|Breast Cancer In Young Women|
|Breast Cancer In Young Women|
|Understanding Breast Cancer||Survivorship Phases|
|Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer||Survivor Stories|
|Young Women at High Risk||Statistics and Disparities|
|Getting Back That Evening Dress Look||Living Your Best: Quality of Life|
|Handling the Details||Research|
|For Caregivers||Healthcare Professionals|
|Partners And Sponsors|
About 2 years ago, I sat down to nurse my new daughter and turned on the Today Show. One of the guests that day was Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, with his wife and new baby. Lance developed testicular cancer over 4 years ago while training for the Tour de France. When discovered, it had spread to his lungs and his brain. He went on to fight the fight and won the battle. Two years later he won the Tour de France and just 2 years ago became a father to a beautiful baby boy.
He went on to say that survivors have an obligation to the cure and an obligation to tell their story. That is why I am trying to spread the word and tell my story. I am not trying to scare you, bring tears of sadness or pity to your eyes, only to raise awareness and give you words of inspiration.
On July 31, 1997, four years ago, three days after my 29th birthday, I was diagnosed with DCIS, a very early stage of Breast Cancer. I had just celebrated my 29th birthday, was enjoying my one-year-old son, was excelling in my career, traveling and enjoying a happy marriage of four years and a very comfortable life in PA. July 31, 1997, changed my life forever.
I had finished nursing my son in December of 1996. During this time I had three bouts with mastitis in my left breast, but of course thought nothing of it. My doctor advised me that if I got it again, I should go see a surgeon. (I thought he was crazy.) But it did not happen again.
About two months later I noticed a sore spot on the left side of my left breast. It hurt a little to lie on my left side and I noticed a small lump the size of a pea in that area. Having just stopped nursing, I dismissed it and went on another month. The next month I had my husband feel it and he really pushed me to go see the doctor I eventually got around to making an appointment with my OB/GYN and went to visit him. He thought that it was nothing and told me to cut back on my caffeine, take some vitamin E and come back after my next cycle. Fine, but it was still there the next month. Reluctantly, I returned, and he again said he was sure it was nothing but I should go see a surgeon to be on the safe side.
I went to visit the surgeon and he sent me to have an ultra-sound. The ultra-sound technician was having a hard time picking up the mass although the technicians could feel it. They sent me off to have a mammogram. Strange to be in a room full of older women like this. They all looked at me very strangely and sadly.
The mammogram showed “something,” but my breasts were so dense due to my young age. They then wanted to do a biopsy of the site. On my 29th birthday, I took off of work and went to have a stereotactic biopsy done. Still sure it was nothing, I went by myself, went home, celebrated my birthday and continued my normal life. The nurse told me that I should hear the results in about 3-4 days.
One day later, I received a phone call at work. The surgeon wanted to meet with me at the end of the day. I asked if I should bring my husband, and they said that it would probably be a good idea. After that I don’t remember what happened too clearly. I called my husband, called my parents and raced home where I would meet my husband. We both knew of course what we were about to be told; what we didn’t know how it would change our lives.
The surgeon sat down with us and proceeded to tell us what we already knew. He said that I had a very early form of breast cancer, DCIS. It was very treatable, and the next year of my life would be hell, but I would look back on that year and see it as a bump in the road. One of our first questions was whether or not we would be able to have more children, we had planned on having a few more and soon!
I was then sent off to Cancer Land. I read and knew more about Breast Cancer than I ever imagined possible in the span of only a few days. Information was my form of power.
I went to several famous cancer institutions in the Philadelphia area for opinions. I was most comfortable with the one in which the doctors were the most compassionate and interested. I was an interesting specimen at 29!
I was advised to have a mastectomy since there were several areas of concern in my mammography. I would most likely not have to have any radiation or chemo. This was good news.
On September 4, 1997, at the University of Pennsylvania, my husband and I said good-bye to my left breast and I underwent a modified, radical mastectomy.
Several days later the doctors called to let me know both the good and the bad news, but the bad news wasn’t that bad. The good news was that my lymph nodes were clean and cancer free. The cancer had not spread beyond my milk ducts. They did want me to undergo radiation since the spot was so close to my chest wall. I was terrified. I had not researched radiation and had no idea what was involved. It turned out that it was nothing more than basically an x-ray.
For seven weeks, I traveled to the University during my lunch break and had my radiation treatments, returned to work, picked up my son from school and did my normal stuff!
Throughout my treatment I continued to work, which may sound crazy but it is one of the things that kept me going. What was I going to do? Sit home alone and dwell on this? I had to keep going and be strong for my family and friends.
I am happy to say that per my doctors I am 98% cured of this disease. I caught it at a very early stage and that has made all the difference.
Although sitting in that surgeon’s waiting room 3½ years ago I never imagined it would happen. I have gone on to have another child. Almost 1½ years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. I even nursed her on one breast for seven months!!
Do you think you’re not “at risk,” you’re wrong, every woman is at risk, simply because you are a woman. The ACS recommends that every woman over the age of 40 receive a yearly mammogram. Don’t think that just a mammogram can “save you.” Everyone must do self-exams. Don’t be afraid of what you will find, be afraid of what you won’t find if you don’t look!! Let me be an inspiration to you that cancer can have a happy ending!