Name: Kerry Kelly
Occupation: Outreach Programs Manager for local non-profit
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 29
Breast cancer type: Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Breast cancer stage: 2B
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer:
I love travel and adventI have two Australian Shepherd dogs, and they are the best! They love to run and play, and are the best big brothers to my (almost) 2-year-old daughter.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
“No Brainer” — Justin Bieber is one that always lightens the mood and gets me dancing!
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I found the lump during a self-assessment. At first I was told it was dense tissue, I like to say I discovered my cancer a couple of times. I felt a lump when I was 7 months pregnant, at 29 years old. I assumed it was my milk ducts forming as I was getting ready for birth. I felt the lump as I was struggling to breastfeed, but assumed it was an enlarged duct. It was not until 6 months postpartum that I felt the lump and knew I had to get it checked out. I scheduled an appointment with my OBGYN and was diagnosed within a week.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
My thoughts when I was diagnosed revolved around my daughter and family. I cannot bear the idea of her growing up without me, without a mother. My treatment started immediately, so I went straight into problem solving (or “go” mode) mode, and stayed there mentally for most of my treatment. I wasn’t able to fully unpack all of the emotional baggage that came with my diagnosis until after treatment ended. I am still working through the emotions and struggling with the weight of what I went through.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
When something bad happens, people try to help in any way they can. For me, this ranged for me from people bringing food, gifts, or trying to relate to my situation and make me feel better. Many people have said I got the “good” cancer, or “oh I had an aunt who had breast cancer, ya she died.” This is so painful, but I have tried to focus on the fact that the person was trying to help.
Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My husband and my mom were my biggest sources of support through this time. My husband has been so strong. He shaved his head as I shaved mine, and was an incredible support through the difficulties of chemo. He stepped up and took the role as the main parent through sleep regressions and teething for our daughter. I was diagnosed in January 2020, and our state was shut down due to COVID-19 a few days before my second chemo session. My mom moved in with us so we could keep my daughter home from school to decrease our risk of getting COVID-19. She was there for me through every stage bringing me broth and bread, cooking our family dinner, and talking through my medically induced menopause meltdowns. Having a baby in the house was helpful to lighten the mood. She brings such a light to our lives.
What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
By far, the most difficult part about being a young woman with breast cancer is having a young child and being unsure about the possibility of future children. Going through chemo, COVID, and teething all at once was something that almost broke me. As someone who has always wanted a large family, it is really challenging to wrap my head around raising an only child.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?
I have become very comfortable with who I am following my breast cancer journey. I have always been very unsure of myself and struggled with confidence. I did not expect to feel so confident in myself with my chemo curls growing out, and the baby/chemo weight that I still haven’t shed. As cliché as it sounds, I had my life flash before my eyes, so I am dedicating to living my life and not sweating the small stuff.
In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
You will never be ready for what cancer sends your way but you’ll go through it, and you can choose to learn. My advice would be to lean into the emotions that come from treatment and express yourself in order to work through all of the feelings that come from this traumatic time.
If you or someone you know is a young woman with breast cancer looking for a community that relates and connects with what you’re going through, the Rethink Young Women’s Network might be right for you. For more information and to join, click here.