Special Reports

Audrey Redmond: 'I had too much to live for'

People really didn't talk about breast cancer when Audrey Redmond was diagnosed 40 years ago.

"It was hush, hush," she said. "Cancer was a death sentence."

But death wasn't an option for the then-29-year-old living in Ohio: "I had too much to live for."

Redmond had a radical double mastectomy, the standard treatment at the time. It's a drastic surgery, done less often now. She thinks it was especially hard to accept in the 1960s.

"I think back in that time, the mentality of men influenced how women felt about their bodies," Redmond said.

But a lot has changed since Redmond was diagnosed.

She marvels at the options women have today, like lumpectomy, a procedure that conserves much of the breast tissue.

And she's in awe of medical advancements that have improved survival rates.

Redmond has had several surgeries since her original diagnosis, including two breast reconstuctions and another operation after her silicone implants leaked. She has huge scars on her chest and back, where doctors removed some of her own tissue to reconstruct her breasts three years ago.

She has never lost her fighting spirit or desire to help others.

She volunteers at the American Cancer Society, has lobbied in Washington for cancer patients and makes it her mission to educate women -- especially black women -- about early breast cancer detection.

Redmond said life changes after breast cancer.

"You live your life differently. ... You have to look at life for how precious it is. You can't afford to waste it."