"I was diagnosed almost a year ago with stage IB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, I was 31 years old. A lump was originally felt on a routine clinical breast exam, at first the doctor said she thought it might just be my rib cage. I didn't think much of it and decided not to follow-up. Fast forward a few months later, I could tell the lump was not part of my rib cage, it was too big for me not to have noticed before if it was my rib cage. I followed up with another doctor who recommended an ultrasound. I felt I knew the diagnosis before even being told, however the shock of it all was still distressing.
"My family was my rock throughout treatment. My mother was diagnosed 10 years earlier and my aunt had been diagnosed a few months before me. I choose to have bilateral mastectomies. My husband was my coach, when I cried myself to sleep and through unsuccessful fertility preservation, he reminded me that I may still be able to have children and even if not we can always adopt. After my surgery I started 4 months of chemotherapy, my mother went to every session with me. When I started losing my hair I just decided to shave my head and I actually learned that I have a cute-shaped head! There were definitely a lot of low moments, but focusing on the positives is what gets you through the days, weeks and months.
"My friends were incredibly supportive through the whole experience. Even though none of them have gone through this they all provided wonderful care packages, phone calls, emails to brighten my day. I would never wish this on anyone else, but I also was able to make some new friends through Breastcancer.org. It really helped to find local girls also in their 30s who are going through the same journey.
"Ironically, I am also finishing up my Ph.D. in epidemiology and my dissertation is on benign breast disease and subsequent breast cancer risk. This past year has taught me to really think about my research from both sides, patient and researcher. I really hope the work that I am part of can help make a difference in women's lives in the future, both for prevention and treatment."
--lillaura22 (Laura), diagnosed at age 31