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A survivor's story

Today a friend of mine is sharing her breast cancer story. October is breast cancer awareness month, and the Think Pink campaign reminds us to be proactive. However, this is something that we should be checking ourselves for every month. Kelly's story is a great reminder of that. Chelsea

No one ever thinks to themselves that they will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s the kind of thing that happens to other women. At least that’s what I thought. I was 27 years old, a mother of a 10 month old and a 2 year old, was married to my high school boyfriend, and had my dream job performing ultrasounds. Life was just as I had always pictured it would be. Then one evening, as I was getting undressed, I felt a pea sized lump in my left breast. It was very hard, not painful, and didn’t move. Terrible thoughts ran through my mind immediately because I had been doing breast ultrasound for several years and the fact that the tumor didn’t move or hurt were both bad signs. I tried to calm myself down so that I didn’t scare my husband. I knew I would have to go in on-call to do ultrasounds in the morning where I worked and could talk to the Radiologist I worked with.

The next morning when I went in I was able to get an ultrasound and I didn’t like what I saw. It was an ugly, irregular mass with all the characteristics of a cancerous breast tumor, in my opinion. My mind was racing. How could this be? I was only 27 year old. I was living a healthy lifestyle. I had nursed both my children and had them when I was in my 20’s which are all things that are supposed to reduce your odds.

One of the Radiologists I worked with was able to go over the ultrasound with me. To my surprise he didn’t think I should be worried. He thought it was an infected milk duct and told me to go home and put a warm wash cloth on it. This did not sit well with me. I decided to set up an appointment with my Gynecologist right away and she did not like the looks of things either. She got me in to see a Surgeon within a few days so that I could talk to him about having a biopsy. When my husband and I sat down with the Surgeon a few days later though, he thought I should wait a month and see if the lump went away. In his opinion, the chances of the lump being cancer was unlikely due to my age. He agreed with the Radiologist that it was probably just an infected milk duct. I started thinking that if both of them thought this was nothing, then maybe I was wrong. This certainly would be a lot better diagnosis to deal with.

Two weeks passed by and the lump wasn’t going away. I was starting to freak out and my coworker could tell that I needed to know what this lump was. We went to the Radiologist and tried to talk him into doing a biopsy but he couldn’t do it without an order from another doctor. I tried to call the Surgeon to persuade him to order the biopsy, but he was out. Finally, I was able to get into the ER doctor and he thought I did need a biopsy so he ordered it and I had it done within the hour.

Afterwards, I went home to my family. I didn’t think I would hear results for at least a few days. We were on the way out the door that night to go to my parents to celebrate my father’s birthday when the phone rang. To my surprise it was the Surgeon I had seen. He had ran into my coworker and they had updated him on the biopsy. The Surgeon had went to the lab right away to check on the biopsy results with the Pathologist. The results weren’t good he told me. It was Breast Cancer. The news was devastating to me, my family and friends. I cried a lot and thought terrible thoughts like "what if I die and my husband is left to raise our 2 young daughters."

As time passed, I pushed out the negative thoughts and focused on the fight. Two weeks later I underwent a single mastectomy to remove the Breast Cancer. The Oncologist determined that my best chance of long term survival for my type and size of Breast Cancer would be to undergo 8 rounds of chemotherapy. I also found out during that time that I carried the BRCA1 gene mutation and that made me have a much higher chance of having breast and ovarian cancer. Because of that gene it was recommended that I also have my other breast removed and my ovaries. So after chemotherapy I had those procedures done as well. I was in fight mode and would do anything to increase my odds of survival for my family. My family, who were such a good support and had helped me through everything.

I am happy to tell you that this month will be 7 years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I am cancer free! If there is anything I could suggest to you from what I have gone through it would be to check your breasts for lumps monthly and if you are of age, get your mammogram done. Early detection really helps increase your odds of survival. Also, trust your instincts. If you feel like something is abnormal with your body, you need to advocate and fight for yourself.

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