Jennifer Diagnosed at 28

"I've taught [my children] the importance of education and the importance of finding something you believe in and not to be afraid to set goals and achieve them."

I was 28 years old at the time of my diagnosis. I was a single mother of two children: my daughter who was 5 and my son who was 3. I was also entering my final year in nursing school. I remember being so proud that I was actually going to finish nursing school and start providing a better life for myself and my children. As a nursing student and having had experienced a close friend diagnosed with breast cancer I was well aware of the importance of self breast exams. I had been taking a bath and happened to come across a kind of strange feeling while I was shaving my armpits. I started to feel more closely and felt a huge painless knot directly behind my nipple. I was fortunate enough to have a friend whose mother was a nurse practitioner and who agreed to examine me after hours, as a favor, with no charge since I did not have insurance. I could see the horror in her face when she came across the same abnormality I had been feeling constantly since that morning in the bath. She told me to be seen by a physician without delay. My only option had been the health center at the college.

The woman physician also felt the mass and stated "just to be sure" she wanted to order a mammogram. Fortunately, I was set up with a local organization that helped pay for diagnostic testing in women who were financially needy. After the mammogram, the tech told me it was "a textbook cyst." A few days later I was told to schedule an ultrasound. The ultrasound also came back abnormal and I was then scheduled for a needle guided biopsy. The biopsy confirmed breast cancer.

I eventually had a mastectomy, a port a cath placed, and started 3 months of horrible chemotherapy. I was fortunate enough to be ER(+) PR(+) and HER2neu(-). My lymph nodes were clear but because of the size of the tumor and its aggressiveness, I was told that I was diagnosed with Stage II Mucinous DCIS. The chemo caused hair loss, fatigue, and horrible nausea and vomiting. My children were scared and confused.

Thankfully I was able to feel well enough to continue with school and eventually graduate on time with my classmates. I ended up becoming an Oncology RN and fell in love with the specialty. I've since started a young adult support group within my facility that is also available to the community. I returned to school last year and am due to graduate in June with my Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner. My thesis focuses on young women with breast cancer and recently I have started the process of making my town an affiliate of YSC. I have made several connections with the young breast cancer survivors in my neighborhood and this is a passion that will last a lifetime.

My children have been able to watch their mother move forward in the face of illness. I've taught them the importance of education and the importance of finding something you believe in and not to be afraid to set goals and achieve them. Although the treatment I had to endure for my cancer felt like it was killing me, the actual cancer diagnosis itself created a lasting positive change in me that is remarkably different from my attitude before having been diagnosed with breast cancer. I found my passion and my life is now filled with gratitude, hope, love, and inspiration all of which I had taken for granted before the big "C."

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