Deborah Maina is on a mission to educate women about breast cancer. Growing up in the village of Embu in Kenya, where healthcare information was not common, Maina, 43, a breast cancer survivor, is committed to bring education to her home country.
With positive attitude and determination, Maina has transformed her diagnosis into an opportunity to raise awareness and educate women about breast cancer.
“As strange as it may sound, I consider this diagnosis a gift,” Maina says. “I’m in one of the best hospitals in the world, and I have complete faith in my medical team.”
Maina immigrated to the United States in 1992 and shortly thereafter, became a successful entrepreneur, all the while raising two children as a single mother.
Maina always focused on the wellbeing of others, specifically her children, but she said she began thinking more about her health as she reached the age of 40. In 2010, after learning to conduct a self breast exam, Maina found a small lump in her left breast that seemed to appear and disappear.
Maina’s immediate thought was of her children. “I just wanted to know that I could fight this and take care of my children at the same time,” Maina recalls.
A month later, Maina underwent a bi-radical mastectomy and reconstruction under the care of the physicians in Mayo’s Breast Clinic.
“I knew I was in the best hands,” she said. “There is nothing Mayo Clinic can’t do. I couldn’t think of a better place to go than Mayo Clinic.
Growing up, Maina said the nearest medical clinic was over 160 miles away from her village.
“With all of the epidemics in the country, people are focused on diseases like HIV and tuberculosis,” she said. “While those diseases are a huge problem, breast cancer is overlooked.”
Maina is now making plans to open up a breast health clinic in her home village with the goal of educating women on how to conduct self-exams.
“I was lucky enough to have access to a wonderful place like Mayo Clinic, but these women don’t have any understanding of the disease, let alone treatment,” she says.
With the fifth-annual 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer approaching this weekend, Maina plans to be out cheering and encouraging others to get involved and find a cure for breast cancer.
“Every person who even talks about breast cancer in this community is helping spread awareness and encourage women to know their bodies and conduct self exams,” she said. “I am just one little girl from Kenya, but I will make a difference.”