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Oct 30, 2023

Five women in ag shared their breast cancer stories in October

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

With October recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, sought to connect with breast cancer survivors in the ag community to share their stories and to remind others they aren’t alone in their fights against the illness.

In total, five women shared their stories of diagnosis, treatment and life after breast cancer.

Britt Fisk, a rancher from Clayton, N.M., is among the farmers spoke with.

She received her diagnosis in June 2020 during her eighth pregnancy.

“I scratched an itch on my chest, and I felt kind of a knot,” she told “I convinced myself that it was changes associated with the pregnancy and that I would get it checked out after those changes go away.”

The knot turned out to be triple-positive breast cancer in Stage 2B, which required four months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy without reconstruction, additional chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Cheryl Davis, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin Dells, Wis., also shared her breast cancer journey.

Doctors diagnosed her with early-stage hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in January 2009.

Her doctors caught it early partly because she made a concerted effort to keep up with regular physicals and screenings.

“I went for a mammogram in late 2008, and the radiologist compared the results from prior years,” she told “He noticed a small spot and suggested I get it checked out. My doctor referred me to the Cancer Center in Madison. The doctor there said they didn’t see anything on the tests. I told them my doctor wouldn’t send me here if there wasn’t something to be looked at. They did another mammogram and found the same mass.

“This is why I encourage all women to advocate for their own health and to speak up if you feel something isn’t right with your body. The longer you wait, the more time you give the cancer to spread.”

Three women from Canada’s ag community also spoke with

Jaclinn McNiven, a grain farmer from Chinook, Alta., received her diagnosis, triple-negative breast cancer in Stage 2, on July 12, 2022.

McNiven’s family has a history of breast cancer as her mom had it too.

Knowing she was at higher risk, McNiven made regular breast cancer screenings part of her health plan at age 38. That’s two years before the Canadian Cancer Society’s recommendations for beginning to have breast cancer discussions with a doctor.

“I kept having to go every six months for mammograms and ultrasounds because the doctors kept seeing a shadow,” she told “It got missed and the tumor was about an inch big. It was really disappointing because I tried to be so diligent.”

A food scientist and researcher with the Global Food Institute for Food Security in Saskatoon, Sask., had difficulties accepting her diagnosis.

“I was in denial. I couldn’t believe it,” Rana Mustafa told about her March 2022 diagnosis. “I ate well and exercised; I had no reason to think this disease would come for me. I just started a new job and I thought I’d lose that job. I was scared.”

But for Mustafa, the hair loss associated with chemotherapy proved to be the hardest part of her journey.

She loved her long hair and what it represented.

“My hair falling out was the most traumatic experience,” she said. “I’ve always had long hair and my hair was part of my identity. My partner loved my hair and people complimented me on my long hair. I was very attached to it. I looked into cold capping and anything I could to try to save my hair.”

An Ontario producer spoke with channeled her athletic mindset during her breast cancer treatments.

Sara Wood, a cash crop and broiler chicken producer from Mitchell, Ont., grew up involved in competitive swimming and channeled that experience during her battle with breast cancer.

She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and compared them to stages of a 400m swim race.

“I broke it down so that one treatment was 50m of each (swimming) stroke,” Wood told “I know that in the 400 individual medley, things get tough around 300m. So, I knew that’s six treatments and that I could get through those six and be fine, and two might be tough.”

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