Breast Cancer Awareness Month: BYU professors share their experiences

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It had been three years since Melissa Bond’s mammogram when she noticed a lump in her breast and thought it was a return of the cysts she had earlier in life.

“But then they started to hurt,” Bond said.

Bond said she hurried to her doctor and received both a mammogram and an ultrasound. The breast cancer diagnosis came three days before Christmas in 2021. She was 45.

Melissa and Mike Bond in front of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Melissa Bond was diagnosed with breast cancer December 2021. (Photo courtesy of Mike Bond)

“I thought I was doing all the right things,” Bond said, referring to breastfeeding her six children and doing breast self-exams. “It’s always somebody else … You never really think it could happen to you.”

Bond shared several things she learned from the last ten months battling her stage 2B breast cancer.

“Every person’s prayer, said on behalf of me or my family, has made a difference,” Bond said.

She also said any type of support was meaningful, even if it was simply a shoulder to cry on.

“When we first found out, there were a lot of tears of sadness …and I cried because I didn’t want her to have to go through this,” Mike Bond, Melissa’s husband, said. “I think most of the tears now are out of gratitude for the kind things that people have done.”

“Every person’s prayer, said on behalf of me or my family, has made a difference.”

Melissa Bond

Mike Bond currently teaches at the BYU Marriott School of Business and said his students have been incredibly supportive.

Despite teaching at BYU for over 10 years, Mike Bond said he never canceled class until the day his wife got her port for her chemotherapy treatments.

“I wanted to be there for that surgery,” Mike Bond said, so he sent his students a recording of the lecture for the day he would miss, telling them his wife was undergoing breast cancer treatment.

The class period after his wife’s surgery, Mike Bond said he showed up early to his 8 a.m. class, expecting only a few early risers. 

“The room was full of 40 students,” Mike Bond said. “All of them in pink.”

“The room was full of 40 students, All of them in pink.”

Mike Bond

Both Melissa and Mike Bond said they are grateful for the people who have supported them through Melissa Bond’s treatment and recovery. 

One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Most women should look into getting their first mammogram at age 40. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. (Made by Liesel Allen in Canva)

“I’ve loved knowing that I have a support system,” Melissa Bond said. “It’s made me realize we all need to be there for each other, whatever we’re going through.” 

Throughout Melissa Bond’s treatment, her husband said BYU has supported them. Initially unbeknownst to him, the Marriott School of Business recently nominated Mike Bond as an ambassador for the “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign.

As an ambassador for the campaign, Mike Bond is dedicated to raising money and awareness for breast cancer.

The BYU MBA students’ initial goal was to raise $2,500. So far, over $7,000 have been donated for breast cancer research. 

“This is something we want to do for you and Melissa,” the MBA students said to Mike Bond when they informed him about his nomination.

Mike Bond shared that he and Melissa Bond have been the beneficiaries of groundbreaking research, and he wants to ensure breast cancer research continues to receive funds to be able to bless the lives of women and men. 

“I’m just grateful for all the generosity, because it goes to something that’s so special to us and so meaningful now,” Mike Bond said. “I’m honored to be able to help.”

BYU art history associate professor Heather Belnap said she also received support from her students and program after being diagnosed with breast cancer on the last day of classes in Winter Semester 2021. 

“The good news is they caught it early,” Belnap said. “The bad news is it was triple-negative breast cancer, which is one of the most difficult to treat.” 

Belnap underwent four rounds of chemotherapy that summer, which ended the Friday before Fall Semester 2021 started. 

Heather Belnap is an associate professor of art history at BYU. Belnap was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2021. (Photo courtesy of Heather Belnap)

“I taught,” Belnap said. “I knew that teaching and having some normalcy would be really good for me.” 

After 18 years at BYU, Belnap was committed to teaching her full course load. She said her program honored her decision and supported Belnap asking her students to wear masks because she was immunocompromised. 

Belnap shared she has always derived positive energy and strength from her students, but especially during her cancer treatments.

“(Teaching) was a really beautiful experience,” Belnap said. “There were so many kindnesses from students whose own mothers or sisters had had breast cancer.”

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