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Montana Sisters Battle Breast Cancer Together

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MISSOULA -

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and the disease is one of the most common types of cancer.

However, it's uncommon to hear the story of two sisters, who were both diagnosed with breast cancer at nearly the same time.

As any older sibling would, Debby Wivholm immediately began researching her younger sister Danise's inflammatory breast cancer, after Danise was diagnosed in March of 2010.

"It was really difficult, to not be able to travel to eastern Montana where she lives, and be with her and give her support," Debby said.

Three months later, Debby had a biopsy done on a breast lump that revealed startling information -- she also had breast cancer.  

"The diagnosis is that it's incurable, the cancer is present in my body," she said.

The Wivholm sisters -- both in their mid-fifties -- say it was surreal to receive such devastating news all within just a few months.  

Danise said, "We just, hung together, trying to find out how the other was going to… make it through."

Danise went through three rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, and Debby was forced to have a mastectomy.

Each sister has stood by the other's side over the past three years, focusing on the science behind their diseases, and how it could be beat.

"It was kind of strange to be learning at a time when you're going through something so horrific," Danise explained.

Currently, Danise is cancer-free, but Debby's doctors said the disease will resurface in her body, potentially leaving her with just five years to live. Debby said she finds strength and happiness in spending time with her sister and daughter.

"With both her aunt and her mom faced with cancer that will definitely cut their lives short, I feel very strongly that I've got to do what I can do to fight to stay alive as long as I can."

Debby will continue her treatment in Missoula at Community Medical's Cancer Care Center, the newest, comprehensive cancer facility in western Montana.

Steve Carlson, CEO of Community Medical Center, said, "The integrated approach I think is going to give people the confidence, that when they come here, they're going to have access to the very best."

The radiation oncology program at the Community Medical's new Cancer Care Center will open next spring.

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