My name is Jenn. In July 2012, my doctor found a lump during my yearly checkup. Since I was still nursing our daughter, everyone assumed it was related to that, but my doctor sent me to get checked “just in case”. I was 37 years old. I went in and had my first mammogram. I didn’t even know they would do one while a woman was nursing. The mammogram deemed the lump “not suspicious”, but the ultrasound tech ordered a biopsy. Two weeks later I had my answer. Brest cancer. Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma to be exact. Triple negative. I had more tests than I’ve ever had in my life, a port put in to give direct access to my heart and started neoadjuvant chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial within weeks of my diagnosis. Our son was also diagnosed with Autism two days after my diagnosis. I was in shock, but on a mission. I was kicking cancer’s ass. After 10 weekly infusions, the scar tissue from the biopsies had finally cleared enough that I could feel the lump again. And it was bigger. A lot bigger. I went for an ultrasound and we found that the original tumor had doubled and two more were now present. The chemo wasn’t working. I was immediately scheduled for surgery, but since it was three weeks out we had time to try a different chemo cocktail which we did. Unfortunately this one didn’t work either and my other breast was showing pre-cancerous tissue in the next scan. On November 29, 2012 I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. The pathology was good. They got it all. I had a hard time taking this news in. My brain had not recovered from the shock of having cancer along with my medical condition after surgery. The chemotherapy had weakened my body a lot and my heart and lungs were having a tough time recovering. I was in the hospital for a full week and required extensive care in the weeks after. This was one of the hardest times of my life and I’m thankful I remember very little of it. On Christmas Eve 2012, I returned to yet another chemotherapy cocktail for six more rounds (17 total). With no tumors left in my body, there is no way to know if it had any effect. Lastly, I had 28 radiation treatments to my chest wall and collarbone lymph node area which I finished in June 2013. I will have another scan in September to see if I am finally free of cancer.
Cancer is at least as much a mental struggle as a physical one. I felt lost and returning to treatment after surgery was literally the hardest thing I’ve done in my lifetime. I wanted to quit and I thought no one could understand. The only thing that made me go back was that I simply could not look at my kids knowing that I did not do everything possible to survive. I struggled with depression, constant nausea and vomiting which landed me in the hospital several times and was, in large part, anxiety induced. It wasn’t until I met other young adult patients late in my treatment that I finally came back. I started to realize that not only was I not alone, but I was in FABULOUS company. I felt immediately bonded with other survivors in a way that is indescribable. It didn’t matter what our diagnosis was, we had all been through the same battle. I also realized that I could help people. Cancer is not a disease we should be ashamed of, it should not be shrouded in secrecy. I am constantly amazed at how little the general population understands about cancer. I know that I can help change that. I have kept a blog ever since I was diagnosed and feel that it’s very important to not only document my feelings, but to give as much accurate information about treatment, what the processes are like and why they are done the way they are. I love to hear that reading my blog has helped someone, whether it is a fellow patient getting ready for a new treatment or a son or daughter who tells me they never understood what their parent went through. I started mentoring people through their treatment from my friends, doctors and hospital. Most recently, I worked with Cara to open up a brand new chapter of Hope for Young Adults With Cancer here in Denver. I can’t think of anything the world needs more than Hope.
You can find my blog here: www.jennscancerblog.wordpress.com