Patient Supporters- Their Stories

At the lovely young age of 28, with no significant family history, and only six months after I’d married the love of my life, I found a lump in my right breast while in the shower. At first, I brushed it off - women in my family have historically had dense breast tissue. But the medical nerd in me knew that I needed to get it checked out. I waited a month for an appointment with a primary care provider, and then another month for the mammogram and ultrasound I was referred for. Those two months were spent checking the lump every single day and scrutinizing every tiny little ache and pain I had. On April 4th, I had the imaging done, and was immediately scheduled for a biopsy on April 5th. By 1pm on April 6th, I had a diagnosis, and I became the 1 in the 1 in 8 women that will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Since then I’ve been through fertility preservation, months of intensive chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders, a reconstructive surgery, a full year of anti-HER2 therapy, and started on the endocrine therapy that will be suppressing my estrogen and ovaries for the next 5-10 years. I joined a clinical trial that meant I was able to avoid getting radiation, and because of another groundbreaking study, I’ve been able to try multiple types of anti-HER2 medication.

Now I’m on what people call “the other side”. That means I’m here, with my husband and other loved ones, trying to navigate this new life after a year of active treatment. I live with fears that every little cough, sneeze, headache, or stomach pain means that the cancer is back, or that it’s metastasized. 1 in 3 women with early stage cancers will eventually be diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, for which there is no cure. That 1 in 3 statistic sits with me every day.

What gets me through that crushing reality? Nothing really, but there’s a few things that help! Among them is my ability to help other women heal from and navigate this experience through my work as a Physical Therapist, the amazing support groups I work with, and using exercise to thank my body for all it’s supported me through since my diagnosis.

I’m an active member of Recovery on Water - a rowing team for anyone with a breast cancer diagnosis that is dedicated to improving physical activity levels and promoting teamwork. I’m also very involved with The Breasties - a social media-based group connecting young women all over the world who have been impacted by cancer.

I’m so excited to be an Ambassador for The Great Pink Run, because we will be raising funds to support research for triple negative (TNBC) and metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Research is what saved my life, and it’s what has the potential to save the lives of my many friends that have been diagnosed with TNBC and MBC. Awareness is no longer enough - now we need a cure.

To anyone else who is going through this monumental life shift: you are not alone, no matter how much it may feel that way sometimes. This club is the one we never wanted to join, but man are we good at picking each other up.