Cherie Diagnosed at 34
I was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after our one-year wedding anniversary. The year leading up to my diagnosis was full of change: I finished my MBA, we sold our first home and bought a new house, and I started a new job. I thought things were settling down in October when we moved into our house; however, I felt a lump a few months prior and knew it was time to get it checked out.
I really thought it was nothing but my primary care doctor felt otherwise. He immediately sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound after doing a manual exam, and I went for a biopsy two days later. I’ll never forget getting the initial diagnosis from my breast surgeon. I was a 34 year-old with breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I remember taking everything in and not being too in shock until she said that I would have to do surgery and radiation, along with the ever-dreaded chemotherapy. My world flipped upside down… anyone who’s been diagnosed knows it’s a surreal moment.
The next week was full of scans and tests to make sure the cancer had not spread. Waiting for the results of these tests was even harder than my initial diagnosis. I immediately burst into tears when my surgeon told me the other scans were clear. I met my oncologist a few days later to talk about my diagnosis and my cancer type. I had triple-positive stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast. He outlined my treatment path with one small wrinkle: I had to start fertility treatments as my husband and I were planning to have children in the near future. The next few weeks were a blur full of fertility appointments, ultrasounds, scans, egg retrieval surgery, and port-a-cath surgery to place my port for chemotherapy. I had egg retrieval surgery the day after Christmas in 2018 and started chemotherapy right after the New Year.
My journey was full of highs and lows, but mostly highs. My family and friends rallied around me in droves to help me get through the hard times. A different friend or family member brought me to chemo each week to keep me company over five months (highly recommended, by the way!). My husband took care of me and listened to me cry out of fear, and never once complained; my mother set up a virtual office at the hospital where I was receiving treatment so she could be there with me every step of the way; my coworkers sent me flowers for every milestone; my nieces and nephews gave me stuffed animals to comfort me; and my best friend got me out of the house whenever I felt well enough to get some fresh air and feel normal. I had the best surprise visits from out-of-town friends, meal drop-offs, and “thinking of you” cards in my mailbox from people, both near and far, almost every day. All of this helped me remain positive and ready for each step of the journey. I am eternally grateful for the support system I had, and continue to have, every single day.
About a month after chemotherapy, I had surgery which also included pathology testing to show how effective chemo was in destroying my cancer cells. A few days after surgery, my plastic surgeon gave me a sneak peek of my pathology report, which showed that there was no evidence of disease in my breast or any of the lymph nodes that were tested! I could hardly believe it, but my breast surgeon and oncologist confirmed the great news with me as well. Chemo was a beast, but having clear pathology reports made all of the tears and pain worth it! If you have the right mindset, a great support system, and the best cancer care team, you CAN and WILL get through a cancer diagnosis and emerge as a changed person on the other end… stronger than you ever thought possible.
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