Jennifer Brady: Kept Dancing Through Breast Cancer

Jenn Brady learned that breast cancer doesn’t just happen to women who are 40 and older. At 35 years old, with a young son and an active lifestyle, including dancing with a local ballet company, Brady learned she had the disease after her nurse suggested she receive a mammogram during her annual physical.

Watch a video of Jenn Brady sharing her experiences at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Her advice: "Don't wait"

“If there is anything I could tell women my age it would be, ‘Don’t think you are invincible,’” Brady said. “Get a mammogram at 35. Don’t wait until you are 40 or 50.”

Brady had no reason to believe she would have cancer based on her family history, but decided it would be good to have the test. A friend had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Brady knew that doctors could monitor breast changes against that test in the future.

Diagnosis and treatment

After being diagnosed on Feb. 20, 2009, Brady underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at Moores Cancer Center with Dr. Richard Schwab. She had been treated at UC San Diego Health System for years and it was a natural fit for her to go to the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer treatment center in the region. A surgery that examined seven surrounding lymph nodes found no indication the cancer had spread and her doctors determined she was at Stage I, the least deadly level.

Brady during cancer treatments

Brady during cancer treatment

“When I was diagnosed, the very first thing I thought was, I want to see my son graduate from college and get married. I want to be a grandma. The thought of not being there was the worst, most terrible, awful thing imaginable,” Brady said. “Every second I am with my son, I love it and the same thing goes for my amazing husband who I have been married to for 13 years. Being diagnosed with cancer amplified how valuable and precious life is 100 times.”

Clinical trials

She participated in clinical trials during her therapy, including one that allowed her to undergo chemotherapy in a shorter time span.

“I was so glad to participate in the study,” Brady said. “It offered little risk to my health and I wanted to do anything I can to make sure other women can complete treatment as quickly as possible.”

Brady with Dr. Schwab

Brady with Dr. Richard Schwab

Celebrating another "birthday"

Brady celebrated her third year without cancer on March 12, 2012 — what she calls her third cancer-free birthday.

The dancer performed in The Nutcracker in December with the California Ballet Company at the Civic Auditorium and this spring is preparing to perform in Cinderella.

“As therapy, I go to my ballet classes,” Brady said. “When I am just bending my knees and stretching, I am so thankful that I can move, thankful I have my feet and hands and that I can hear the music. I treasure every moment that I can be doing what I love and that is dancing.”

 

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