I am a voice of hope and enjoy telling people my story because, although the stories are similar, I was 27 years old when I felt my lump and survived stage 3.
I was 27 years old living the life I thought you were supposed to with the exception of drinking. I worked out 4x a week, and was not considered obese.
Around Christmas, I was in the shower when I noticed a ball type look in my right breast above my nipple. I immediately began checking myself as you are taught, with the one arm up over your head, etc. and the mass moved around and it felt not round but more oblong. Any chance in my head that this was breast cancer went out the door because at the time you were taught its rounder and doesn’t move or have "play".
The other thing that kept me thinking was that I was invincible; the fact that women weren’t expected to get a mammogram until after the age of 40 years old.
With that being said I let it go, and didn’t listen to all the other symptoms that came up over the next year and a half. For example, I felt pain under the same side of my armpit as the lump in my breast. The pain started an inch lower than the lump (but still on the same side), and after working out I was more and more fatigued which made zero sense due to the fact that your cardio should be going the opposite way.
When I turned 29 (years old) in 2011, and had received health insurance, my mom harassed me to get my “yearly” done because, years before my grandma had a grapefruit sized benign tumor in her cervix area removed. There was no concern to my breast because of all the reasons stated above but also, my mom felt the lump at one point and said it was more of a plugged milk duct feeling.
I went to the doctor and mentioned 10 other things that I was concerned about and then said “oh yeah there’s this lump in my breast”. After the Dr. checked she scheduled me for a mammogram and then an ultrasound.
Even then, the tech said 60% of the women my age who had a lump found it to be benign. I sat in the waiting room watching women come in and out who were told by the nurse "congrats you’re good till next year", I started to realize I’m not going to be that lucky.
It was shortly after that the Radiologist called me into his office. I remember it being a dark room with my X-ray on the screen, and he said “see that image? That’s your tumor and that’s cancer.” Just as matter of fact as can be.
I was then rushed to get a biopsy, and after a long wait, a doctor confirmed that I had cancer. I was rushed to the oncologist and breast surgeon. It was all so fast. Chemo. And the side effects. And just when I started to feel better it was time for another round. Before I could take a deep breath, I was scheduled for a mastectomy. Once I recovered, my cancer had changed from stage 2 to stage 3. And now radiation.
Radiation was its own mess. My mastectomy scar opened up and became infected - but we couldn’t stop the radiation so there was packing involved and I kept going. I received 3rd degree burns on top of burns with little relief. Then of course the fatigue never changed.
My first tattoo was a radiation tattoo.
I spent my 30th bday in the radiation room where the staff surprised me and my wife with a bunch of orange confetti, orange flowers and orange candy, etc. Because orange has been a favorite color of mine since I was 8 years old.
After having people stare at my una-boob for several months, because my heart rate was unable to be down long enough for a bilateral mastectomy, I finally received the left-side mastectomy in 2012.
Now its 7 years later. I’ve had a hysterectomy, been put in medical menopause, and I’m on a hormone blocker since I was ER positive. The most important thing is..... I am cancer free!