Diagnosed at 29
In October of 2017, I found a small lump in my left breast and I was so sure it was nothing important.
At only 29 years old, can you blame me for being a little naive and afraid?
The good news is that I brought it to my amazing physician's attention within two months of the first sign of it. It turns out that I have stage 1, grade 2, invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer on my left side, ER+ and PR+. The only person in my family who has ever had breast cancer is my first cousin who had the exact same type of breast cancer 7 years ago when she was 32. Our genetics testing is currently inconclusive, but I am of the belief that in a few years science will finally discover the hereditary genetic mutation that led us both to cancer. Until then, I want to think of myself as a scientific mystery!
I was diagnosed on December 28, 2017 and had my lumpectomy surgery less than a month later. I was so nervous because it was the first kind of surgery I've ever had, but also because the pathology report will confirm some important details. You see, they removed some of my lymph nodes under my arm to test if the cancer has spread. The MRI suggested it hasn't, but the lymph nodes will really confirm that. I am keeping my fingers very tightly crossed because if it hasn't spread through the lymph nodes, then I will probably not need chemotherapy. As excited as I am about that, I also feel a weird sense of guilt about not needing chemo when so many women with breast cancer have no choice but to go through it. I am just lucky to have found the cancer at an early stage. Right now, I am waiting for the pathology report.
As a 29-year-old teacher living in an already expensive part of the country, my biggest concern after my prognosis is the financial situation I will be in once the medical bills start rolling in. I'm married but my husband and I don't make a lot of money. We've worked so incredibly hard through our 20's to have enough money to pay our mortgage for our little townhouse, to work on our school loans, and to travel. Budget traveling is my favorite thing to do, and I lose sleep at night sometimes thinking about how cancer has really thrown a wrench into my short-term and long-term travel plans. This is particularly because so much of the money I worked to save for traveling (similar to how many others my age save for having kids) will instead have to go towards my cancer treatment. It's shocking how much it costs.
Writing in my travel blog, on a customized cancer page, and even here on SurvivingBreastCancer.org have been my therapy. We all have our ways of coping mentally, and I encourage other women to try writing as a means to do so. I will keep writing over the next few months as I continue my treatment with my head held high.