Kelly Diagnosed at 39

"You got this!"

I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) stage 0 at the age of 39 in January 2016 in my right boobie. As an avid runner and someone who follows a healthy diet, I was shocked to the say the least. At my physician’s recommendation, I began baseline mammograms at the age of 35 because my mom had stage 1 breast cancer. The DCIS was identified through my annual mammogram. 

I would later learn through genetic testing that even though my mother had breast cancer, it was not genetic. While my breast cancer was a very early stage, the treatment options available to me were similar to other women with more advanced stages. My choices were to either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy with radiation. Due to my type of cancer and stage, chemotherapy was not required. I explored having a lumpectomy without radiation because I am a runner. However, my physician did not support that path. 

I decided on having a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I also chose to have my sentinel lymph nodes tested on both sides. My bilateral mastectomy was on April Fool’s Day - April 1, 2016 (no joke). Expanders were placed during my mastectomy surgery. The nice thing about expanders is that you can walk out of the hospital having something. When it’s time to begin putting more fluid into the expanders, it really helps in determining what size of implants that you may want in the future. My plastic surgeon referred to it as “Build a Boob.” 

I had my reconstruction surgery in September 2016. This picture was taken 4 months after my bilateral mastectomy surgery, and one month before my reconstruction surgery. Historically only seeing doctors for annual exams, my biggest challenge was finding the right treatment plan and finding the right medical team. With that said, my top suggestions are: 1.) Be your own health advocate and 2.) Use your personal network and your community resources. Through my local hospital system, I found community resources with other survivors including but not limited to Young Survival Coalition (YSC). 

Talk to the nurses and staff and ask them who they would trust with their or family members care? You can gain a lot of information from leveraging the resources available to you. Honestly, asking questions and obtaining information from the people closest to it helps you in processing everything. You find the most amazing resources! I found a salon sponsored by a local hospital that specializes in creating an individualized appearance plan for cancer survivors. This includes skin care, make up, wig fitting, scarves, post-mastectomy bras, camisole, etc. I used the salon for post-mastectomy bras, it was a fantastic experience and really helped me through my journey.

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

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