Hello, I’m Megan. I was her 37-year-old, and a few weeks ago I got to ring the gong to celebrate the end of aggressive treatment for stage 2 breast cancer.
I was diagnosed just a few months earlier in February 2023. Soon after, I scrolled through a headline announcing that cancer screening guidelines had just been released. Has been updated Breast cancer screening should be started at age 40 instead of age 50. But for AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults) For cancer patients like me, these tests may still be too late. That’s why it’s so important for people under 40 to know the signs to look out for.
We all know that a breast lump is a classic breast cancer warning sign, but my story doesn’t start there. Instead, I noticed visual changes in my breasts that I initially thought were due to aging. First, my right breast was starting to droop, but the old left-hander was still sitting high as usual. I hadn’t thought much about linking these visual changes to cancer, so I thought, “Oh, this must be her life in her 30s.” I figured one side would hang low for a while and the other would eventually go down with it.
One day, when I tried to remove my bra, I noticed that my left breast was folded in half inside the cup, and my nipple was sunken in the middle. This seemed clearly not good, so she nervously performed a self-examination and a visual inspection. This time, I noticed that the contour of her left breast had changed. Instead of one rounded curve, it had a bulge on the outer edge, like a cartoon cloud. And when she lifted her arm up, she saw a dimple in her chest that she was sure wasn’t there before.
My first doctor touched my chest a little and said it was normal (wow). And for a while I believed him. He was very reassuring, but also a little patronizing, and I felt embarrassed that I had gotten so excited about “nothing” and ended the appointment. I accepted the change in my breasts and tried to get used to my weird breasts. But when I noticed the difference in my body, I couldn’t help but question it. What if he is wrong? So, a few months later, I saw a second doctor who immediately ordered an ultrasound and mammogram. The sonographer looked at me with ghostly eyes and recommended a same-day biopsy. At that moment, I knew that things were serious.
About a week later, I received a phone call.turned out to be stage 2 Invasive lobule Carcinoma — the second most common form of breast cancer, accounting for only about 10% of cases. I could feel changes in the breast tissue (uncomfortably called “thickening” in the medical literature), but sometimes not at all with this type of cancer. It may also be difficult to see on imaging tests such as mammography and ultrasound.my cancer is hormone positiveThis means that both the hormones estrogen and progesterone helped drive its growth. Fortunately, early stage cancers like mine are considered curable and cancer-free at this time.
I have no family history of breast cancer and genetic testing has shown that I do not have any known cancer-related genes such as: BRCA. Also, other than the visual changes in my left breast, I didn’t notice any other symptoms. But unfortunately this wasn’t my first cancer rodeo because I had melanoma in my early twenties and have to have new precancerous moles removed on a regular basis. But it still caught me off guard. I’m used to paying close attention to skin changes, but until now, I didn’t really know all the breast cancer warning signs to look out for.
I knew it was important to do monthly self-examinations (probably from an article I read) Cosmo When I was in high school), I thought all I had to do was touch my breasts in the shower once a month. Spoiler alert: You should watch it too! According to medical experts, breast cancer.org, is actually a five-step process.i love this too Self-examination guide from The Breastiesan organization that connects young survivors, survivors, and survivors to reduce loneliness with stupid cancer.
Step 1: Place your hands on your hips and look at your breasts in the mirror. Be aware of skin changes such as dimples, wrinkles, and rashes, and nipple changes such as the direction or depression of the nipple. These changes should be evaluated by a doctor.
Step 2: Raise your arm and look for the same kind of change as above. When I had the tumor, I had two vertical dents on my chest when I lifted my arm. This was because healthy tissue moved with the arm, while the “thickened” portion remained intact.
Step 3: Nipple Check. Check for signs of discharge or bleeding from the nipples. Bloody discharge is not normal and should be tested, Types of nipple discharge It may be completely benign.
Step 4: Lie down with your arms above your head and feel for any lumps in your chest. Use your fingertips to feel from your collarbone to your abdomen, from your armpit to your sternum.
Step 5: Feel your chest again. However, this time you can do it while sitting or standing. If you feel a lump, don’t panic right away. Some cases are completely benign. But seeing a doctor and having an imaging test or biopsy are the best ways to know for sure.
Since I was diagnosed, time has sped up and slowed down. I had multiple appointments and follow-up exams to determine what stage I was in and what treatment plan would be best for me. I met with a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, a genetic counselor, a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist, and had an MRI and her PET scan. All done within a few weeks. It felt like things were happening too quickly, but at the same time, knowing that I had cancer living inside me made everything feel like it was taking too long. It was a dream-like scene where my feet froze on the ground even when I tried to run.
When I learned that I could not save any part of my left breast and found a precancerous lesion on my right breast as well, I made the difficult decision to have a bilateral mastectomy for symmetry and safety considerations. After meeting with a plastic surgeon, I learned that breast reconstruction is not as far from the “free boob job” as people think. In my case, it will likely take several surgeries and eventually the nerve damage from the mastectomy will make my new breast numb. For me, it didn’t make sense for me to be so tight for my boobs that I couldn’t even feel them, so I decided to do it. be flat And I still don’t regret it.
We also found that the rest of the treatment plan was highly dependent on the outcome of the surgery. Lobular cancers can be masked by imaging, so it’s hard to know what you’re really dealing with until you look at the tissue itself. I had surgery without knowing if I would need chemotherapy or radiation next, or if I could skip hormone therapy drugs to prevent a recurrence.
On April 3rd, I went in for surgery and woke up with no boobs so I could have an angelic female surgeon (shout out to Dr. Barry!) to see where my cat was. I asked if Bob’s Burgers now. It took him a month to recover from the surgery, but he had plenty of time to play with the Belchers and cuddle the cat while the surgery returned. There was good news and bad news. The good news: I’m basically cancer-free, so I don’t need chemotherapy. Bad news. I still had him go through 25 radiation treatments and he had to take ovarian suppressants for 5 years which would put him into medical menopause (including hot flashes).
I finished the radiation on June 20th, but as I write this, the skin in the treated areas is red and pink and peeling. I still get tired much faster than before, and even though I know in my head it’s over, it still doesn’t feel real. I would love to say “it’s back to normal”, but that’s never true. My job now is to adjust to my new body and hormonal changes and find a new normal while battling all the questions, emotions and fears that a cancer diagnosis brings. I’m fine, but I’m not the same.
I share my story in the hope that it will reach those who need to hear it. Whether your breasts don’t look right, you have a weird lump, or something else is going on in your body, you owe it to yourself. Seeking a second opinion is not “too much”. I wish I had received it sooner. If you are concerned about the cost of cancer screening, the following groups can help. planned parenting and the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Helps you access the services you need. Take care of yourself and know your body. That way you can save your own life.