Molly Diagnosed at 35
I was trying to recover from a horrible bout of bronchitis on the day I found out I had breast cancer. I had come down with it the day of my biopsy and I had not been so sick in years. It was almost ironic that the first day I was able to get out of bed after being in such misery, I found out I was sick in a way that made bronchitis seem like a welcome treat.
The news, though delivered gently, was soul shattering. I was only 35 years old, how could I have cancer? This isn't supposed to happen to me.
I had randomly found the lump several months earlier, but thought it was nothing. It was only after much nagging by my boyfriend that I finally dragged myself to the imaging center and had them look at it. I went by myself, certain that I had nothing to be alarmed about. I was not prepared for a visit from a dour looking radiologist who said, "What we found is of grave concern."
Well, after diagnosis my life was filled with appointments. I had to choose an oncologist, get MRIs, and PET scans, and MUGA scans, and every other scan you can think of. I found out that everyone's cancer is different and there are specifics that determine your treatment. I had an operation right away to dissect the sentinel lymph node under my arm and look for cancer that may have spread there, which they found. Because of this I was going to have to do chemotherapy, another terrifying C word.
I found that keeping myself busy and active went a long way toward assuaging my fears. I did much research about the relationship between diet and breast cancer and even went to see a naturopathic doctor. She made some radical, yet helpful suggestions about my diet. I was going to have to give up a lot of the comfort food that I had been eating for years and start shoveling in the green stuff.
I did pretty well with the diet until the chemo really started to affect me and even then I did okay. I think that the healthy changes I was making helped me get through that period. I worked the majority of my regular hours at my day job and was even able to accept another job with a local theatre in town to understudy the role of Patsy Cline, which is a role I have played many times before (I am an professional singer). I was surprised by my stamina when I really put my mind to it.
I have since finished chemotherapy, had a double mastectomy, and am undergoing reconstruction. I am also doing hormone therapy, which is an important part of breast cancer treatment. Since my cancer is fueled by estrogen, they have shut down my ovaries with a monthly shot and also prescribed another anti-estrogen drug to try and decrease my risk of recurrence. These things have thrust me into early menopause, which comes with its own list of lovely side effects. I will start radiation in a couple weeks, which isn't nearly as debilitating as the other treatments. It's only a hassle to go 5 days a week for 5 weeks.
I look forward to starting life anew after all of this is over. I have tremendous hope for the future and I have actually been surprised at how positive my attitude has stayed throughout this whole ordeal. I have always tended a little more toward the dark side. I got a call the other day from my oncologist's office. They did a more extensive test after my mastectomy and found that I test positive for another hormone receptor called Her2. It is usually indicative of more aggressive cancers and it means I have to start another drug next week. It isn't good news, but at the same time, it's great that they caught it and I will get the treatment that I need.
I still go see a naturopathic doctor as often as I can. It keeps me on the right path with nutrition. It is so easy to slip back into old patterns where food (and drink) is concerned and I am convinced that changing my diet and lifestyle will greatly improve my odds of beating this and living a long, healthy life. I think if you ask any woman who has dealt with cancer (or any person) a great amount of them will say that it changed their lives for the better. I hear this sentiment over and over again at my support group and I think it rings true for so many of us. No one wants to have to get cancer in order to make the important changes that need to be made in their lives, but that's just the way it happens for some of us. I know that there will always be a part of me that wonders if the cancer will come back, but there is a bigger part of me that has never felt more focused, healthy, and thankful just to be alive.
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