Danielle Diagnosed at 22

"Being diagnosed with stage 3 IDC at 22 years old was more than I could process. My mind was racing and I couldn't get through a complete thought before another one popped into my head."

Going back to that day is hard for me. It was the worst day of my life and I don’t like to remember the fear that I had felt or the helplessness that I could see in my mother’s eyes when I received that phone call.

Being diagnosed with stage 3 IDC at 22 years old was more than I could process. My mind was racing and I couldn’t get through a complete thought before another one popped into my head. And the only thing that would come out of my mouth was no. I was doing circles around the car and my family just tried to get me to come inside and comfort me but I just couldn’t stop. The next few weeks were a blur. I met with so many specialists and they were saying all these words that I didn’t understand. They tried to explain to me what was going on inside my body. And all I remember was feeling desperate - desperate to be told that I was going to make it out the other end of this alive, no matter what I had to do to get there.

My doctors were never able to guarantee me my survival and I just began to go through the motions. I was now sick and I had to adjust to being that girl. I had become the girl from those sad movies you’d watch and maybe shed a tear or two while you're cuddled up on the couch eating popcorn. But I couldn’t take the remote and turn it off, this was my life now.

My hair began to fall out 13 days after my first chemo. I was laying in bed and ran my fingers through my hair and there it laid in my hand. You’re told initially that your hair is going to fall out but nothing can really prepare you for that moment. I cried a lot. I went to the bathroom and as I looked in the mirror I just kept running my fingers through my hair and watched the clumps fall into the sink. I couldn’t tell you how long I stood there and did that. I guess you could say that it made it real for me. I wiped my tears away and called my best friend to come over and we shaved my head. I was surrounded with so much love and support that it turned something tragic into a moment that I’ll never forget.

Chemo made me weak, I slept most of those days away. I don’t remember much of that time which is a blessing in disguise, I think. I received two different types of chemo over a period of five months. Food tasted terrible but my mom was always there to make my homemade chicken soup. I lived on that stuff during that time.

September 9, 2018 I had a bilateral mastectomy. I didn’t really think about it too much beforehand and had never had surgery before so I guess I was up for anything. I never knew not having breasts would have such an impact on me as a woman. Being left with nothing but two scars across my chest as a reminder of what tried to kill me is mind opening. I will never be there girl I was before and I was trying to be okay with that.

Radiation was a walk in the park compared to what I had already been through. I had a great team that gave me my treatment everyday for 25 days and they never made me feel less than normal. I didn’t burn too badly either, so that was a plus. The hard part was over and I finally got a chance to breath. I guess I had spent so much time going through the motions of survival mode that I hadn’t looked at myself in awhile. I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. I was bald, I was scarred, I was broken......I was looking at the barest version of myself and I didn’t feel strong and beautiful. I felt weak and ugly. I’m not gonna say that things got easier with time, they just became the new normal.

I always had people in my corner reminding me of my worth and even though I didn’t think it for myself, it did help. With time my hair began to grow back. I began to see a resemblance of the girl I used to know. I began the reconstruction process and although I will forever be marked by the hands of breast cancer, having breasts again did wonders to my self esteem. No, I’m not that girl I was before. My body now tells a story of great despair. And I’m still trying to be comfortable in it and accept the girl that I am today. This girl is a survivor and I’m learning to love her a little more each day.

Are you a survivor, spouse, friend, or caretaker with a story to tell? We'd love to hear from you.

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