I Thought I Was Too Young
We grew up hearing the phrase “You’re too young.” Too young to watch scary movies, too young to stay up late, too young to (enter any phrase said in your parent’s voice here). But there comes a point when just hearing these words feels like a personal sting rather than a subtle scolding.
Like when your family/friends/coworker says with astonishment, “but you’re too young to get breast cancer.” Not only is this factually wrong, it also implies that you’re an exception to the norm, whatever that is. So, in partnership with Willful, Rethink asked a few women in our community to share their too young stories in hopes of you feeling a little less deflated about yours. Why? Because we all need a little encouragement when it comes to receiving unsolicited statements.
Here’s what they had to say.
Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 28. I always thought breast cancer was an older woman’s disease, and was very shocked to learn that the type of breast cancer I have, triple negative, is much more common in younger women. I think the ‘too young’ part really comes into play in how I was diagnosed – I was dismissed by doctors for being ‘too young’ to be at risk for breast cancer. I was told I didn’t need to worry about the lump I had found, and I was told I was too young for a diagnostic mammogram or biopsy. This meant months of self-advocacy (and my tumour growing) before I was able to get diagnosed. It was incredibly frustrating to be dismissed because of my age, and it also personally felt unfair and disheartening to be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age.
I’ve since found out I carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation – which helps explain my diagnosis and the age at which I was diagnosed! I’ve also since connected with many women who have been diagnosed much younger than myself. – Lily Rogers
“But you’re too young for breast cancer.”
This phrase has been said to me so many times. After I found the lump at 27, months after finishing law school and a year into a new marriage, I was told this during my ultrasound. I wasn’t given the ordered biopsy because with no family history of breast cancer, 27 is considered too young to get breast cancer (*eye roll*). At my second ultrasound, months later when my tumour had tripled in size, I was told this again but a reluctant radiologist biopsied the lump anyway, thanks to my insistence.
On August 26, 2015 I received the dreaded call with news I wasn’t expecting because so many medical professionals told me I was too young for breast cancer. If I hadn’t advocated for myself, the tumour would have continued to grow at a super fast rate and most likely resulting in a much worse diagnosis. I feel lucky that I finally listened to my gut and didn’t leave that room until I had a biopsy.
Even now, I still have many appointments at the hospital and I’m the only young person in the waiting room. When I see someone under 50, I always get excited and try to work up the nerve to go over and say hi. Being young when diagnosed with breast cancer is hard and very isolating. I had to put my life and career on hold to get through cancer treatments while all my friends and colleagues were starting their exciting lives. And still today I feel like I’m falling behind my peers. I still have to put starting a family on hold while I am on hormone therapy to help decrease my chance of recurrence. I miss the days when my biggest concern was studying for finals (although that was also super stressful) instead of whether or not a new pain is a recurrence in my early 30’s. – Emily Piercell
Planned your will or power of attorney lately? Not me! When I think about it, the first thing comes to mind is the countless (and highly dramatic!) Hollywood movie scenes and stories of an older family member passing away and the bickering between family and friends that ensues as the executor of the will attempts to divide the estate and assets.
That’s not me. I don’t have a lavish lifestyle with appealing assets. Plus, I’m too young to think about these things.
Or am I?
As a young, single woman, planning a will never crossed my mind. It was something my parents did, but they were old. I didn’t need one, I thought, because I was too young and just starting out in life.
Then after our first child was born, it had briefly crossed my mind. But again, I kept telling myself and my partner that we didn’t need to think about these things. We were too young and busy raising a family. The timing was all wrong.
Fast forward to today, where I am now a married mother of two living with metastatic breast cancer…I’m too young for this kind of cancer diagnosis, but it’s where I am in life. And I realise now that you’re never too young to plan your will and power of attorney. Honestly, when I was diagnosed three years ago, I felt this immense pressure to get my affairs in order. But to think about making a will while dealing with a cancer diagnosis just seemed like more than I could handle.
But 2020, this crazy year that it is, has made me realize that in hindsight, making these plans and decisions can be liberating. It can take the pressure off my loved ones from wondering what my exact wishes might be. It can take the guesswork out if it for everyone. In fact, being able to plan my will actually frees up emotional real estate so that I can focus on my family and enjoy life, rather than fearing the future. – Michelle Audoin