Name: Becky Dahle
Occupation: Nurse Specialist, Public Health
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 39
Breast cancer type: Triple Negative, BRCA1 mutation
Breast cancer stage: Stage 2A
Treatment: Lumpectomy, Dose Dense AC-T, Radiation; Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy, BSO and total hysterectomy
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I LOVE animals. I have a dog, a cat, and two guinea pigs. I would have many more if my husband would let me!
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
Imperfections by Celine Dion or Breathin’ by Ariana Grande
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I was in the shower. My mom was in treatment for breast cancer and I figured a self-exam wouldn’t hurt.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
When I found the lump, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me”. When I finally received my diagnosis, I felt frustrated because I had been told by my family doctor that it was nothing to worry about for over six months.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed?
People said a lot of crazy things to me after I was diagnosed but I know they didn’t mean any harm. I try to appreciate that people do their best to be supportive but it’s very hard to know what to say to someone unless you’ve been in a similar situation or know someone who has. Breast cancer is more prevalent among older women, so I think people are at a loss for words when you are diagnosed at a younger age.
Who was your biggest source of support?
My mom was my biggest source of support. She moved home from Germany to be with me as soon as I was diagnosed. She had been told that her breast cancer was in remission two months before. She went with me to all of my appointments and made a special bedroom for me in her house so that I could rest after chemo treatments (I have four small children so rest wasn’t possible at my house!). She knew what I was going through because she had just been through it herself. Unfortunately, we found out that her cancer had returned when I was halfway through my treatment. From that point on, I went with her to all of her appointments and went to many of mine alone. She died two and a half months later.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
I have four daughters under the age of 10. The thought of not surviving this and leaving them to grow up without a mother is what weighs most on my mind. I also grapple with the feeling that I am not, and may never, live up to the personal and professional expectations I had of myself pre-cancer. My youngest daughter was 18 months old when I was diagnosed and I felt like I had finally gotten the hang of being a mom. Throughout treatment I felt like I couldn’t be the type of mom that I wanted to be or that they deserved. Career wise, I had just returned to work after my fourth maternity leave and was looking forward to taking my job to the next level. My career had just started to take off when I had to take a medical leave of absence. Although I have finished most of my cancer treatments, I have been left with a significant cognitive impairment. At this point, I don’t know if I will ever be able to return to the career path I was on.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself?
I learned that I used to spend way too much time thinking about the past and future. No one knows how much time they have left, so we should all fully appreciate the present.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
This is going to be hard but you can do hard things.