During my honeymoon, I noticed a lump in my right breast felt larger than usual. Well, honestly I wasn’t sure if it was larger or it had always been that size. The thing is, I rarely did a breast exam. As a backstory, I always had a lump in my right breast ever since I was 12 or 13 but it was deemed as nothing since there was no history of any cancer in my family. I was always just told to pay attention to it.
When we returned from our honeymoon, I went to go see my doctor. I was due for my physical exam. She noticed that my lump did feel different and scheduled a breast ultrasound. However, she was convinced it was a fibroadenoma. After all, most women my age start to get fibroadenoma. At that time, I was 27.
What was supposed to be a quick and simple breast ultrasound turned into a mammogram and eventually a biopsy. In January 2016, my biopsy confirmed that I had 4 tumors containing cancer cells, and I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Triple Positive breast cancer. Without a doubt, hearing from my doctor that I had cancer was an absolute shock and I could not contain my tears. I never ever expected to have cancer, especially at this point in my life. Cancer is not even common in my family, and I was totally caught off guard.
When my pathology report was being explained to my husband and I, it was highly emphasized that I couldn’t get pregnant during treatment. All these drugs can be toxic to a baby. It was at this point that it all hit me and it hit me hard. We didn’t have plans to have a baby any time soon, but the idea of growing a family was quickly taken away from us. I was hesitant at first to go through the fertility preservation process. It would require more estrogen and knowing that I was ER+ and PR+ scared me. I didn’t want to potentially cause cancer to grow more. After some deliberation, I decided to go through the fertility preservation. It took about a week and we were able to freeze 8 embryos!
Soon after, I started chemo. My regimen was known as TCHP and at the same time, they got started on hormone therapy. I had my first Zoladex shot and that shot was horrible! I never saw a needle that big!
While I was going through this entire process, you bet it was rough. Every day was different and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. Am I going to feel sick today? Can I tolerate the side effects today? Even drinking a glass of water was a struggle. It was easy to lose myself, especially when physically I didn’t look myself. I had no hair, my skin was a different color, and I always felt weak. I couldn’t even eat my favorite meals because everything just tasted disgusting. There were times I asked myself, can I really go through this?
Luckily, the chemo was shrinking my tumors. After 6 rounds I went through a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Fortunately, the surgery was a success. My surgeon said my response to treatment was a strong partial response. It was a strong response because the tumors shrank, but a partial response because it did not fully melt away.
Recovering from surgery was another struggle. I was in pain, the drains were uncomfortable, and definitely the first two weeks I couldn’t do anything on my own including going to the bathroom. If it wasn’t for my husband, I don’t know how I would have functioned. As soon as I was able to walk again, I got started on treatment. I was put on an Aromatase Inhibitor in addition to my Zoladex shots for my Hormone Therapy. And I had to complete 17 rounds of Herceptin. As soon as I finished Herceptin, my new Targeted Therapy was Zometa every 6 months.
At this point in my life, it is an adjustment. Cancer survivorship is something I didn’t think would be a struggle. I still experience side effects, I fear reoccurrence, and mentally I’m just not the same. I learned at a summit that the fight with cancer is a lifetime battle, and I can confirm that for me it is 100% true. But I will continue to thrive and continue to enjoy everything that life has to offer. My life may not be what it used to be like, but I strongly believe I am living my best life.