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Model shares wise words after double mastectomy

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

A model from the Houston-area was enjoying every aspect of her life. She had been traveling around the world for a dozen years, modeling down runways and flashing her smile for magazine covers. She finally decided to slow down a bit and took a different job, but her life drastically changed, and it had nothing to do with her job. She found a lump in her breast. She was cautious, because she had a family history of breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Houston introduced FOX 26 News to Kristen Barley. The organization believes her story can help young women learn to be better advocates of their own breast health.

"I knew I needed to be proactive and at such a young age, 34, I thought it was just a cyst, because my mother had cysts prior to her cancer, but I thought I couldn't hesitate, I needed to get it checked out," explains Barley. Her doctors say she was brave and very smart to not ignore the lump. 

Barley's grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 44, then her mother at 60. She had good examples of how to battle the disease and knew she had a big fight ahead of her to beat Stage 3 breast cancer, which meant chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and radiation.

Barley's hair used to be a big part of her job, so you can only imagine how difficult it was for her to lose it during her treatments.

"We're so attached as women to our hair and looks and everything else, that it was quite devastating. Fortunately, my family rallied around me. When it came to cut my hair, my brother buzz cut me, and my little niece had just turned two and right after I got up from the chair, she jumped in the chair and said - me next and it was surreal and that's exactly what I needed at that moment," says Barley.

It is a proven fact that a support system makes a huge difference for patients fighting cancer.  Barley also turned to Susan G. Komen For the Cure in Houston to help her through the tough times. Since the ladies involved with the organization helped her so much, she now helps them in their important mission; that is, to help raise funds and awareness to save lives and hopefully a cure someday for breast cancer.

"I feel like I have a duty now that I've had cancer to inform young women, but it's important to get the word out there, because I was diagnosed so young, that you have to be an advocate for your own health," says Barley.

You'll find Kristen at the Komen Houston Race for the Cure on Oct. 6, surrounded by family and friends with her 'Crazy for Kristen Team.'  She's also in charge of the Komen Pasta Party the Thursday before the race, so that everyone can load up on their carbs.     

Komen Houston hopes to raise more than $3 million from the Race for the Cure this year. Tens of thousands of people will be downtown on Saturday, Oct. 6. If you like to sleep in, you're in luck! You can stay in bed and 'Sleep-in for the Cure.'  Just go to the web site to sign up: http://komen-houston.org/.   

The Pink in the City Pasta Party and Auction will take place at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the Galleria area on Thursday, Oct. 4. For more information about party, visit http://komen-houston.org/events/27/.

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