Name: Joanne Nepomuceno-Noguera
Occupation: ESL Teacher
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 28
Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER/PR+, HER2-
Breast cancer stage: Stage 2A
Treatment: Left breast mastectomy, 4 rounds of TC chemo, tamoxifen
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I’ve seen the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. It was my first time ever to climb a mountain, and it was a real challenge, but oh so worth it!
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
It’s really cheesy and not upbeat, but Backstreet Boys’s “All I Have To Give” always puts a smile on my face.
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I went out for dinner with my older sister’s friends. They talked about breast self-exams, and I couldn’t really relate because I had never done one. I found a lump in my left breast that same night.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
I wondered if there was a mistake in translation: I was living in Japan at the time, and my doctor didn’t speak much English.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
I started chemo a month before getting married, so I lost my hair before the wedding. Not many people knew I was sick, so when they saw my pictures on Facebook, somebody said I was trying too hard to be “hipster” by going bald for my wedding.
Who or what was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My fiancé, now my husband. I was diagnosed three months before our wedding. We both lived in different countries when I was diagnosed, but he went to Japan to stay with me when I had surgery and during chemo.
Also, my Japanese manager from work. I had no family in Japan, couldn’t drive, and didn’t speak or write Japanese, so she went with me on ALL my hospital visits.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dealing with fertility issues. My doctor recommended being on Tamoxifen for five years, but we badly want to start having children soon.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?
I never knew how strong I could be! My husband pushed me to be more active after being diagnosed, and I’ve since finished three triathlons and a number of other races!
In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Don’t let cancer define who you are: consider it an opportunity to discover your hidden strengths and to unleash the best version of yourself yet.