On October 5th, 2016 we had the honor of working with 9 beautiful Breast Cancer survivors. They each wrote about their journey in their own words.
One day when I was getting out of the shower, my husband pointed out a lump in my breast. I assumed it was a clogged milk duct, because I had just stopped breast feeding, but promised him I would ask my doctor about it at my upcoming appointment. My gynecologist suggested I get a mammogram as a precaution, but because I was only 29, healthy, and had no family history of cancer there wasn’t anything to worry about. It was probably just a cyst. I wasn’t worried.
I went for the mammogram, waited in the room with all of the old ladies, and even the technician laughed when she saw my age. But then, while she was doing the mammogram her demeanor changed completely when blood came out of my nipple. She said I needed to go get an ultrasound and because I had a PPO, I was heading there now. The ultrasound technician seemed nervous and after doing her exam asked for a doctor to come in. The doctor said he needed to do a biopsy, today. He did three: one in my armpit, and two in my breast. I asked why I was getting a biopsy in my armpit, and the assistant said “because it can spread.” I didn’t ask what she meant because at that point, I already knew. The doctor said a breast surgeon would call me with results. The next day I went to work in a fog and waited impatiently for the call. When the surgeon finally called, she asked for me to come in for results. I asked her to please just say the word over the phone, and she did: Cancer.
The surgeon referred me to Dr. Link, founding oncologist of Breastlink, in Orange County because of my age and type of cancer. He said it was Her-2 positive, approximately 7 cm total, and had spread to my lymph nodes, making me a stage 2 or 3. The first step to my recovery was chemotherapy because he wanted to get my rapid-growing tumors under control. He could provide no answers when I asked the one question I still have no answer to today: why? Why did this happen to a healthy, 29-year old mom and teacher, with no history of cancer in her family, who exercises and eats blueberries in her oatmeal everyday? He could only say: You’re one of the random, unlucky ones.
After six rounds of two types of chemotherapy and herceptin infusions, my tumors hadn’t gone away or even gone down as much as they’d hoped. His next step was a mastectomy and lymph node removal. I opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy for aesthetic and preventative purposes. While the surgeon was in there he took 17 lymph nodes as well. I had my patchy head shaved on my eldest daughter’s fifth birthday; I had my bilateral mastectomy on my youngest daughter’s second birthday. A lot can happen in just a few, short months.
After my surgery, I was told they didn’t get the margins they were hoping for and they suggested further treatment. Once my expanders for reconstruction were completely filled, I started radiation. I remember going to get radiation every day after work (33 rounds total), and although I was still getting herceptin infusions, my hair was growing back. Finally, exactly one year after diagnosis I received my final herceptin infusion and was done with cancer treatment, besides a daily tamoxifen pill. A few months later, I got my expanders removed and implants put in, but never elected to have nipples tattooed. I qualified for extensive genetic testing, but the results have still been inconclusive.
And I thought that the worst part of 2011 was going to be turning 30. Being blindsided by a breast cancer diagnosis at such a young age was a traumatizing experience to say the least, but it gave me the unique, albeit unwarranted, opportunity to inspire others with my optimism, courage, and hope in a way I never could have predicted. I wrote a blog so I could document my experience for my children. I thought it was going to serve as a memory for them when I passed away. I am so beyond thankful to say that we will get to read it together.
Check out Crystal’s blog here – Wearpink.weebly.com
Check out Kimberly’s Story HERE
Check out Kathy’s Story HERE
Check out Debbie’s Story HERE
Check out Janelle’s Story HERE
Check out Maja’s Story HERE
Check out Mary’s Story HERE
Check out Laura’s Story HERE
Check out Sylvia’s Story HERE