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  • Turning Point 2013

    Tissue Donation Can Provide a Silver Lining

    Amy Tull AtwoodAmy Tull Atwood 

    Amy Tull Atwood believes in silver linings. For Atwood, a 39-year-old breast cancer survivor, donating tissue during her treatment for breast cancer was an opportunity to do good in a bad situation.

    "Working at Genzyme [a pharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, Mass.], I know the value of research and clinical trials," says Atwood. "So I was very willing to donate my tissue to help doctors develop new treatments and potential cures for breast cancer."

    After performing a breast self-exam last March, Atwood discovered a lump in one of her breasts. A subsequent mammogram detected two lumps in her right breast, and a biopsy showed invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. Wanting to do everything possible to eliminate the cancer, she opted for a double mastectomy. During surgery, her doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, so treatment included two 12-week courses of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy.

    Soon after her diagnosis, her doctors at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber asked if she was interested in donating her breast tissue or blood during surgery. Atwood didn't hesitate.

    "With something as noninvasive as tissue donation, why not do it?" she asks.

    "They’re taking it out during surgery anyway, so it's not a big deal to donate it for science."

    Several years ago, Atwood started writing a travel blog during an 83-day car trip around the country. She resurrected it after her diagnosis to keep family and friends updated on her progress and, more importantly, she says, to help others in similar circumstances know that they are not alone.

    Despite the traumatic experience of breast cancer, tissue donation was a logical step for Atwood. "Everything happens for a reason," she says. "If the reason is so other women don’t have to have a similar experience, then I’m all for it."

    Learn more about the tissue donation process.
    Read Should You Donate Tissue for Cancer Research? on Dana-Farber's Insight blog.

    Turning Point 2013 Table of Contents 

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