Reynoldsburg resident and breast cancer survivor Mona Lewis' message is simple: "Be responsible for your own health."

Reynoldsburg resident and breast cancer survivor Mona Lewis' message is simple: "Be responsible for your own health."

It all started when Lewis, 60, a native of Canal Winchester, had a physical examination in January 2006. Everything was deemed normal.

"Then in March, I did a self-exam and that's when I found the lump," she said. "My doctor said it is possible that during a regular exam, a lump can be missed, so my whole thing is, we have to be responsible for our own health, and the fact that we know our own bodies. That's how I was able to find the lump so quickly."

Doctors determined the lump was cancerous and Lewis was soon on the road to treatment.

"Everything went on a very fast track and I knew myself after I saw it on the screen, the ultrasound, it was cancer and it was," she said.

The lump was removed in June 2006. In July, Lewis began chemotherapy which ended in October, followed by radiation therapy in November.

She said finding out she had cancer was difficult at first.

"I was like everybody else when I first found out. You have that little meltdown and you realize, this is actually happening to me," she said.

"The very first day was very scary because you don't know what to expect and your imagination can run away from you."

Lewis said the important part comes after the meltdown --to follow what the doctors recommend and do whatever they say needs to be done.

Doctors told her chemotherapy and radiation were to make sure all of the cancer in her body was gone. Since then, she said, she has had checkups every six months and said so far, every thing looks good.

"The doctors told me had I waited for another yearly checkup, it might have been too late," she said. "Self-exams should be done by every woman, no matter what your age. You just can't take a chance."

Lewis has worked as a receptionist/safety service officer at Limited Brands for the past eight years. She said going through the treatment was not always easy.

"I was extremely fortunate and I believe most cancer patients are fortunate in the fact that the nurses and doctors that I dealt with (at the Zangmeister Center) were so professional and knew exactly what they were doing they are very kind and concerned while you are going through it.

"But you do get through it and you find out you're not alone. You find out there are others in the same boat and you begin to share and begin encouraging others," she said.

Lewis participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure last Saturday in Columbus. Prior to the run, she was one of the speakers at the annual breakfast that Limited Brands held at its headquarters on Morse Road.

Lewis reiterated her message that women need to take charge of their own health, do self-exams and not be afraid.

"Don't let that fear that you might find something actually end up crippling your life. Be brave," she said.

Lewis said the efforts from volunteers who spend time raising awareness and participating in causes like Race for the Cure are appreciated, especially by those who have faced cancer.

"Without their fundraising, we would not be as nearly as close to finding a cure, and I think in only a few years, there will be a cure for cancer and it will be directly related to the dedication of all them and their wonderful spirit and generous personalities," Lewis said.

She also praised her co-workers at The Limited for helping her through her experience.

"My co-workers in my department were absolutely amazing," she said. "There was never any problem if I needed a little extra time at lunch, or if I had to go lay down. Even though people will say Limited Brands family is just a catch phrase, I have to tell you in my department and in the building that I work in, it is not."

Lewis said she is the first in her family to be diagnosed with cancer. She said she reminds her 31-year-old daughter, Erin Boerger, to do self-exams.

Lewis said she will continue to be active in telling people about her experiences and to not wait for check-ups.

"I found out there are survivors out there everywhere everywhere," she said. "We have to be willing to share our stories and share our strength and let others know that they're going to be OK. They are going to get through it."

dowen@thisweeknews.com