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Fighting back vs. breast cancer

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Mandy Clay / JANA PASTORS photos

Boobs, breasts, glands, tatas, second base. No matter what you call them, it's important to understand "the girls" are more than a punchline in a Benny Hill skit.

October is the month pink can be seen everywhere. From pink buckets filled with fried chicken to pink containers of yogurt, there's no end to the ways some show support in the fight against breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, about one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. It could be you, your mom, your sister, your wife, your daughter, your neighbor. When it hits close to home, you think your world will fall apart. It can and sometimes, it does.

But two Wilson county women prove that life doesn't end with diagnosis.

In August 2013, Mandy Clay felt a small lump in her left breast. Two weeks later, when results from a mammogram and ultrasound were questionable, Mandy's radiologist scheduled a biopsy. The following week, the 32 year old wife and mother sat with her husband, Michael, as the doctor shared the news.

"When the doctor walked in, I knew." Mandy recalls. "Then she told us, 'not good... it's cancer.' It took my breath away."

Mandy's official diagnosis, Stage 1 HER2 +, which essentially means she overproduced the HER2 hormone. Studies have shown that an overabundance of Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) can promote the growth of cancer cells. In some cases a gene mutation is what causes the excess production of HER2.

After going over treatment options, Mandy decided that a double mastectomy was her best option.

"I'm young. My little girl, Moxy, was only two. She needs me and proceeding with the surgery dramatically reduced my risk of recurrence."

While the surgery and recovery was tough, the always optimistic Mandy admits that the chemotherapy packed the strongest punch. "I got VERY sick after round two. It was tough because I had a toddler that I could not take care of because I was either too weak or too sick to do anything."

It was during those tough months of chemotherapy that Mandy decided she needed to do something to help others affected by this disease. So she started Avenge the Girls. Through ATG, Mandy and her team raise money for local breast cancer charities and make care packages for people going through chemo.

She has no plans of slowing down. "In 2015 we have big plans to help educate young women about their bodies and early detection of female cancers. I never thought I would be someone to start something like this, but I think this was my wakeup call that I have a voice and a loud one that can help others."

To find out more about Avenge the Girls, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/avengethegirls.

Becky Andrews may be contacted at becky@wilsonpost.com.

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