I was introduced to Kate through a mutual friend who wanted me to meet a friend of hers who had children after her breast cancer diagnosis. I was feeling pretty awful about my fertility, or lack thereof, and hearing Kate's story helped me in so many ways. Kate is one of the nicest women I have "met" (since we're online buddies), and it's amazing to know that out of something so terrible, like breast cancer, friendships like these can arise.
Here is Kate's story:
Age and Diagnosis
I was 27 when I was diagnosed, 32 now. I was diagnosed with Stage 2A, slightly Her2N+ (basically triple negative) ductal carcinoma with medullary features. There was no lymph node involvement. My tumor was a nasty one, Grade 3, 2.7 centimeters with a high proliferation index.
Family history or BRAC?
There has been plenty of cancer in my family, but no breast cancer. Both my dad's parents died of cancer in the years leading up to my diagnosis (Grandfather had prostate and bladder cancer, Grandmother had a rare type of sarcoma that metastasized to her lungs), and my dad had received treatment for a melanoma. Since my diagnosis, my dad's younger brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age.
My BRAC test came back negative, for what that's worth.
Who caught it?
I found my tumor. It was bizarre. One day everything is normal, and the next I had this mass the size of a ping-pong ball sticking out of my chest. It was visible and high enough on my chest to see it in a modest v-neck. My husband and I were house sitting, and one night I noticed it as I was getting ready for bed. Wes thought I should take it seriously, so I showed up at my GP's office the next morning first thing without an appointment.
What were the signs?
The scary thing was there weren't many signs leading up to my diagnosis. I felt great, didn't have any issues with my breasts. In retrospect, I realize I was coming out of a seriously stressful time in my life and that I might have missed signs. I am lucky my tumor was so obvious, because I would have missed a more subtle one.
Did your doctors listen to you?
I have the most amazing general practitioner ever. She has treated me since I was a teenager, as well as treating many of my female relatives. She was even invited to my wedding! She did listen to me, as she has done every time I've gone to see her. She wanted me to have an ultrasound done just in case, though she thought it was probably nothing. I had an ultrasound that afternoon, and Dr. T called me that evening. The results were unclear, so they thought I should have a biopsy done. She recommended a breast surgeon ("He's who I would see if I needed a breast mass biopsied.") and got me in to see him the next day. I was not the first young woman that my breast surgeon had seen with breast cancer. He was reassuring during the biopsy, but did not treat me as if I was wasting his time or that my lump did not need to be addressed. As it turns out, it was cancer. I realize how unusual my situation was, and also how lucky I was to get diagnosed so quickly.
What would you say to a young woman who might have something wrong?
I would say be proactive and don't procrastinate in getting it checked out. If it is cancer, it will not get better by ignoring it or fitting it in after the other things you have going on.