I’ve always been a healthy person. I work out regularly, hold a full-time job as a customer service person, and I am the mother of 3 amazing kids. I eat well with the occasional treat and overall, I lead a well-balanced lifestyle.
My two oldest children, my sons, are from my first marriage. My daughter is from my second.
Three weeks after I stopped nursing my daughter (she was about 13 months old; it was May 2018) I began not feeling well regularly. I went to my primary physician. He gave me a physical, ran some blood work, and gave me a clean bill of health. He referred me to a GI specialist thinking maybe something was going on with my gut or maybe I had an intolerance that was manifesting in different ways. After one appointment with the GI doctor, he and I were both fairly certain this wasn’t the case. I resolved myself to the fact that I was just going to “not feel well” all of the time.
Fast forward a few months; the month of September rolls around and the boys and I go to the pharmacy for our yearly flu vaccines. A week later my armpit on the left aide, the flu shot side, hurts. I feel around and notice my lymph node is extremely swollen. I Google it (of course) and find that swollen lymph nodes can be a side effect, so I blow it off. Three weeks pass, and we’re now into October, and the pain is still there. The lymph node is still swollen, and the pain has spread to the side of my chest. I follow the line of pain only to notice another lump; this one on the side of my breast. I tell my husband about it but we both don’t t take it too seriously: I was only 33 years of age for goodness sakes!
I make an appointment with my gynecologist and get in 2 weeks later. Why two weeks? Oh, because that worked better with my schedule and I didn’t want to waste too much PTO on a doctor appointment.
The doctor examines the lumps and says they could be cysts, but to be sure she orders a mammogram and ultrasound. I make the appointment the same day but the soonest they can get me in is October 31st–Halloween–I take the appointment.
I knew something was off almost immediately during the mammogram. I’d just had one in January due to some scarring from mastitis. This was far more invasive. The tech took 5 photos of my right side, 20 photos of the left (the side with the lumps), then an additional 5 magnified photos at the request of the radiologist. The ultrasound was immediately after. The tech was lovely and showed me exactly what she was looking at. She stopped, said she’d be right back, and when she came back in the radiologist was with her. She explained that I had every marker they look for when trying to spot cancer. She had an opening right at that moment for a biopsy, and she wanted me to stay and have it done. I agreed. She made the calls to my insurance and within half an hour she was performing the biopsy on my breast lump and armpit lump.
The next day I received the call; both masses came back positive for cancer. Grade three, triple-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma with a metastatic tumor under my arm. I was in stage 3.
That week was a whirlwind of activity. I had an appointment with surgeons, oncologists, nurses, etc. My husband and I cried every night after the kids went to bed and tried to navigate how to tell our family. I made a living will and trust and I created an advance directive: I prepared for the worst. One week from the date I was diagnosed I began chemo.
Six months of chemo, double mastectomy, total hysterectomy (I’ve got the BRCA1 mutation), and 6 weeks of radiation have brought me to today where I can say I’m in remission.
Triple-negative breast cancer has the highest reoccurrence rate. It’s the most aggressive; it hits fast, and it hits hard. I’m lucky.
Every ache and pain scare me. Every headache, every sore muscle, everything makes me wonder if it has spread somewhere else.
I’m still in physical therapy as of today, but I’m doing well. Hopefully, I continue doing well. I want to watch these crazy kids grow up.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.