I was 41 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The official diagnosis was grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. The tumor was 1.3 cm. I hit the bricks right away finding a surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist. Meeting the surgeon was the priority so I could learn about my different treatment options. I also had genetic testing done because of my age. I have a BRCA2 mutation of uncertain significance. That meant there wasn’t enough data on that mutation to determine if it was the cause of the cancer. Regardless, it was there and that was all I needed to know. I didn’t need to put much thought into how I wanted to proceed once I knew what my choices were. Double mastectomy with reconstruction. I wanted it all gone and I wanted to reduce my risk of recurrence as much as possible. I waited over a month from my diagnosis before my surgery, and that felt like a lifetime. The double mastectomy went as planned and I was fortunate that it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes yet but still had to wait a few more weeks for the oncotype test to determine if I was going to need chemotherapy. My oncotype score was low so I didn’t need it. In the interim, I started with the tissue expander fills and after more than 3 months I had surgery to remove the expanders and put in the implants. Around the same time, I started taking Tamoxifen, with a 10-year plan that wouldbe reassessed after 5 years
Having the BRCA2 mutation also meant a higher risk for ovarian cancer, melanoma, pancreatic and kidney cancer across my lifetime. Plus, being on Tamoxifen increased my risk for uterine cancer. So, I made the decision to have a full hysterectomy as well to further reduce risks.
I think it goes without saying that not only was this a shock to me, but also to my family and friends. There was a lot of love surrounding me though and it definitely brought me closer to many people. It also brought new and cherished friends and it brought me a renewed outlook on life and how I want to live it. It’s almost 3 years since I was diagnosed and my life certainly has changed because of it. And I believe it has changed for the better. I am not grateful that I had cancer but I am grateful for all that it taught me about myself and those around me.