Breast Cancer at 41
My grandmother had breast cancer when she was in her 60’s. First in one breast and then five years later, it had spread to the other. My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer at age 42 which eventually took her life at the age of 54.
I was 30 when I was tested for the breast cancer gene. I learned that I had the BRAC2 gene – meaning I was at high risk for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I began my bi-annual visits to my surgical oncologist for bi-lateral MRI’s, ultrasounds, and mammograms. I was also given another option – prophylactic mastectomy.
At 30, I thought the surgeon crazy. Why on earth would I make such a radical decision? Why would I cut off my breasts on the off-chance I would get cancer SOMEDAY when there was absolutely nothing wrong with me today?!!! I wanted to have children. I was young. So I did what I could do and I kept up with my appointments. At 31, I gave birth to my daughter and at 35, I gave birth to my son. And every 6 months for the last 11 years, my doctor continued to ask me the same question “when are you having your bi-lateral mastectomy?” And I continued to answer “No, not yet.”
Last May, two weeks after my yearly OB-GYN appointment, I found a lump in my left breast. Small – it just appeared overnight and I thought nothing of it. Having breast fed two children, I was used to lumps coming and going. Just five years earlier I had a breast biopsy that turned out to be nothing. So I scheduled my appointment and went to see my doctor. He was all business. He immediately sent me in for a mammogram and an ultrasound (My insurance would not pay for a bi-lateral MRI since I had had one in October.) His orders – we are treating this as cancer until proven otherwise.
I scheduled the mammogram & ultrasound the afternoon before my son’s 7th birthday sleepover. I knew the drill – 15 minutes for the mammogram and 10 minutes for the ultrasound. It was no big deal – it was a cyst and it would be nothing. Everything would be just fine. In fact, I would fit the appointment in between frosting cupcakes and bringing the kids to see Monster’s University. Easy peazy!
The mammogram showed the lump clear as day. Yup, there it is! On to the ultrasound – here is where we could determine if this lump was a cyst. I sat there willing the image on the screen to be jet black……… then the radiologist came in to examine the images….then my lymph nodes appeared on the screen. The verdict – this is not a cyst and could be cancer. Time to schedule a biopsy.
On Monday, July 8th (coincidentally my 5-year runniversary), I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 41 going on 42. Almost the same age of my mother when she was diagnosed. Scary because I know what cancer can do. I know what a double mastectomy looks like. I know what radiation can do to a body. I’ve seen chemo up close. I’ve seen the suffering. I know what those words mean. I know what is in store for me. And although I was prepared for the news, I was still in shock.
Over the last 3 weeks, I have begun to accept that I have breast cancer. I know what I’m going to do – and although the prognosis is good, and appears to have been caught early, my family history and having the BRAC2 gene led to my decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
On Tuesday, July 30th at 7:45am I will go into surgery. It will be a long recovery, but I’m up for the challenge. I can’t stop now, I have too much to do! In 30 days I will be in Disneyland running the Family Fun Run 5K and Dumbo Double Dare with my family!
But I want to thank those courageous ladies that have given me strength: Angelina Jolie, Christina Applegate, Kylie Minogue, Giuliana Rancic, but most importantly – grandma & mom. Thank you for sharing and now I will share in order to give others strength.
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