- About Breast Cancer
- Community Impact
- Get Involved
My survivor story starts in the jungles of India – where I was living at the time – enjoying a care-free year-long backpacking trip around the world. While bathing in the fresh water spring, a daily ritual, I found a lump in my right breast that seemed to appear overnight. Not having easy access to a doctor or healthcare and still wanting so much to live in that moment, I decided to push it from my mind until my return to the states, a few months later. And I did just that, but just as quickly as my feet landed back on US soil, the thoughts of the lump rushed back again like an all consuming tidal wave. Without a blink, I applied for Medicaid and went in for a mammogram.
“You’re too young for Breast Cancer” they said to me, as they sat me down in the doctor’s office that day. They had to be right, I had just turned 30 a few months before and had no cases in my family. I patiently awaited the results, and just as the doctors had assured me, I found out it was nothing to worry about and I was healthy. I was able to breathe again, in a way I hadn’t properly done since before that day in India in the spring. I let the tidal wave rush over and past me, it was now time to start planning my life – which included a move to Portland, starting a new job and a small business with my partner. I was back!
Settled back into the faster pace of life and all its modern conveniences, the backpacking days felt like a dream I had awoken from. It wasn’t until one night, while laying on the couch, that I felt that tidal wave from when I was traveling come rushing back. In my left breast I found not a small little lump, but one I could wrap my whole fingers around. I shot off the couch with fear and urgency “What is this, how have I never felt this before?!” I cried as my partner helped snap me out of it with chocolate ice cream and assurances we would call a doctor the next morning.
An appointment was set again, but this time in a different city, with a different doctor, for a different breast, but not more than 8 months later than the first. “I’m too young for Breast Cancer”, I said to myself on our drive over and again as I walked through the front doors of the imaging center. After the mammogram, they informed me the lump was irregular and I needed a biopsy – “I’m too young for Breast Cancer” I said to myself again as I waited for the results – the tidal wave so close. And then the call came – I had Breast Cancer.
The next three weeks were a whirlwind of appointments – doctor meetings, new doctor meetings, other doctor meetings – all speaking in what sounded like 12 different languages. But in reality, all those meetings were an exceptional health care plan put together for me by my Doctor and Nurse Navigator. Not one appointment did I have to schedule myself, it was all planned – from getting my port placed to nutrition and heath classes to meeting surgeons and doing every scan imaginable to the necessary but emotional mind-f*** that is harvesting your eggs, days before jumping into your first chemo cocktail. My partner and I also took every free moment in my scheduled day to go on an adventure, whether to the Coast to go whale watching (we never saw any!) or a new hike with endless switch-backs to keep my heart and soul pumping. Those three very emotional weeks were exactly what my mind, body and future needed to get me ready for my fight against Cancer.
Walking into my first chemo appointment, with my partner who carried my carefully packed bag, full of healthy snacks, books, blankets and layers of clothing including my favorite pair of fuzzy socks – I was scared, but I was ready. In the triage room we were introduced to my new nurse – who over the course of those 4 months of chemo became a close friend, ally and support system, not just for me but for my partner who would have an emotional weight he would have to carry, just like he had my chemo bag that morning.
While I found myself surrounded by messages from loved ones, phone calls from old friends, care packages put together by my mom’s friends – everyone reaching out to support me – I found this was when I had to be my strongest, my most positive, my glass half full. This is who I am, and even through all of my treatment I never let that side of me go. I for sure had my moments of fear, and knowing that when I was on the other side of this, I would never be the same – which is true, but not as scary as it seemed 5 year ago.
I ended up completing more rounds of chemo than I can count on two hands, a lumpectomy from a very handsome surgeon and six weeks of radiation – all of which I worked through. Not because I had to, but because I chose to. It gave me purpose and a very good way to keep my mind busy, I was also lucky I worked at a company that gave me more time off than allotted, but I also had a personal drive to keep digging into the work.
Breast Cancer will never be what defines me, but a trait that has changed me – it made me take better care of myself, strengthened my relationships with loved ones and family, gave me a community to connect with – and gave me a strength from within that I will carry with me forever. I know not every journey is the same, and we are all allowed our moments of weakness – but it is in those times we will find our own personal strength. Know that you are never too young for Breast Cancer – so please get those mammograms. I promise that first step is the scariest and with the rest comes strength from within and the community.