Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
When I first received the news, I couldn’t believe what was going on. I just remember thinking, “How is this happening? I am only 27.”
When people usually talk about getting breast cancer, it is usually women above 40. No one really talks about getting it in their 20’s.
As a 27 year old, I did not see it coming. I had no family history of it, and I was still so young. I felt like all my hopes and dreams were gone.
My symptoms started in October 2019, when I noticed some bleeding.
I was training for an open water event at the time. After each session, I noticed that my nipples were bleeding. I was always in and out of the swimming pool so I did not think much of it — it was probably due to some infection caused by some bacteria from the pool.
But then it continued bleeding, even after the competition was over. This raised a red flag, so I made an appointment with the gynecologist, who gave me a check up and some medication.
After a few months, it never seemed to get better. I decided to go to a different doctor to get a proper diagnosis. After he examined me, he recommended that I get a minor surgery to remove my milk ducts.
So I went for that in March 2020. After the surgery, they sent my milk ducts for a lab test. From the results, they concluded that my chances of getting breast cancer were very high. The doctor told me I should be cautious and monitor myself.
In August 2020, I was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer.
A biopsy of my breast.
I continued to monitor myself over the next few weeks.
One day, I noticed my breast felt lumpy. Since I was at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, I quickly went back to the same doctor to get a biopsy and mammogram.
After one week, the report came out and the doctor broke the news to me: I had ductal carcinoma in situ.
In simpler terms, I had Stage 0 breast cancer.
Everything suddenly turned numb. I did not know how to feel. My only thought was, “How is this happening? I am only 27.”
It was only as I was waiting to pay my bill that it hit me: I really had cancer.
Fortunately, it was still one of the earlier stages and cancer has not spread. I had two choices moving forward:
- One, I could get a mastectomy, a surgical procedure to remove my left breast.
- Two, I could choose not to do anything, let cancer spread, and then opt for treatments such as chemotherapy.
Since the side effects of chemotherapy were severe, I went with the obvious choice — I would go for the mastectomy.
I knew I had to tell my parents that I have been diagnosed with cancer but I did not know how to.
My emotions were not stable, and I had to process everything first before announcing it. It would be tough for me to answer everyone’s questions and deal with everyone’s feelings.
The day I broke the news, we were having dinner just like any other day. I put down my fork and started the conversation. “I have something to tell everyone.”
I told them everything. How I found the lump, and how I made the decision to go for the mastectomy. They were shocked, and I don’t blame them. After all, it was very unexpected considering my age.
Luckily, my family took the news fairly well. They just asked me to update them on the progress and to do whatever I have to do to become better.
In September 2020, two months later, I got a mastectomy.
At the time, I was scared. I had never gone through major surgery before, and I was terrified of the outcome. But I knew I had no choice.
I took some time off from work for myself, to get used to the changes to my body.
There were some changes to my body that I had to adapt to.
After breast surgery, your scars don’t heal immediately. There’s often bleeding which lasts a few weeks.
In order to drain the unwanted blood, I had a tube attached to the surgical site for a week.
And because I had implants to prevent it from moving, I had to wear this post-surgery bra for about 6 months.
The surgery had taken lymph nodes from my left underarm, which makes it feel numb and I could not carry anything with my left arm.
I relied solely on my right arm for picking up things. I also could not lift heavy stuff because it could make the muscles move in the wrong way.
After a month of the surgery, my arm can move normally.
Since the lymph nodes were removed, I have to keep an eye out for scratches or insect bites as it could cause an infection. If there is, I have to put antiseptic immediately and care for it. It is something I would have to do for the rest of my life.
Initially, I did not have plans to get implants because if there are any issues with the implants, I would have to go through another surgery.
At the time, I could not care about anything else.
Whether I would be confident and love my body after the surgery was not on my mind. I never thought about how I would feel in the future.
I was simply so heartbroken, and it was really hard for me to accept my condition.
Although I had a network that was encouraging and supportive of my decisions, it was lonely.
I felt like I could not reach out to anyone that could exactly understand what I am going through, someone that can relate to me.
It’s never on the news that a young woman got breast cancer. Now, I found a support system of breast cancer survivors but very little among the youth.
Thankfully, my doctor suggested implants and I decided to go for them. It’s a decision that I am so happy with now because it makes me feel like nothing on my body has changed.
My implants make me feel just like a regular lady that can go out and still have cleavage.
It did not feel weird, it feels like any other day.
Ever since the surgery, I have changed.
I am more at peace with myself. I can come to terms more easily and don’t stress about small issues, like where to eat.
I have learned to take things more casually and let go of issues. It makes me appreciate things more. I just feel more at peace right now.
My plan now is to eat and live my life healthier.
They should provide more information about breast cancer, especially in school
I have plans to build a youth community to raise breast cancer awareness in secondary schools and universities. It’s still at the planning stage where I find collaborations.
Breast Cancer does not only happen to women that are above 40. If you have reached puberty, you have chances of getting breast cancer and that implies to girls as young as 12.
Women should be taught how to check their breasts and perform a breast self-exam.
They need to know what they can do to prevent it. And if they happen to have it, what their choices are, and how to cope.
It should not be something that is taboo. Instead, it should be something that’s talked about more commonly.
Especially since it’s the most common cancer within women, and how the rate of breast cancer patients are getting higher over time.
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