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Buddy Check 9: Pharmacist Uses Own Cancer Journey To Help Customers

5:33 AM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- A local pharmacist is dispensing and taking her own best health advice in D.C. 

Mengist Mesfin told us, "I wanted to become a pharmacist because I lost a sister through a penicillin allergy."

Mengist Mesfin's sister was just 14 months old. But that medical mistake in Ethiopia is why she became a pharmacist when she came to the United States.  For most of her career Mengist has been with Safeway and currently works at the Capitol Hill location.

In fact she's just returned to work after taking nearly 11 months of sick leave.  Last year an annual screening mammogram found cancer in her right breast.

"That was February 2011. It was a challenge even though you knew what it means," shared Mesfin.

It was a challenge too because the results came a few months after her mother and sister were both diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The disease eventually took her mother's life at age 79.

On top of that, genetic tests revealed that Mengist carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, meaning she was at greater risk for both breast & ovarian cancers.

"That's a deep breath I had to take in," remembered Mesfin.

Surgery took place at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore where doctors took an aggressive approach to treating the disease. Doctors did a bilateral mastectomy. There was breast reconstruction and chemo three times weekly for 6 months. Then, Mengist Mesfin had a hysterectomy.

Physically, Mesfin says she's in a better place and believes she's an even better pharmacist. Having walked the cancer journey, she's more proactive counseling her customers about Early Detection, getting them to listen to their bodies. She says she's also better at listening to them.

To keep yourself and your Buddy in check, text BUDDYCHECK9 to 25543 for a monthly Early Detection alert sponsored by Washington Radiology Associates.

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