Yes, I am young, and I’m living with MBC
I hear a specific phrase a lot when I talk about my experience with cancer: “But you’re so young!” People will catch my eye in the clinic and say, “You are way too young to be here!” Don’t you think I know that? I face it every single day. I’m not alone either. More and more women under 35 get diagnosed every day.
I was 25 the first time a doctor looked at me and told me I have breast cancer. I was a completely different person then. I had just hit a stride in my career, and I was focusing on finding out who I was as a single person, just getting out of a long-term relationship. My whole world fell apart that day, and nothing has been the same since.
A Port-a-Cath placement, 4 AC treatments, 12 Taxol treatments, a modified left side radical mastectomy with lymph node dissection, a surprise baby (yes, a SURPRISE baby!), and 5 weeks of radiation later and I was declared cancer free. WHEW! I did it! One whole year of hell, and I had made it out the other side. I even had to file for bankruptcy to clear my medical debt. I went to my appointments, I had my mammograms, and my MRI’s with contrast, all of it. Everything was fine, nothing popped up, and I continued to live my life.
My kid was my number one priority, and I worked my ass off to make sure we had a decent life in our little apartment. And then, right before the start of the pandemic, I fell in love. We built a life together through everything falling apart around us. I couldn’t work for 6 months, while she continued to work through it all. One day, my shoulder started to bother me a little bit after sleeping on it funny, but I never really thought twice about it. I got an x-ray, and it came back fine. Life continued.
When I was eventually able to go back to work, my shoulder was still bothering me and I couldn’t move it properly. I went to physiotherapy, and tried to work it back up to normal, thinking it was a frozen shoulder, or a repetitive stress injury. Life continued yet again.
In October of 2020, I bought a house. I accomplished all the things I had wanted to accomplish in my life at this point, and things were right where I wanted them to be. My partner and I were going to get married, and our little family would be complete. We moved into the house and started to dream of all the things we would do to make it ours, and how we would have a place for our kid when she grew up.
I went to work on a Thursday in November and had a pretty normal day. The next day, I went to a doctor’s appointment after finally receiving an MRI on my shoulder that my PT pushed me to get (she’s a real hero!).
Then things changed. I got the news nobody ever wants to receive, at any point in their life: “Your breast cancer came back. It has metastasized to your humerus bone, fracturing it. Do not go back to work. Here is a sling. Your appointment with your oncologist is on Monday.”
It has been 434 days. I shut my life down that day, and it truly has never been the same since that moment in that doctor’s office. I had a biopsy, and it confirmed that I was stage 4. I scheduled a HUGE surgery that involved putting a rod in my arm and removing what was fractured. I had my ovaries removed to reduce the amount of estrogen in my body. I lost my career, and I sold my house.
I am 32. All of these events have happened to me and shaped me into who I am right now. I am young, and I think about that every single day. I have hit some of my lowest lows since 2015, but I truly have hit some of my highest highs as well. I got to marry my best friend, we are raising a really cool kid together, and we live in a multi-generational home on a beautiful little spot in the middle of nowhere. During my surgeries, I was attending community college remotely, and made the honor roll. I have made space for some incredible friendships and created a beautiful community of support around my family.
So yes, I may be young, but I also have lived quite a life so far. I have absolutely no intention of stopping, either. — Stephanie
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