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A loving daughter and breast-cancer survivor, blood donor Denise is grateful for other volunteer donors who helped sustain her mother as she faced her own battle with breast cancer.

“You have breast cancer.” Four words that every year leave nearly a quarter-million women and men in the U.S. in shock as they try to grasp the life-altering meaning behind the words. Chemotherapy, radiation, biopsy, mastectomy, blood transfusion…what lies ahead is often unknown. Every unique treatment path differs for each patient.

For Denise Blumberg-Tendle, she watched her mother, Donna, fight breast cancer—twice. Seven years after Donna’s first breast cancer battle, the cancer returned—this time more aggressive and spreading more quickly than before. When doctors told Denise her mother needed a blood transfusion, she didn’t take a moment to think. “I made my first blood donation right there,” Denise recalled. “Even if my donation wasn’t going directly to my mother, I felt like this was what I had to do for her. I was determined to do my part.”

The blood transfusion and cancer treatments helped sustain Donna for a few years, but the cancer continued to spread before ultimately claiming her life. “Because of the gifts so many volunteer blood donors gave, my mother was able to live longer and I was able to spend more time with her,” Denise said. “For that I’m very thankful.”

Just months after her mother’s passing, Denise began her own breast cancer journey. She found a lump during a routine self-exam. “I was devastated,” she said. “I was young and happily married, with a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.” Denise’s experience with her mother’s cancer replayed in her head and she feared her cancer would take her life. “With support from my husband, I stopped comparing my cancer to my Mother’s. I regained my strength, my positive attitude, and fought the disease.”

Surgery was performed to remove the malignant tumor and with continued annual monitoring, Denise has been able to lead a healthy life. Now an advocate for breast cancer awareness through Susan G. Komen Minnesota, Community Health Charities of Minnesota, and a partnership with Memorial Blood Centers, she feels fortunate. “I have a unique understanding of the disease. I was a caregiver to someone I loved so much, and I live with a cancer diagnosis. I see both sides. And it feels especially meaningful to give back, to make something good come out of my life experience with cancer.”

Today, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer, representing 14% of all new cases diagnosed in the U.S. And blood transfusions, like the one Donna received, can help sustain the lives of all those battling this disease.

Find out more about how you can help save the lives of infants, children, and adults through blood donation. Learn more at About Blood.