In March of 2008 I noticed a coffee bean sized lump in my right breast. I was 28 years old. I mentioned it during a routine pap smear and was sent for a biopsy "just to be sure" that everything was ok. Three days later, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer (estrogen, progesterone, and her2 positive). As a young woman (under 35) without a family history I had a 5% chance of getting breast cancer. Following my diagnosis, I had surgery, six months of chemotherapy, and a double mastectomy all before my 29th birthday. After extensive testing, we found nothing in my genetic make-up to understand why I developed breast cancer (this means I am BRCA negative). In an instant, I was faced with making major medical decisions and I would soon become a long-term patient. My whole life changed in moments and I had no idea what was waiting for me on the road ahead. I had never even heard of someone my age having breast cancer! Looking back on the experience now, I can say that they were the darkest and most frightening days of my life. However, within all the darkness, there was some light. I was blessed with excellent doctors and a supportive family. In the face of a terrible situation, I had amazing health care and early detection on my side.
Who am I? I am the person who googled "Chemotherapy was awesome" just to see if I could find someone who made it through the whole thing and was fine afterwards. I had never known anyone in their 20's who had been through it, so I had no idea. I was scared of dying. I was so scared of spending six months feeling like death. My google search of "awesome" turned up with nothing; but, I was determined that the treatments would not take over my sense of well-being.
So, I started to research health and wellness. And while it was not "awesome", I did really well. I managed to run or walk 2-3 miles five out of the seven days of every week I was in chemotherapy. I knew the movement gave me strength and I am a believer in sweating to feel better. Truly, I believe the constant exercise is the overwhelming reason why I handled chemo so well. I green juiced everyday. I ate clean and healthy. I still lost my hair and I was noticeably weaker and fatigued by the end. But, my doctor always commented on how I looked healthy and had a positive attitude. A positive attitude does not save one from cancer, but it does help you get through it without feeling like your world is ending.
I spent the entire summer of 2008 going through chemo treatments and scouring the internet for stories of young cancer survivors who made it into their 30's. At that point, I did not know if I would get there. I looked for women who went on to have children and who were eventually living a non- cancer centered life. Unfortunately, I stumbled onto stories of death and those who lost their battles more often than happy outcomes. Women were not blogging about experiences in 2008 the way they are today and what I found when I searched the web for "young women with breast cancer" were most often memorials or remembrances. I tried to process everything that was happening to me and work out the scenarios. My prognosis was good, but a lot of the cancer world is spoken in percentages. There was a 5% chance this could even happen in the first place and I was hearing things like a "probable" five year survival. I began to contemplate some of life's big questions. Does my family know I love them if I'm not destined to be here for long? What would my future look like if I do live a long life? Thinking about those big questions always led me back to one wish: I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. I knew it in the bottom of my soul that the true desire to have children existed in me.
I am writing this blog about trying to make a family because I am an eternal optimist. I have so much hope. I don't know WHEN it will happen, but I know it WILL happen. Dealing with infertility is hard. But guess what? I am lucky to have the opportunity to face this struggle. Many, many other young women I met in 2008 are no longer here. They never got the chance to try to make a family. So, while infertility is no walk in the park, it is the part of life that we are in now that we must face with faith and trust in God. In 2010 I met an amazing man. In 2013, we got married. So when I look back on my past, I AM hopeful and I AM blessed. And it might sound crazy, but I am filled with gratitude.
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