If not for elective surgery, Wendy Slattery of Pasco might not have caught her cancer until it was too late.
In August 2006, Slattery was going to go through weight-loss surgery. As part of the preparation, she was required to have an up-to-date Pap smear and a mammogram -- both of which she had put off for years.
During the mammogram, doctors found breast cancer.
"I was very fortunate," she said. "I was stage 1B. I was so fortunate I was having the lap band surgery. I was really freaked out for not getting my mammogram sooner."
In September 2006, she had a single mastectomy. Two months later during a self-examination, she discovered three lumps in her other breast. She had to wait six months to heal from her first surgery to have her second mastectomy.
Because her grandmother had ovarian cancer, doctors were concerned she would be susceptible to that too, so she had her ovaries removed in May 2007. She also went through breast-reconstruction surgery and suffered through several difficulties during that process.
Today, she feels strong, and she recently celebrated her five-year anniversary of being cancer-free, an important milestone for breast cancer survivors.
As a result of her experience, Slattery has become a proponent for regular exams.
"I'm very vocal to women," she said. "Early detection is the key. I had waited six years. I could have pushed it off another year. It was horrible thinking, 'What did I do to myself?' "
Slattery also helps others in a different way.
Not long after she was declared cancer-free, she took a jewelry-making class at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center put on by another breast cancer survivor.
She discovered she not only loved the activity, but also had a talent for it. So she began making breast cancer awareness-themed jewelry. Then she learned glass blowing and also began making her own glass beads.
She sells the jewelry at various events, such as the Tri-City Americans' "pink ice" night in February, and donates the proceeds to the cancer center. Though she doesn't keep track, Slattery figures she has raised several thousand dollars in the past four years.
"If it has to do with breast cancer, I'm all about paying it forward."
Because of her cancer battles, Slattery had to put off the lap band surgery until last year, which now has helped her shed more than 100 pounds. Through all the struggles in the past half-decade, she has kept her sunny disposition.
"I'm feeling healthy," she said. "Through the whole process, I've kept a very positive outlook."