Friends, meet my friend Ashley Blair Doyle. Visit her blog and be amazed at how extraordinary this woman is.
Age and diagnosis
28 and stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma.
Family history or BRCA mutation?
No genetic mutation. But my paternal grandma had breast cancer at 70 (this was not considered as a possible link to why I got breast cancer because she was much older)
Who caught it?
I found the lump when I was in the shower. I wish I could say it was because I was doing a self-exam but it was actually an accidental find. Luckily I felt it.
What were the signs?
A hard lump was able to be felt on the under side of my left breast. Leading up to it that my breast was itchy occasionally and I would also get stabbing pains in it. These worried me but my doctor assured me that a breast tumour wouldn't cause shooting pains. Also I didn't feel well months leading up to finding it… I was just "off". I was under a lot of stress at the time. I also couldn't handle being in the hot sun and I am a total Summer girl so I had a feeling something was out of whack with my body. Although when I found the lump I didn't actually put that together until afterwards when I got the official diagnosis a month later. I also wrote a journal entry 5 months before finding the lump that said I felt really unhealthy but no indication of why. My oncologists think the cancer was only in me for 6-9 months and I recall feeling really awful exactly 7 months before when we were vacationing in Hawaii. I normally could sit in the sun and swim for hours but I spent the entire trip in the shade.
Did your doctors listen to you?
I was concerned enough to go to my family doctor the day after finding the lump but was not too worried because she wasn't too concerned. She said it would be most likely a fibroadenoma but that she would order an ultrasound anyway so we could find out for sure. Thankfully I was taken seriously and tests were ordered, despite her not being too worried and telling me I was too young for breast cancer anyway. This visit was also when I spoke about the shooting pains and she told me not to worry because only inflammatory breast cancer would be painful. (Obviously not the case)
What would you say to a young woman who thinks she might have something wrong?
First off: Set an alarm on your phone each month that reminds you to do self-exams. (Or get Rethink Breast Cancer's "man reminder" app.) Know your body and if you notice anything different that is worrisome please don't brush it off. Go see your doctor and take charge of your health as soon as you can. If your doctor insists that you are too young for any particular type of cancer be your own advocate and push for further testing. Or get a second opinion. Also, a lot of woman under 40 have naturally lumpy and dense breasts… it is common in younger woman… this doesn't mean that every little nodule or bit of lumpiness is going to be the bad stuff…So get to know your breast tissue and you will have a sense of what feels 'normal' for your body. For me, the cancerous lump was an alarmingly hard mass. Much different than breast tissue, so there was no question of "is this just breast tissue?" Also, educate yourself about the various types of symptoms that could occur with breast cancer because it doesn't always show up as a lump.