Breast Cancer Doesn’t Care That I’m Young
My first tattoo is the word ‘Fearless’ with the breast cancer symbol to honour and remember my best friend after she had passed away from metastatic breast cancer at 27 in 2017. January 2020, I randomly asked my husband to check my chest for anything abnormal. Within seconds of palpating, he found a small peanut-sized tumour in my right breast and told me to “keep an eye on it.” I did so for about two months while waiting for my scheduled physical that kept being rescheduled as a result of COVID-19.
Finally came March, after growing more concerned and impatient for my rescheduled physical. I asked my boss for the afternoon off on March 12th and decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to a walk-in clinic and advised the nurse I found a lump and requested a breast exam. I didn’t know it then, but Thursday March 12th would be my last day worked, the week after that Thursday we were laid off and placed in lockdown. The following week I was referred to an imaging clinic for an ultrasound. The next week I was sent for a biopsy at the Breast Health Center at our local hospital (a place no one wanted to be in the midst of COVID-19).
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020, was when I got the call from my family doctor. I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer at 27 years old.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer so young was a real shock in itself, not to mention during a world wide pandemic. Shortly after my diagnosis I had my blood taken to test my genes for mutations of other cancers and diseases. We discovered I was BRCA1 positive. This makes me more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer from the BRCA1 cells that are found in my DNA. This means my breast cancer was passed hereditarily.
Due to the pandemic, inconvenience and the stress of everything, we decided to forgo fertility treatments before I underwent 16 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. September 30th, I received a bilateral double mastectomy with reconstruction. Today I am cancer free but I will continue to receive hormone therapy the next five years to decrease my chances of a reoccurrence of cancer.
I can’t help but wonder what my future would have looked like had I not gone to that walk-in clinic. What if I elected to wait until I felt “safe” from the pandemic? I don’t think my story would have a happy ending if it weren’t for the actions I took to advocate and speak up for myself.
Cancer does not discriminate. All of the health care professionals who examined my lump verified that I was lucky to have found it as early as I did. As a young woman, my breast tissue is dense and it wouldn’t have been easy to locate and distinguish without my previous knowledge and experience with breast cancer with my best friend. I am so grateful for my life and health and hope that in the process of sharing my story that I can help someone. Everyone must take their life and health seriously. Be your own advocate, ask questions and bring attention to things that concern you. It’s your body and life – you have every right. – Tawnya Jacob-Couch
Breast cancer doesn’t wait, even during a global pandemic. Neither should you. If you notice something contact your healthcare provider, get checked. Head here to find out more.