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Krish Vignarajah goes public about her breast cancer, hoping to ease ‘stigma and anxiety’ about the disease

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, a former candidate for Maryland governor, recently underwent breast cancer surgery, and said she decided to go public about the experience to help other women cope with the disease. She is shown in a 2018 photo.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, a former candidate for Maryland governor, recently underwent breast cancer surgery, and said she decided to go public about the experience to help other women cope with the disease. She is shown in a 2018 photo. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, a former candidate for Maryland governor, recently underwent breast cancer surgery, and said she decided to go public about the experience to help other women cope with the disease.

“My hope is to do my part to lift some of the stigma and anxiety that sits around breast cancer,” Vignarajah, 40, said Thursday.

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Vignarajah was a candidate in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Ben Jealous won the primary before losing to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election.

Vignarajah tweeted June 1 that a Johns Hopkins surgeon “will remove a cancerous lump and prophylactically my left breast.” In a prophylactic mastectomy, one or both breasts are removed to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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She had the surgery the next day, which was primary day in Maryland. Her brother, Thiru Vignarajah, finished fourth in the Democratic primary for mayor of Baltimore. She said her brother told her jokingly: “Leave it to my sister to not be working one of the polling stations.”

She said the procedure went well and her doctors “feel incredibly positive about the prognosis.”

The coronavirus pandemic can present difficult choices for people weighing whether to visit doctors or undergo surgery. Some patients postpone medical appointments, concerned about whether hospitals will be crowded or that they will be exposed to the highly contagious virus.

“I could have said, ‘Let me wait it out until the fall,’” Vignarajah said. “In my mind, every delay is a day lost to begin your fight with cancer.”

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In 2019, Vignarajah was named president and CEO of Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a nonprofit organization that works to create opportunities for refugees and immigrants.

She hasn’t ruled out another run for office.

“I still care a lot about the challenges that so many of us face,” Vignarajah said. Among those challenges, she said, is ensuring people have adequate health insurance when confronted with serious medical issues.

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