Overall, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. One of our Village members, Natalie, has personal experience with breast cancer and told her story below. We dedicate our classes this month to Natalie and all those affected by breast cancer as we work to bring awareness to it throughout October.
In April of 2021 I started noticing some pain and tenderness in my left breast, though I didn’t notice any lumps. I had met with my gynecologist years before for similar tenderness and was told it was most likely related to my cycle, so when I started experiencing it again I assumed it was probably the same issue. I monitored how I was feeling throughout the month of April and through two periods and I noticed that the pain and tenderness stayed consistent instead of coming and going with my period. I met with my gynecologist in early May and she reiterated that she thought everything felt okay, and she thought it was still probably cycle related, but she would order an ultrasound and mammogram to help ease my fears. Two weeks later I had my mammogram and as soon as they called me back a second time for additional pictures, I knew something was wrong.
On May 21, 2021, two weeks after my 34th birthday, I found out I had stage 2b, triple negative, invasive ductal carcinoma. With a seven-year-old and one-year-old at home I was in complete shock and absolutely terrified about the future. From the first visit with my care team, I was determined to be as aggressive as possible to defeat this disease so that I could be around for my babies as long as possible.
Starting in June I embarked on a fifteen-month treatment journey, beginning with 16 rounds of intravenous chemotherapy. On November 29, 2021, I said, “Ta-Ta to my tatas” and I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. My care team determined that my surgeon had removed all traces of the tumor and that it had not spread to my lymph nodes! I was told that I would not need radiation, but with my desire to be as aggressive as possible, I decided that I wanted to move forward with 30 rounds of radiation. After completing radiation, I completed six months of an oral chemo pill.
I implore each of you to perform monthly breast checks, and to advocate for yourself if you ever notice something with your body that’s out of your norm. If I hadn’t made that appointment in May I wouldn’t have gone to my yearly checkup until October, I hate to think about what could’ve happened in those five months. According to statistics, even after all the treatment I received, my five-year survival rate is approximately 70%. If I hadn’t listened to my gut, I probably wouldn’t be here today.