Young Women Can and Do Get Breast Cancer
Amanda’s story Age at Diagnosis: 27
I was just a few years out of college had recently moved to San Diego, Calif., and was enjoying the single life. I made a point of making time for myself, allowing myself time to enjoy books, Sunday mornings cycling to the farmers’ market and dating.
In 2005, at the age of 27, I had a breast reduction, as I felt my breasts were too large for my frame. After surgery my breasts went from 36F to 36DD. After three months or so my “new” breasts, belonged to my body and started to feel like they were mine.
Just as I became more comfortable with my breasts after surgery, my right breast took on a texture that was different from my left breast. In addition to the texture of the skin, I was certain I felt a lump inside the breast, roughly the size of a golf ball. Since my surgery was only a few months before, my first instinct was to go back to my plastic surgeon. After an examination, the doctor told me I was being paranoid and not to worry, it was just scar tissue. Armed with that information, I left the doctor’s office thinking I had nothing to be concerned about.
The golf ball-sized mass turned into a softball sized-mass and then into a grapefruit. When my nipple inverted and I started to experience so much pain that I could not sleep through the night, I went back to my plastic surgeon’s office. This time, the doctor took one look at my breast and sent me to have a biopsy.
The next day at work, I received a call from the breast care coordinator where my biopsy was done. She asked if I was sitting down then said “Amanda, you have breast cancer.” This was followed by, “Do you have any questions for me?” It was all so matter-of-fact. I packed up for the day and headed home. I made it to the first traffic light when my mom picked up her phone. I told her I had been diagnosed with stage 3b inflammatory breast cancer, and we both began to cry.
When I met with the breast care coordinator a few days later, she told me I was the youngest person she’d given this diagnosis to and she was sorry, but she really didn’t have any resources for me. I was 27, and the only thing she could do was pair me with an 80-year-old volunteer to talk with about my diagnosis.
My diagnosis created a whole new world for me. A world filled with a new vocabulary and a new focus on living every day without regret. When my cancer journey started, I didn’t have YSC, but I know about it now. I work every day to make sure that women with breast cancer have access to information and support, including young women. I run the survivor support services for the Keep A Breast Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to increase breast cancer awareness among young people so they are better equipped to make choices and develop habits that will benefit their long-term health and well-being.
Breast cancer changed my life, as it does the life of every young women diagnosed with it. As scary and difficult as the journey has been, I am grateful that I found support from young women just like me through organizations like YSC and Keep A Breast.
Recently, I ran into the coordinator at the breast center that gave me my diagnosis, and she apologized to me. She said she was sorry for not knowing more about young women and breast cancer and for not being able to provide me with the resources and support that I so desperately needed. After speaking with her for a few minutes, she told me that now, if a young woman comes into the center she is better equipped to speak with them and make sure that they know they are not alone.
Though I know there is more to be done, speaking with her gave me hope. Knowing that more health care providers are aware of the risks and are seeking resources to provide to young women encourages me that the next young woman who gets this awful diagnosis will know where to seek support.