SHERMAN, TX -- While in college and just a year shy of getting an education degree, AJ Atherton found a suspicious lump. After visiting with doctors, she had to accept a devastating reality.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month after my 27th birthday," says Atherton.
With six months of chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy, on top of being a mother and having a full-time job, she was forced to quit school.
But AJ hasn't let the cancer dull her light.
Instead, she focuses on the good and a future with her daughter.
"She keeps me going and just knowing that I'll be there for those milestones that she reaches as she grows up," says Atherton.
In AJ's time of illness, her mother says their family has become even closer and that they have a new-found family motto, that everything does happen for a reason.
Though AJ's dream of teaching children have been stalled, maybe she's meant to teach an entirely different subject.
"Promoting awareness to other young women," says Atherton.
And her Oncologist, Dr. Tammy Roque, agrees.
"Women need to be their own advocate, they need to be persistent and say, this is something that I feel, maybe we need to investigate," says Roque.
During AJ's battle with cancer, she's learned a number of things but says her most valuable lesson has been:
"Seeking out those things in life that are worth fighting for," says Atherton.