Surviving Breast Cancer: Attitude Is Everything

Eleven years ago, when she was just 27, Geralyn Lucas was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I thought I was definitely going to die," she said. "I never heard of this happening to anyone my age."

Lucas, who'd recently married Dr. Tyler Lucas, actually found the lumps herself. But since the disease is more common in older women, her diagnosis stunned even her physician husband.

"I remember crying, holding Geralyn in my arms, crying and thinking, we're so young," her husband said.

It was 1995, and Lucas was an enthusiastic new staffer at "20/20," whose job was to come up with story ideas. Within weeks of her diagnosis, she was scheduled for a mastectomy -- the day after her 28th birthday.

That morning she decided to become a warrior, a uniquely feminine one. Her first weapon was some bright red lipstick she wore into the operating room.

"I felt like in that moment I was having my breasts cut off. I knew my hair was gonna fall out," Lucas said. "And it was this way of being hopeful and somehow anticipating being feminine when all these things were gonna fall away."

At that moment, Lucas said, she decided she would never take anything for granted.

"This is my moment, I'm going to become that woman I always wanted to be," Lucas remembered thinking to herself.

The Woman She Always Wanted to Be

Lucas became a woman who faced down her fears with a sassy style. This led her to write her inspiring book, "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy."

Lucas' spirit captivated breast cancer sufferers around the world and led to a movie, which airs Oct. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime. It stars Sarah Chalke from "Scrubs" and singer Patti Labelle, who bring Lucas' brash and sometimes humorous take on cancer to the small screen.

Lucas said that living with risk made her more risqué.

"I started wearing high heels to chemo. I was like, 'OK, these shoes are going places after we're done with this chemo,'" she said. "And my veins just turned totally black from the chemo. And I thought all right, I'm going to show a little leg. So my skirts got shorter with each chemo treatment. And it was like a dare. It was like, 'How do I reinvent myself?' All this is being taken away, but I'm going to take it back, steal it back."

When Lucas lost her hair, she refused to wear a wig.

"I felt like I wanted everyone to see what cancer's doing to me," she said. "I'm not going to hide."

No matter how bad the chemotherapy treatment made her feel, Lucas never missed a day of work.

"I was so appreciative that I could still participate," she said. "That was part of my cure, as much as taking my chemo."

Risking Her Health for Something Bigger

Lucas became a passionate advocate for breast cancer sufferers, especially young women. But three years later, after healing and becoming cancer-freer, Lucas, at age 31, faced her toughest dilemma: whether or not to have children.

Her doctor had advised against it. Then, a "20/20" assignment offered the courage she needed. It was a story about Erin Kramp, a young mother dying of breast cancer who spent her final months making a series of videos for her young daughter, Peyton.

Kramp's moving videotaped legacy for Peyton inspired Lucas not to give up on her dream of becoming a mother. In 1999, Lucas' daughter, Skye, was born.

And just last spring, Lucas experienced another miracle. Although she was told she was entering early menopause, she conceived and gave birth to a boy, Hayden.

Today Lucas works as an executive at Lifetime Television and is part of its "Stop Breast Cancer for Life" campaign. But fear of the disease is never far away.

Recently Lucas was screened for suspicious spots on her lungs, which appear to be benign. Still, Lucas considers herself lucky.

"I was in a position to be able to share my story," she said, "and tell it in a way that it could help people and change lives."

Related Links

Breast Cancer Awareness Month section index page:

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Why I Wore Lipstick: