Being so young, still at the beginning of my career as a registered nurse, focusing on ways to better myself for my patients, the last thing on my mind was that I had cancer, but that quickly changed.
On March 29th, 2019, I received the news that no 25-year-old wanted to hear, "You have invasive breast cancer." I was utterly shocked and devastated by the news. With this shocking news, I knew it was time for a change to not only focus on my patient's life but focusing on ways to make mine healthier.
During my monthly self-breast exam, I had felt something that did not seem normal to me. While I was in for my yearly check-up with my OBGYN, I mentioned my finding to my doctor. She seemed to think that it was just benign fibroadenoma that most women my age have, but she went ahead and ordered an ultrasound to be safe. During the ultrasound, they found three solid masses and recommended a mammogram. I completed the mammogram, but the scans were not clear. I found out I had dense breast tissue; this is normal, as most young women have dense breast tissue. At this point, they recommended a core needle biopsy to figure out what was going on inside my breast.
Throughout my testing, multiple doctors and nurses reassured me that "You are so young, this is probably just benign; you will be just fine." But, I have come to learn that breast cancer is quite common and that one in eight women get diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
On March 29th, 2019, my life changed when I received the phone call from my doctor, telling me that my breast biopsy results came back positive for invasive ductal/mammary carcinoma (IDC). I soon learned that my cancer was ER/PR + (estrogen/progesterone positive), which was some good news, as I was told by my doctor anyways. She informed me that breast cancers found in my age are aggressive and fast-growing, but the type I had is seen more with older women and is slower growing and that it was estrogen/progesterone responsive, meaning that after surgical/medical treatment, I will respond well to an estrogen-blocking medication.
The doctors took weeks running all kinds of tests and going over my family history, trying to figure out why a 25-year-old has breast cancer that is typically seen later in a person's life. I had no immediate family history of breast cancer. Thankfully, one of the tests gave them the answers. I found out I had a genetic mutation known as CHEK 2, which put me at high risk for breast cancer as well as other cancers.
I have met with multiple excellent doctors, including a surgical oncologist, medical oncologist, plastic surgeon, and fertility specialist, to develop my treatment plan. My surgical plan included a double skin-sparing mastectomy. I had to undergo a double mastectomy because of the genetic mutation I have, which put me at a high percentage of my breast cancer coming back in my other breast. After my mastectomy, I began the reconstruction process with tissue expanders. After that, I started the process of undergoing egg retrieval with a fertility specialist due to chemotherapy and the estrogen-blocking medication, increasing my risk of infertility. Once I had completed the egg retrieval process, my medical treatment began, which included four cycles of chemotherapy (Taxotere and Cytoxan) and then hormone-blocking therapy, Zoladex, and Arimidex. After chemo, I was able to schedule my final surgery to switch out my tissue expanders for actual breast implants.
Above is just a brief overview of my journey with breast cancer. For more information regarding my battle with breast cancer, please follow Lizzie_Battle_Breast_Cancer on Facebook or Instagram.