I am not much of a writer but I wanted to share my story as I find there are not a ton of younger women that have written about their experience with breast cancer. I am 26 years old and found a lump in my breast last year around September. My sister in law is an OBGYN, I spoke to her and she just said to monitor it closely and make sure it didn’t change. Within a couple of weeks it began to hurt and grow so I made an appointment at my local OBGYN. She sent me over to another doctor to have a biopsy.
I had high risk or stage 3 (these stages are not related to stages that are given in regular cancer diagnosis). I got what I like to say the best of a bad situation. A lot of women with DCIS do not develop tumors or pain therefore it is only found in a mammogram. But I had both and found it early it was not able to develop into full blown breast cancer because I had showing signs that my breast was abnormal , who knew I would be thankful for a tumor and breast pain. I met with a slew of doctors, radiology, oncology, plastic surgeons, regular surgeons. It became irregular for me to walk into a room and not take my shirt off. After consulting and learning and talking and undressing I chose my doctors.
I am so thankful for the decisions I made because my doctors were so amazing and really influenced my life in these next grueling months to come. Because of the size and position of my tumor I was told I had to have a mastectomy. Now this had all been happening very fast but I felt really informed. So surgery was scheduled for December 4th about a month down the road and I was prepared. Surgery day came and my mom came to Denver to help with the recovery. Surgery went really well they took about 4 hours and I got some very strong medicine. I woke up in post op one breast lighter and happy as a clam (thanks to the little morphine button they put ME in charge of pushing). We went home the next day and for the next couple of weeks my mom and boyfriend were my angels they woke up in the middle of the night to help empty my drain and give me my meds. I am so thankful to have such an amazing team.
Next step Expander filling! I would basically opt to have surgery 4 more times to avoid ever having an expander fill again. An expander is basically an empty implant that you have saline solution put into once a week to stretch your skin, so that you can eventually fit an implant. So every week I dreaded it and every week my flat chest grew and grew.
I think this was a combination of all that had happened and it took a flat scared chest to break my emotional gate open. For those who have had expanders you know it is the WORST. They fill you up until your skin can stretch no further and it is weird because you cant really feel anything but you can see needles going in and out and see how tight your skin is and it looks like an alien creature is growing in your chest. Thank gawd it was over.
So I had a lot of chest pain and a lot of doctors visits and a lot of people looked and touched my breast then it was June. Time for my re-construction surgery and time to get this softball off my chest. June 4th exactly 6 months after my mastectomy I went in to get a new “breast”. I also had a very small margin of tumor that was close to my skin line so my general surgeon would be present as well to remove another chunk of skin ( im pretty sure this is the medical term for it) before the real reconstruction started. Surgeries are all done for now , except the ever looming talk of my doctor wanting me to complete things with a “nipple”, for me im not sure if I want one of need one but it is pretty weird not to have one. Only women who don’t have a nipple will ever know that feeling I would imagine it would be the same as suddenly not having a belly button. I wasn’t really using it but I sure feel weird without it. I still have “bee stinging” which I read somewhere and is the best way to describe the residual pain I feel after my surgery tiny sharp pains every so often. But they are a small price to pay for my health and my life. So as I mentioned many people do not refer to DCIS as a cancer and in many ways it is not. But the group of women who have had or are going through breast cancer are the group of women I find myself identifying with most throughout this journey.
So whatever you want to call my diagnosis I wanted to share my story for those women who are young and need someone to relate to. I made it through only because I had the support of my family and friends who I thank God for every day. I will have to deal with mammograms and breast exams and monitoring myself very closely for the rest of my life but for now I am happy and healthy!