Andrea, diagnosed at 32
My name is Andrea Zinn and I am 34 years old. I was diagnosed with Stage3B breast cancer on October 23, 2012, one day before my third wedding anniversary.
I went to my ob/gyn in November 2011 specifically to address an abnormality I felt in my right breast. I was very concerned because my mother is a 10 year survivor of triple negative breast cancer and was diagnosed at age 47. My doctor performed a clinical breast exam and assured me I was fine, but that my tissue was extremely dense. She didn't recommend any further testing. I was relieved that everything was okay since my husband and I were planning to have a baby. Over the next year, I didn't feel well and the lump in my breast grew until I realized that something was very wrong. I went back to my ob/gyn who immediately sent me in for a biopsy. A week later, I was in a breast surgeon's office and undergoing a PET scan. I felt my dreams of starting a family with my husband go up in smoke.
I remember the kindness of my surgeon and medical oncologist and how each woman hugged me and said it will be a long, tough year but we are going for the cure. I am thankful for their words because it made me believe that we would conquer this thing. It was a grueling year of treatment. The side effects were tough and the treatment was emotionally taxing. After my fourth cycle of chemo, I had a blood transfusion! As someone who had never been in a hospital, never had surgery, and rarely been to the emergency room, being "sick" and reliant on others was difficult. I had four treatments of AC and 12 Abraxane, a single mastectomy, and 30 treatments of radiation. I had a tremendous response to treatment and was NED at the time of surgery. I just completed my first year of Tamoxifen.
I worked at a demanding job in healthcare IT all through chemo and radiation and there were times when I could only work at home. I am blessed with an understanding employer and supportive coworkers. I have decided not to have reconstructive surgery. I healed from surgery and radiation very well and am content with my choice not to undergo additional surgery. My husband and I still want a family and my oncology team has said that I can still have children. Even though I elected not to undergo fertility preservation, I am still hopeful that I can become a mother.
After treatment ended, I struggled with depression. I felt like something that would help me heal was to help other women navigate their cancer journey. It's led me to become a volunteer and State Leader with Young Survival Coalition. I started a F2F group and met some amazing, strong women. I am proud to call them friends. Without this experience, these women would never have become a part of my life. I'm thankful to have their support.