrissy arrived home from her honeymoon, her parents seemed morose and vague.
"They just said call your sister wants to talk to you," said Chrissy.
It was a conversation the sisters would never forget. At 33, Deb had stage two triple negative breast cancer.
"The first thing that hits you is I'm going to die. I'm going to die, and my kids are never going to remember me, and if they do, they are going to remember me sick.," said Deb, who had a mass in her left breast and tested positive for the breast cancer gene.
Because gene carriers have a much higher re-occurrence of cancer, Deb opted to have both breasts removed.
"I was actually mad at her because I thought how can she do that to herself. Like, how is she going to be a woman?" said Chrissy.
Deb went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. She had reconstructive surgery. By 2011...
"Life was getting back to normal again. I was looking normal. We all did the walk together," said Deb.
In October of that year, Deb and Chrissy celebrated Deb's recovery by walking in the Race for a Cure. The sisters named their team, Doobies Boobies, after a nickname Deb had as a child.
"She [Chrissy] had breast cancer during the walk and we didn't know it," said Deb.
Even though the sisters weren't aware of any history of breast cancer in the family, Chrissy also tested positive for the breast cancer gene.
Later, through genetic testing, they were able to trace the gene back three generations.
At that moment, Chrissy said her little sister took the wheel.
"She was like this is what my sister has to do. These are the questions we have to ask. I was a blur at that point," said Chrissy.
"I had confidence that I'm okay. Christine would be okay, too. I wasn't scared for her. I knew it was going to be horrible," said Deb.
Deb is in remission. Chrissy had a cancerous mass in the same breast and also chose a double mastectomy. She has one more round of radiation before her re-construction kicks into full swing.
The special series on breast cancer will continue through Wednesday on 69 News at 5 and on the Regional Edition at 6.
On Wednesday night, WFMZ will host an in-studio phone bank. A panel of medical professionals will be on hand from 5 until 6:30 to answer any questions you may have about breast cancer.
For more information, go to the Lehigh Valley Health Network website.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm 2016 via CNN