Huntsville woman shares breast cancer journey to help others


Where you find Mimi Austin is where you will find Sammy the cat.

“He’s been through it all with me, and he sleeps in the crook of my arm, so I call him my fur angel,” says Mimi as she pets Sammy, who had been keeping watch over her during our interview.

When she says her cat Sammy has been through a lot with her, she has been through a whole lot… more than little Sammy will ever understand.

“It felt like a marble and it was on the side, which is very common,” says Mimi Austin, of the day in 2015 when she felt a lump on her breast while she was in the shower.

She had just gotten a mammogram less than six months earlier, that came back clear. But after a few months of thinking it was probably just a cyst, Mimi went and got testing done at the doctor. She was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma – stage two.

“After I was diagnosed it was a whirlwind. Double mastectomy, radiation, chemo, the whole nine yards,” explains Mimi.

Then after a year of having no treatments, Mimi started having pain in her hip, which she thought was just from aging. But just last year she found out the cancer had spread. She had extensive metastatic lesions in her spine and hip.

“The tumor in my hip actually broke my hip,” shares Mimi. “So I had to have a special reconstruction surgery in Vanderbilt.”

Today Mimi is living with stage four metastatic breast cancer. Right now she is stable, getting scans, and is taking chemo pills that she will take for the rest of her life.

“Statistically 24 to 36 months is the life expectancy for metastatic breast cancer patients, but they are living longer, up to 13 to 15 years, so that’s my goal, that’s what I plan on doing,” says Mimi with a smile.

With “Pinktober” and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mimi says she is thankful for all the funds raised, but thinks it is almost celebrated, when for many patients they will never get to celebrate being cancer free.

“About 20 or 30 percent will go on and be metastatic, so I think it is the metastatic folks that I would like to have a little more attention and a little more research, because we are the only ones that will die from breast cancer,” says Mimi.

She encourages other people with breast cancer to advocate for yourself, do your research, and care for your body with healthy foods and products. She also encourages people to self-check and to use 3D mammography, which is now available in Huntsville. It was not available at the time of her diagnosis. But overall, Mimi says the most important thing is to stay positive and accept support.

“The biggest thing is don’t try to be a hero, because the treatment is really going to be rough and you have got to have help,” she explains. “So if people want to help you, let them help you.”

Mimi says that when doctors told her she was dying is when she really started living. So now with her husband and her fur angel by her side, she will continue to live, laugh, and love.

“It makes me live more aware every day and I am grateful for every day,” shares Mimi Austin. “That is what breast cancer has taught me.”

To learn more facts about breast cancer from the American Cancer Society, click here.

To donate to Chief Meteorologist Jordan Dressman’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign, click here.

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