Lisa Diagnosed at 36
I was diagnosed when I was 36 years old and 34 weeks pregnant. It was the summer of 2006 and my husband and I were excited about the pending arrival of our baby girl. I found a large lump while showering one morning and decided to mention it to my OB/GYN at my next weekly visit. She assured me that it was probably a clogged milk duct, but that I should see a specialist just to make sure. The surgeon I saw told me the same thing but immediately got me in for a sonogram and fine needle aspiration. Sure enough, it was cancer. I had no family history of breast cancer, and I tested negative for the BRCA genes. It was just one of those things.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of doctor's appointments for both me and my baby. My beautiful daughter Lily was delivered 3 ½ weeks early on July 19th via C-Section. She was small (4 lbs, 15 oz) but her lungs were fully developed and she came home with us 4 days after delivery. Three weeks later, I had a mastectomy of my right breast. The tumor was large (4 cm) but thankfully all 18 lymph nodes that were removed were clean, and all my diagnostic testing showed no evidence of cancer anywhere else in my body. Over the next 5 months, I endured 8 doses of chemotherapy (AC/T), breast reconstruction, and 25 radiation treatments. Not exactly the way I had envisioned my maternity leave.
We were incredibly fortunate to have supportive parents and friends living nearby – our moms basically moved in with us to help take care of Lily while I underwent treatment. And I am lucky to have married the most amazing, supportive man in the world. He has never missed any of my doctor's appointment, and sat with me for every chemo treatment. He shaved my head when my hair started to fall out, was my nurse when I was recovering from my surgeries, and told me I was beautiful every day. I definitely missed out on some of the early joys of being a new mom (like breastfeeding), but I am so happy and blessed to be here and enjoying my time with my family.
It's been a little over 2 years since I received my diagnosis, and while life has gone back to normal (as normal as it can be when you have a 2 year old and working full time!), I still carry the constant fear with me that the cancer will recur. At times the fear subsides, but at other times it is all I think about. My tumor was hormone receptor negative and HER2 negative, so I'm not a candidate for Tamoxifan or Herceptin. I've scheduled a prophylactic mastectomy of my left breast to eliminate the possibility of a new breast cancer, and for now, every day I have with Lily is a milestone for me.