A Clean-Living Young Athlete With Breast Cancer Asks, "Why Me?"

"I was feeling like I needed an explanation."
It's a question many woman with breast cancer ask themselves: Why me? Why did I get this disease? The evidence remains inconclusive about what in your lifestyle contributes to breast cancer. And what if you're about 25 years younger than the average breast cancer patient?

Elissa Thorner, of Baltimore, was training for a triathlon when she got her diagnosis—at the age of 23. She had been eating organic food for years, never smoked, hardly drank, and was on her way to finishing an advanced degree in public health. When her mammogram came back with the dreaded news, at first she was simply incredulous.

"There was an immediate feeling of disbelief, that there must have been a mistake, and a level of shock that I shouldn't get breast cancer, especially when I had done everything right," Thorner recalls.

Fast on the heels of the disbelief was rage: "I went through unbelievable anger, feeling my body had failed me. I remember being out at a bar with a girlfriend—she was having a cosmo and a cigarette—and feeling how unfair it was. She sleeps with random men and lives a single bachelor life, and I've never done anything like that."

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Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: May 17, 2008

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