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April 2, 2001
A Path of Her Own: One Woman's Journey with Breast Cancer
Photographs by Jana Birchum
Text by Tania Hannan

he first in a series of features for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this photo essay chronicles the life of a courageous woman named Gaila. In September 1995, as a working artist and single mother of two teenagers, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her left breast.

Within two months doctors performed a radical mastectomy and, realizing the cancer had spread to Gaila's lymphatic system and right breast, recommended another mastectomy and immediate chemotherapy.

Unlike so many others, this woman's tale ends hopefully. Five years later -- a major milestone for breast cancer survivors -- Gaila is vibrant and healthy, and painting once again. The images that follow tell her story.

start essay

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