Jokes about Elmer Fudd, laughter and a vivacious smile are among the last things someone might expect when talking to a breast cancer survivor. Not when her name is Meredith Oppenheim.
Oppenheim is a breast cancer survivor who has taken to sharing her story via blog and word of mouth with others in the Hauppauge community in hopes of raising awareness and encouraging early detection.
"My goal is to get awareness out to people that the best defense is early detection," she said.
Oppenheim has been called an inspiration by her teammates, Hauppauge-based team that raises money to participate in Avon's Walk for Breast cancer each year.
It's ironic that Oppenheim was a member of the team for six years, before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2010.
The cancer was discovered when Oppenheim took up a friend's offer to switch health care providers for her yearly mammogram, attending a specialized breast cancer center instead of a radiologists. Prior mammographies showed she had cancer for over the past year that went undiagnosed.
"At first they said, 'It's probably nothing, but let's test that thing anyway.' That's what you want to hear," the survivor said.
Oppenheim said she had always thought 'it could never happen to me' despite marching in Avon's Walk for Breast Cancer. In New York, experts predict 15,570 new case of breast cancer to be diagnosed this year and according to the Center for Disease Control, the female breast cancer incident rate in New York State was 122 to 124 per 1,000 in 2007, the most recent year available.
"I realized I had breast cancer, but I decided not to dwell on it and not to be depressed about it," Oppenheim said, describing the battle 80 percent mental.
Instead, she started a blog about it to keep family, friends and her teammates informed of every step of her battle. She wrote everything from jokes about cute technicians at treatment center to blunt to step-by-step descriptions of her radiation treatment.
"Friends who have found out other people they knew were diagnosed with breast cancer have shown them my blog to show them there's many ways to deal with it," Oppenheim said. "Mine was humor. If you have to go through it, why not laugh about it?"
Oppeheim underwent surgery to remove the tumor in January 2010 followed by mammosite radiation in February 2010. After one week of high dosage, twice-a-day radiation, she was declared cancer free.
Later that year, Oppenheim took part in Avon's Walk for Breast Cancer for the first time as a survivor.
"It was surreal. I had the hat and walked in with the survivor group. But it affected my teammates more than it affected me, because it's the sudden realization someone you know had breast cancer," she said.
Now, Oppenheim said she's taken the blog down but willingly shares her story via email and speaks her friend's friends and family members if asked when first diagnosed.
"You don't know what to expect, and especially if you don't know anyone who had it, and it's scary," she said.
Oppenheim encourages others to go and get , citing , and a woman being her own advocate. After all, it was a second opinion that saved her life.