Jessica, diagnosed at 32
Life was moving fast for me. I was working as a consultant, traveling back and forth between New York and Florida. I was 32, single and focused on my career. I had no family history of cancer and would never have thought it was something I face. That all changed one day as I took a shower and found a lump in my right breast. I called my gynecologist and after an exam, I was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. The tests showed suspicious “spots” on both breasts. My doctor ordered multiple biopsies to investigate. Only one of the “spots” was found to be cancerous, it was in my right breast. My diagnosis was ductal carcinoma, stage 2B, and I was estrogen positive (ER), progesterone negative (PR) and Her2 negative. My first course of treatment was a lumpectomy, but I needed to undergo a second one to achieve clear margins. During the second lumpectomy, I had my port placed so I would be able to start chemotherapy, which I did along with radiation.
Because I was a consultant, I didn’t want to tell my coworkers or clients that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I actually told everyone my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was how I was able to manipulate my schedule when I needed to be home for treatments and in Florida for my clients. I was very fortunate; chemo didn’t seem to kick my butt. I know it’s physically trying for many people, but I was lucky. I was able to keep up my pace (mostly), keep working and keep to my travel schedule. I didn’t experience nausea, but I did gain weight. Though I didn’t want anyone at work to know I had breast cancer, I still needed to find support outside of my immediate friends and family. Again, I felt fortunate that when I did start searching for support, Young Survival Coalition (YSC) was the first site I found. I got on the message boards and stayed there for hours, not only on my first visit, but for many visits thereafter. Since I was traveling, the boards were the perfect support network for me. They were available, 24/7, from anywhere inside or outside the country.
In addition to the message boards on the YSC website, I had the support of my family and some amazing friends. In fact, one of those friends became a better friend and eventually my husband. We got to know each other while I was visiting a friend’s apartment. I was actually there to have her give me my fertility (hormone) shot for egg harvesting. When I was ready to leave, he offered to give me a lift back to my mom’s house, where I was staying. As we were driving there, we were hit by a bus! Of all things, I have breast cancer and then I get literally hit by a bus. No one was seriously hurt, but he kept in touch after that to see how I was doing. This led to us having a few dates. He knew what I was going through, that I was battling cancer and hadn’t been looking for a relationship. At the end of my first chemo session, he asked if I would be his steady girlfriend. I was stunned by his courage and compassion. He jumped in, feet first. He was by my side throughout my treatments, and nine months later we were married (I was in my post-chemo wig). I had learned life was precious; there was no point in waiting.
My husband continues to be amazing strong source of support for me. He even supported me when I got it into my mind that I wanted to do my first century, a bicycle ride of 100 miles. He was a cyclist, but I was not. It was something I wanted to set as a goal and then my opportunity came. In addition to completing a century ride, I’d been looking for a way to raise money to support the organization that gave me so much while I was undergoing treatment. I decided that I was going to take on the challenge of Tour de Pink. Not only was I going to ride for three days, but I decided to take on the century loop the second day of the three-day ride. I can now proudly say I have completed that century ride and am looking forward to the future with my husband, along with the many more goals I plan to set and conquer.