RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- In an instant, your entire life can change.
"It was a very tough time but I got lucky. It really was by the grace of God that I didn't have anything more extreme given the fact that I literally had 10 centimeters of malignancy in both breasts."
In November of 2022, Sheila Mikhail was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. The diagnosis came after she noticed a dimple in her left breast.
"I then met with the oncologist and said, "How do you know I don't have cancer on the right-hand side? And she assured me that the diagnostic mammogram saw nothing."
Doctors told Mikhail this was a slow-growing tumor that had been missed by previous mammograms.
Hearing this sent her on a journey to get more screenings and the quest to learn more about her health wasn't an easy one, she would soon learn.
"I got pushback."
"The first thing was, well it's not the standard of care. The second thing was that insurance wouldn't pay."
However, Sheila wouldn't take no for an answer. Advocating for herself and agreeing to pay out of pocket for an MRI and ultrasound.
"The breast MRI came back saying I had six centimeters, that's the size of my thumb, of malignancy on my right-hand side that had not been picked up by the diagnostic mammogram. So as you can imagine, my whole world cratered. It just absolutely cratered at that point," Mikhail said.
Unfortunately, Sheila's experience is not uncommon. She's in the 50 percent of women who have dense breasts, which is said to be more common for younger minority women.
According to statistics on breast cancer, women with extremely dense breasts are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman with little breast density.
"Why that's a problem is because dense breasts show up as white and cancer also shows up as white. So it's like looking for a snowball in a snowstorm."
That's why Sheila has made it her mission to educate women and their doctors. She created the organization BC-Ruckus which advocates for more insurance coverage so women can get the extra screenings and care they need.
"In 22 states plus D.C., they actually have expanded insurance coverage for supplemental screening for women with dense breasts. It's very important to me that everybody has access. You should not be prevented from getting the appropriate breast cancer screening because you don't have the financial means, especially if you're in that working class."
Mikhail is cancer-free. She tells ABC11 that the tumors were successfully removed.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting was pretty in pink this week as members proclaimed October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Through a month-long of outreach, county leaders said their goal is to help educate people across the county about the importance of self-exams and regular screenings.