A warning from one young mama battling cancer to help prevent other mamas from this fight.
Twelve months ago, I gave birth to my second daughter, and immediately after she was born I knew something was wrong with my right boob. I asked for a hospital breast pump, but no one seemed to want to listen to me. They all told me I was fine and to keep nursing. Annoyed, I continued.
But of course, my mama intuition was correct, I had a majorly clogged duct. After two weeks of pumping and feeding that milk to my newborn via syringe, we finally thought we figured it out. As the year went by, my newborn baby much preferred the left side. I didn’t think much of it, since a lot of nursing moms have a “slacker” boob, I blamed it on that.
Over time my nipple started to cave in and become inverted, and I discovered a lump, which in my mind was most certainly a cluster of clogged milk ducts, especially since that boob was only producing about one ounce of milk per day. NO reason to worry, because I was breastfeeding, I was 32 years old, I ate healthy, I was active…nothing else could possibly be wrong with me. Or so I thought.
Then on the night before Easter of 2017, I was sitting on my mom’s bed watching Passion of the Christ and stuffing eggs for my littles. I noticed something funky going on with my “slacker” boob. I started to inspect and noticed a red sore developing between my caved in nipple and the skin around it. Liquid seemed to be seeping in and getting stuck and causing an irritation. It just seemed off. So, I texted my OB (yep we are close like that) and started asking questions, even sent pictures. She immediately thought it had to be mastitis, but I wasn’t experiencing any of those symptoms… no fever, no chills, no achiness like the flu. She wanted to prescribe an antibiotic just in case, but me (the no medicine woman) didn’t want to take any drugs if I didn’t need to. She scheduled an appointment for me to come get things checked out.
At my appointment, a midwife checked me over and definitely found the lump, she said she wanted me to go to get an ultrasound just to make sure there was nothing funky in there. I get home and literally put the ultrasound order under a box and forgot about it, kept putting it off thinking it was going to cost another $50 co-pay when nothing was wrong.
SO DUMB y’all.
A few weeks later I noticed swelling and slight tenderness in my right armpit. That raised a red flag, and I called to schedule my ultrasound right away.
On May 18, 2017, I went to get my ultrasound done and immediately after the radiologist said, “It doesn’t look kosher.” And she ordered a mammogram to be done right away. We took pictures, then more pictures, then magnified pictures. Finally, I met with the breast specialist and she told me I would need to get a biopsy done. She said something about micro-calcifications and a large mass in my right breast. All of my scans were sent over to my OB.
I went to lunch with my mom and little girls thinking it was a nice day to be off work. Half way through my lunch my OB called me, she said it did not look good. That she was pretty certain it was malignant and I needed to act right away. The next few weeks were a whirlwind blur, that was a Thursday and by Monday morning I was walking into a breast surgeon’s office to get a biopsy done. That Wednesday afternoon I walked out of the same office after being told I had Invasive Ductal Carcinmoa Stage 2/3 with a 5-cm tumor in my breast. That day we also did a biopsy on my lymphnode in my right arm pit. That Friday, I found out the cancer had spread to my lympnodes and I was officially Stage 3. We also found out I was estrogen + and progesterone + and HER2 – (which basically means my cancer is being fueled by estrogen) …and weirdly enough is a “good” thing in the cancer world because that means they can cut off my estrogen, which will kill off the cancer and keep it from coming back. That was a grim morning, but we jumped and got all my big scans done…bone scan, CT scan, and by Friday afternoon we were told the cancer had not spread anywhere else, PRAISE JESUS. I needed that good news. Positive, happy-go-lucky people like me can only be pushed so far into darkness when we start jumping for the light switch.
Exactly two weeks after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a port placed in my chest. Today, I am sitting in my infusion chair about to receive my first round of chemotherapy.
I have two little girls, I am 32 years old, I have an extraordinary life to live. Aside from being strong for my girls, I want to be a strong advocate for young women, specifically nursing moms about how easily breast cancer can sneak up on you. It is a silent monster that no one is safe from.
Please do not take self-breast exams lightly, do them and do them often. If you don’t know how to perform one properly, ask your OB/GYN to show you. I also want you to take a good look at this graphic I have included, there are certain symptoms that women miss when it comes to cancer. I missed a few.
Please do not think that you are safe if you are young. Please do not think you are safe if you are pregnant, or nursing either. Everyone is at risk, and you need to be informed and smart. One day there will be a better option than chemotherapy, one day there will be a cure. And all will rise in pink and celebrate.
“I am too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated.”