WINTER PARK (AP) — The doctor was speaking about her ultrasound and mammogram but all Jennifer Adams heard was "womp, womp, womp," like Charlie Brown's teacher was telling her the lump in her left breast was cause for concern.
"I saw the mass, I saw the little things they were talking about but all I heard the lady say was like gibberish," said Adams, 31, of Winter Park, who was still reeling from the recent news that her younger sister has breast cancer.
And then she bolted from the room, grabbed her husband Kevin's hand and broke down in the parking lot.
After a biopsy and agonizing eight-day wait, she was diagnosed May 14 with invasive ductal carcinoma — the most common form of breast cancer.
The shock and grief she experienced was magnified by her sister Lauren Kennedy's diagnosis and the fact that she had just received a clean bill of health during her annual women's health exam six weeks earlier.
Kennedy thought the hard lump in her breast was a cyst when she walked into her gynecologist's office in April. At 29, the Orlando resident said breast cancer wasn't on her radar.
The sisters are about a decade younger than the recommended age for a mammogram.
"But I went in there and (my doctor) took one look and I could tell it was going to be something else," Kennedy said. "At that time, I didn't think it was large but then afterward, I felt around and realized it took up the entirety of my left breast."
Kennedy's breast cancer tested positive for the presence of hormone receptors estrogen and progesterone. Adams' cancer is "triple-positive" ?— she has both hormone receptors plus the HER2 gene, which causes accelerated growth of the tumor.
"When (the diagnosis) officially came in, I was like 'OK, now I know. Now, it's time to fight it," Kennedy said.
There is no family history of the disease and both women tested negative for gene mutations known to increase a person's chances of developing breast cancer.
Their oncologist, Dr. Ana Cuesta-Fernandez, said the medical community's understanding of breast cancer continues to evolve. It's possible there is a gene marker associated with the disease that hasn't been discovered yet.
"There is an explanation," she said. "We just don't know it."
- Motherhood and cancer
As mothers, both women said they put the well-being of their children before their own health.
Kennedy and her husband, Rob, have two children, a 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.
"Being a mom, you just want to make sure your kids are healthy and everybody has what they need so I wasn't going for my annual (exams)," Kennedy said. "But everyone needs to make sure that they're making their health a priority."
The Adamses are raising seven children — three biological and four adopted — whose ages range from 5 to 18.
"All of our energy goes into our kids and then we forget about ourselves," Adams said. "Young women raising kids can get cancer and they need to take care of themselves."
Cuesta-Fernandez stressed the importance of self-checks in addition to regular exams by a gynecologist. Womens' breasts tend to change during menstruation, she said, but lingering effects such as lumps, skin changes and prolonged pain should be evaluated.
"Don't panic but don't ignore something that isn't going away," she said. "If it's persistent and growing, that's a red flag."
Both women recently completed five months of aggressive chemotherapy.
Surrounded by their loved ones, Adams and Kennedy wore black T-shirts with "Peace Out Chemo" written in pink as they each rung the victory bell earlier this month at Orlando Health University of Florida Health Cancer Center.
"It was more emotional than I expected it to be, but when you get up there you're a blubbering mess," Adams said.
- Fighting together
The cancer is in the sisters' left breast but both have chosen to undergo a double mastectomy, with some lymph node removals, to decrease the chances of a recurrence.
Adams' surgery is Oct. 30 and Kennedy's is Nov. 7.
"A lot of people say this is the easy part but we both think this is the hard part," Kennedy said. "Breasts aren't going to grow back."
Both women said they are working to change their mindset about their femininity in the wake of their surgeries. Still, the imminent loss of their breasts takes an emotional toll.
The shape of their bodies will change. Clothes will fit differently.
"I don't think you can mentally prepare — this is a hard surgery," Kennedy said. "Breasts aren't what makes you beautiful but it's a woman thing. It's hard to cope with."
Her sister agreed.
"The effects of chemo will eventually fade but this will stay forever," Adams said. "It will be a constant reminder that we went through this."
After the mastectomies, both will endure radiation therapy nearly every day for six weeks. Reconstructive surgery will eventually follow and there's a lot of healing required between treatments.
Family and friends are chipping in for overwhelming medical expenses through GoFundMe pages set up for Adams and Kennedy, preparing meals and volunteering for housework.
Their medical journeys are chronicled on a Facebook page called "Together we fight — two sisters battle against breast cancer."
It's too early to determine a prognosis but Kennedy and Adams said they'll take on whatever comes their way just like they've been doing since the beginning — side by side.
"I think it's honestly what has ended up getting us both through it with as much peace and grace as we've been able to have because we know that we have each other," Adams said. "We can call each other and vent and cry — whatever we need to do — and the other one just understands."