Nicole Diagnosed at 22
I was participating in an Army training camp when my right breast began leaking a bloody discharge. A week after the completion of my training, I visited my OBGYN. She sent me for an ultrasound, which yielded no results. A mammogram also came up clean except for calcifications that tend to be common in women. My doctor wanted an answer, so a biopsy was performed on a calcification. The results came back positive for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). I was 22 years old and in less than a month I was supposed to start my grad school program and Army ROTC. I was, of course, devastated and my dreams were crushed.
Two days after my diagnosis I met with my team: a surgeon, a plastic surgeon, an oncologist, and a few nurses. They gave me a list of resources, at the top of which was YSC. It was tough at first; a majority of the women I spoke with were still significantly older than I was. The posts varied from cheerful and upbeat to bitter and frustrated. I was scared and from the surface, it seemed like there wasn’t much hope. As the days went on, I began to reflect on my experiences and those of the women on the YSC Facebook page. I realized that even though their lives were difficult, these beautiful women continued to fight. The YSC community served as a safe place to fully express one’s concerns.
My family and friends stepped up; they did their best to make sure I had the support I needed. They tried to listen when I needed to rant, cry, or just talk about how afraid I was. Whenever I had an appointment, someone was there. Yet it was still difficult. They couldn’t understand what I was going through and I felt guilty expressing my negative feelings towards them. They all expected rainbows and sunshine, when in reality, anyone fighting cancer is entitled to bad days as much as the next person. YSC became one of my biggest pillars of support. It was a place for me to be honest.
Though I had no masses or tumors, my DCIS was so extensive on the right side that a mastectomy was necessary. I opted for a bilateral and I owned that decision. I have recovered well since my mastectomy and will have reconstruction. I still get to do my master’s program next year but my military service dream is a no-go. I can say that I am happy. This battle has taught me to appreciate everyone, including myself, more. Life can be painful and unfair, but there is nothing wrong with hoping. Celebrating my life is my way of fighting back.
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