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Ana Harper is a Forever Fighter
Ana Harper was 39-years old and 6-1/2 months pregnant with her third child when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast
cancer in 2013. “Triple-negative” refers to the fact that the cancer is negative for estrogen, progesterone and a protein commonly known as HER2—which means it will not respond to hormone therapy. Ana went through two rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant, and in January 2014 gave birth to Chase, a beautiful, healthy baby boy. She went on to have five more months of weekly chemotherapy. “It was rough,” she said. “But I had a lot of support from friends and family, especially my husband David, who is my rock, and my kids, who give me a reason to be strong.”
Ana’s never hidden anything from her kids, she says, because she didn’t want them to be afraid. At two years old, her daughter Courtney announced that when she grew up, she was going to be a “surgeon doctor” so that she could help other people with breast cancer. And it was daughter Hanah (then 12 years old) who first connected Ana to Komen North Jersey. Hanah heard her parents discussing the mounting medical care bills, and was inspired to help. Without telling her mother, she initiated a one-month “Ribbon Pledge Campaign” at her school, and raised $600. When Ana was called to the school that April (and she had no idea why!), they presented her with the check to help with her “medical bills.” Ana and David decided to give the $600 to Komen North Jersey. When she called our office, she said, “Although we need it, we are sure that there must be someone out there who needs it more.” She told us that they wanted to make a difference. And that if by donating the money, one or two women would now have access to a mammogram, then it would be worth it.
In October of 2015, just five months after she completed chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and multiple reconstruction surgeries, Ana was diagnosed with breast cancer again. This time, it was Stage IV Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer—which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones or lungs. There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, but there are treatments that can control it for a period of years. Without treatment, however, it will continue to come back.
Ana has been participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial (infusions given every three weeks), which has helped control her cancer. She says that she is grateful for the generous donations and research that has made this trial available to her. Her doctors say that if she stops responding to current therapy, she’ll be switched to another, and she’s okay with that. “That’s fine with me,” she says, “if it means I’ll be able to meet my grandkids—or see Courtney become a surgeon doctor!”
Through it all, Ana has continued to support Komen North Jersey. She stays strong and determined. Her Race for the Cure team, “Chase Life” has raised over $15,000 for Komen North Jersey since their first Race. Ana has been recognized by Komen North Jersey with a “Promise of One Award” for her deep commitment to our mission, and her entire family—Chase, Courtney, Hanah and David—actively and enthusiastically share her passion for making a difference.
“I know that I’ll be living with this for the rest of my life, or until there’s a cure,” says Ana. “And so we’re raising all this money, and it’s going to help people. Before I was part of the Race, I didn’t know how big, how grand this all was, and how many survivors there are out there. It’s an incredible feeling of sisterhood and support. I do it for them, and I do it for my kids, and all the generations to follow, so that they’ll never have to face breast cancer in their lives.”
There are an estimated 154,000 people living with Stage IV breast cancer in the U.S. today. In 2018, Susan G. Komen invested 70% of our overall research portfolio into metastatic breast cancer and treatment resistance. Ana isn’t giving up, and neither are we. Help us meet our goal to reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by half by 2026.
JOIN OUR FIGHT. SAVE LIVES. DONATE NOW.