Breast cancer survivor: Don’t wait to have lumps looked at

My dad’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her 60s. But that was considered pretty normal at the time, so she didn’t have any genetic testing done. That’s why it was such a shock to be diagnosed with breast cancer myself at age 28 in January 2017. As far as I knew, my grandmother and I were the only people in my family who’d ever had cancer.

Because I was so young when I was diagnosed, I got genetic testing done almost immediately. That’s how I learned that my breast cancer was related to two genetic mutations: BRCA2 and HER2. I also discovered that literally all of the women on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family had had some type of BRCA2-related cancer, too — so I’d inherited that genetic mutation from her.

My breast cancer diagnosis

I was still breastfeeding my youngest child in late 2016 when I felt a lump in my right breast. I figured it was just a clogged milk duct, so I ignored it. But it started getting bigger. My husband finally convinced me to get it checked out. So I went to my doctor. She sent me in for a mammogram. The day after that, I had a biopsy, and I was diagnosed with stage III invasive ductal carcinoma.

Now, I tell everyone that if you have a lump, get it checked today. Don’t put it off. I ignored mine for months. If I hadn’t, I might’ve just been able to have a lumpectomy, instead of all the different kinds of treatment I received. I also urge people to seek genetic counseling, if I hear that two or more of their close relatives have had cancer. If I’d known my own family’s cancer history, I definitely would’ve had my breast looked at sooner.

Why I chose MD Anderson for my breast cancer treatment

I came to MD Anderson for my treatment because I wanted the best care possible. And, in my mind, MD Anderson was the only option. Why would I go anywhere else, when I have the No. 1 cancer center only minutes away? MD Anderson League City is just 13 miles from my home.

At MD Anderson, I met with Dr. Amy Hassan. She recommended six months of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and 30 rounds of radiation therapy. After that, she wanted me to take a targeted therapy drug called Herceptin. I would receive it by IV infusion every three weeks for a year after I finished radiation.

Finding serenity after breast cancer treatment

I got my last infusion on Sept. 9, 2018. And at first, I thought I would be all excited. Instead, I was kind of upset. MD Anderson had been my home for a year and a half. It felt like my security blanket was being taken away.

I talked about my feelings with Traci Newsome, a social work counselor at MD Anderson. She told me that my reaction was very normal, and a lot of cancer survivors experience it. She said to give myself some time, and I would get there eventually. And she was right. Today, I’m thrilled to have finished treatment and excited to finally be cancer-free.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.