Megan Diagnosed at 33

"I had so many mixed emotions finding out I was pregnant the same week as my cancer diagnosis."

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. After a workout, the right side of my breast was sore and that’s when I found the lump.

My husband and I had been trying for another baby. I thought maybe I was pregnant again but a pregnancy test came back negative. I called my doctor and was scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. During my ultrasound a doctor came in and told me I needed a biopsy and that she could do it right then. Due to Covid  I was at the appointment by myself. The doctor continued to tell me that I did have a mass and when I probed her for more information she told me she did not think it was benign.

The next day I was called with the results and they confirmed I had invasive breast cancer. I was devastated and shocked. I had no family history of breast cancer. My first thought went to my son who was 16 months old at the time. The thought of him growing up without me  was unbearable. 

A few days later I had an appointment with my surgeon. Before I went to that appointment I had realized I still hadn’t gotten my period. I thought it was probably due to stress but had another pregnancy test so I took it and it came back positive. I had so many mixed emotions finding out I was pregnant the same week as my cancer diagnosis. 

At my appointment with my surgeon I was told I would likely have to terminate the pregnancy. I had somewhat prepared myself for this news as I was only about five weeks pregnant, but it was still crushing knowing how much this diagnosis was going to take from me. I remember crying with my husband when we were told that. My surgeon was in tears too. She didn’t think there was any way to safely get me to the second trimester when it would be safe for chemo. The surgeon could feel an enlarged lymph node in my armpit, so we new the cancer had spread to at least one lymph node.

I remember this day so clearly and will never forget it for the rest of my life. It was a Friday afternoon when I had this appointment and later that evening my surgeon called me back and told me she had reached out to multiple oncologists and some agreed with her that I needed to terminate the pregnancy, but there was another oncologist who thought there was a way to move forward with the pregnancy and had said that very recently recommendations were changing and that my life expectancy/ outcome would not be affected.

After speaking with her and my surgeon further we developed my plan for treatment. The very next week I had a lumpectomy and they removed 10 lymph nodes. 4 of those lymph nodes ended up coming back positive for cancer. My oncologist told me there was a chance the cancer may have spread to other parts of my body (stage IV) based off of my lymph node involvement.

I was able to safely have an ultrasound of my liver and a chest CT to assess for liver and lung metastasis. Both of those scans came back negative! I was unable to do the bone scan because the contrast needed wasn’t safe for baby. I spent 8 months not knowing if I wad stage IV breast cancer or not, wondering if I would even see my kids off for their first day of school.

I think the emotional trauma of this was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through. Everyone sees and talks about the physical trauma of cancer but I don’t think we talk about the emotional trauma enough.

5 days after I had my HEALTHY baby girl I had the bone scan which came back negative for any metastasis! During my treatment my genetic testing came back for a variant of unknown significance in my BRCA 1 gene. I am moving forward with a double mastectomy with reconstruction and then I still have 6 1/2 weeks of radiation to complete my treatment. 

The end of treatment is in sight and I am so grateful for that. I am also grateful for all of the love and support from my family and friends through this treatment. Prior to my diagnosis I was working as a RN on a COVID unit. I had to stop working when I was diagnosed, the risk of getting COVID while pregnant and in chemo was terrifying.

I think young women with cancer face so many unique and challenging circumstances because we are often still working and have young children. The lack of income and needing help with my son was a very real burden on my family but it was completely doable with the help from my amazing in-laws and all of our other friends and family members who helped out by sending meals and care packages that would include things for my husband and son.

The love and support we have received has meant the world for us and helped give us a fighting chance to beat cancer. My faith has also grown tremendously during this time and has been so important for me to lean on. There were nights I stayed up praying for hours for a healthy baby and to be able to see my babies grow up. I have faith and hope in these things and it is helping me move forward with life after cancer. 

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

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