In 2014, I missed my first yearly mammogram in over ten years, the same year I reunited with my husband on a trial basis. He discovered a lump in my left breast about the size of a large grape. At that time, I was at the height of a business startup and in the final stages of completing my PhD. I was 30lbs overweight, physically inactive, and most often an emotional reck struggling with fatigued. I had reoccurring panic attacks, sinus infections and several painful cyst-like ingrown hairs under my arms. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of sharing my concerns with my doctors who believed I was a hypochondriac. When I mentioned I believe I had cancer, they suggested I begin taking antidepressants. Their opinions were based on I did not drink or smoke, was vegetarian for nearly six years, nursed my children, had routine breast examinations and no known family history of Breast Cancer. When I informed them of the lump, my doctors were still adamant that I did not have cancer. After, a biopsy and several other tests, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 HER-2 Positive Breast Cancer.
After several rounds of chemo, a mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and beginning the healing process my maternal cousin in her early twenties asked me to share my chemotherapy and reconstruction experiences. She has, as her mother does, the Brac-2 gene and though she had been tested every six months for the last 4-5 years she had just been diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Cancer in her left breast. Shortly after she received 14 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, we were informed that another cousin (maternal aunt’s daughter) was diagnosed with Stage 3 HER-2 Positive Cancer also in her left breast. Just before my second cousin finished her chemo, her mother, my deceased mother’s youngest sister was diagnosed with Stage 1 HER-2 Positive Cancer in her left breast. Who would have thought that my elderly aunt was recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
We all agreed that this intergenerational experience was a scary and lonely time. Emotionally we were out of balance because we did not know if we’d live or die. Our family was supportive and we supported each other, but we each felt hopeless nevertheless. Currently, all four of us have recovered and are doing fine. Each of our lives and the lives of our family will never be the same. Early diagnosis is key to survival. Participating in genetic testing capture information over time may lead to early detection and diagnosis. As you accept, surrender and release unimportant things, your diagnosis becomes a cry for change and call for action.