Jessica Diagnosed at 19
When I was 19 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (Invasive (infiltrating) Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). In October 2003 I came across a lump in one of my breasts. At the time I didn't think much of it since I was young, even though breast cancer does run in my family. A few days later I went in for my yearly women's exam and my doctor found a lump as well. She asked me how long I had it and I told her that I noticed it a few days earlier, but wasn't sure how long it was there. Since breast cancer does run in my family she asked me to go see a breast specialist to have it checked out, just to be sure. That day they made my appointment.
I was beginning to get a little worried and things just seemed to be whirl winding around me. I was young, so I thought this can't be cancer. Why is everyone making such a big deal? The doctor did a sonogram and felt around on the lump. They determined it was just fluid build up. They said we could have it drained if I wanted to, but since it wasn't bothering me I decided to just leave it. While they were finishing up the sonogram the nurse found some shading that she thought was kind of odd.
At this time she called the doctor in and they were both looking at it on the screen. The doctor then tried to feel for anything in my breast in that area and he couldn't feel anything. He decided to schedule me for a biopsy. I still wasn't even thinking cancer at that time, but I was scared something was wrong. I didn't know what it could be though. I went back a few days later for the biopsy… Halloween to be exact. I remember lying on the table, cold, scared, and alone. I remember lying there with tears streaming down my face, shaking, so they brought my mom in to hold my hand and try to calm me down. I love my mom, but it didn't work. I was a nervous wreck! My mom stayed with me and I didn't watch any of it, but later she told me what they did. They took this really long needle and slowly numbed my breast all the way down into my breast were this hidden lump was. Then they made an incision and inserted the instrument that is used in the biopsy.
The doctor made his way down to the lump, which was about the size of a pea. Since the mass was so small he took it all out. I remember the last minute or so the numbing wore off and I could feel the sucking and cutting deep in my breast. It was horrible. After it was over they then stitched me back up and I had to wear a sports bra for the next day or so. After my biopsy they told me they would let me know in a few days. This was on a Friday. So the 3 days went by fast, I was nervous and on edge the whole weekend. The not knowing what is going on just about did me in. Still at this point I wasn't thinking cancer. I went to work on Monday as scheduled and arranged for my doctor to just call me there with the results. Well, he did call and all I remember his saying was it was cancer, but they took it all. He didn't feel the need for follow up treatments, but that he wanted to see me in 6 months for a check up. I was a little concerned, but I figured he was the doctor and he knows what is best. It was not like I did any research on cancer in young women, I had no reason to doubt his judgment.
So, 6 months went by and I didn't think much more of it. I went to my appointment and figured everything would be fine. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Again they were feeling around and doing the sonogram and there was some more shading in the same area as last time, but it was bigger, about the size of a grape. I went in for a mammogram (my first ever). Before he even had to say anything I knew in my heart it was cancer. I went for a second opinion and at this point I changed doctors. I lost respect and confidence in my doctor. He took my health carelessly and now I was paying for it. My new doctor had me scheduled for a lumpectomy the next day. Luckily I live in a smaller city and rush surgeries are fairly easy to arrange. I don't remember much of my surgery.
I do remember feeling like there was no way I could get through this. I was afraid of losing my family, my boyfriend, my life. I was 19. I should be worrying about what I was going to do the next weekend, not if I was going to live to see the weekend. I was so scared, but I did what I had to and made it through. I followed up my lumpectomy with 6 weeks of radiation everyday. It was horrible. I was nauseated, tired, weak, cranky, and my breast was so sore, like I had serious sunburn. It hurt to bathe, it hurt to sweat, it hurt to sleep. I finished my 6 weeks of radiation and on June 5, 2004 I kissed cancer goodbye!
I am now 3 years cancer free. I still have effects of the cancer. I am fatigued more days then not, I get scared over any little bump I feel, and my immune system is shot, but I am alive! I am always having to go for check ups and tests, but it is better than the alternative. I recently tested positive for BRCA gene. That in itself is hard. I have always wanted to have a family. It feels like yet another blow. My fertility was affected as well and I am told the hormones from pregnancy could bring on a recurrence. I am not sure if I would want to risk my child getting cancer because of me passing the gene on. I am not sure I want to risk having a child, only to not be able to watch them grow up and without a mother. These are choices I will have to make. But for now I am just living and spreading my story. Early detection and awareness saved my life. I am so lucky I found my lump. While that one turned out to be nothing, we were able to detect the cancerous one.
I remember being so angry at my first doctor. I feel he didn't take my health seriously. He figured I was too young for cancer. But obviously I wasn't. I feel that if we did some follow up treatments after my biopsy the first time maybe it would have saving me from having a relapse, having to go through it all. I do feel lucky however that I did go in and have the lump checked. Even though I thought it was nothing, they were able to find the lump that no one could feel… the cancerous one.
I am happy to say I am still cancer free. I want to spread my story so that women can see early detection does save lives. That cancer could have continued to spread and get worse and worse had I not been smart about getting checked. Although being diagnosed with breast cancer at 19 is very rare, don't think that it can't happen, It can and does. Cancer is not prejudice. It knows no race, age, sex etc. Get a second opinion if something doesn't seem right. It is your body and your life. We only get one chance and I was lucky enough to have a re-do.
I have been through so much, but I am a stronger woman then I thought. There were times when I really felt I couldn't go on and times I didn't want to go on, but I kept fighting. I knew I had to get through this so I could help others. Battling cancer really tested my strength and me. It really helped me find the "hero" in me. I want to be someone's "hero". Even if I am only able to touch one person, only able to help one person find the strength, that will make my fight so much worth it! Anyone out there that is fighting can win too, you just have to dig down and find it!