When I saw your call for breast cancer survivor stories, I just knew I had to write. I’m not sure if I can really call myself a survivor yet because I am still in the middle of my course of treatments, but I know that, mentally, I already am one. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 18th, 2009 at the age of 41, which was a total shock to me because I’ve had no close relatives who have had breast cancer (from a fairly large family tree) and I thought I was still relatively young to get it. I’ve since found out that, largely due to increased awareness and greater screening with mammograms and ultraounds, more and more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s and 40s, so it is really not as rare as I thought.
I know that I will never forget that moment when the doctor said those words, “I’m sorry, but it is cancer.” Literally, time seems to stand still, and all of the best parts of your life that you don’t want to have to leave come sharply into focus. The first words I said back to her were “I’m not dying from this, so what do we need to do?” Although those first few days after I got my diagnosis were filled with a lot of tears and thoughts of “how did this happen?” or “why me?” or just total shock, my husband and I soon mobilized into action. We did research online, sought out a second opinion, and also began to tell our friends and family. I even started a blog where I could write about my progress and give quick updates to friends and relatives all around the country.
I soon had surgery, a lumpectomy in April 2008 with an amazing surgeon at UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and I am now undergoing chemotherapy. Along the way, I found out, much to everyone’s great surprise, that I am a carrier of the BRCA2 gene, which puts me at great risk for another breast cancer or ovarian cancer, so I will have additional preventative surgeries after finishing the course of chemotherapy.
Although I am nowhere near finished my course of treatments yet, I already feel like a survivor because I have been able to stay positive throughout most of this journey and I have had such wonderful support from my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I know that I have a lot of living left to do!