Name: Melissa Stone
Occupation: Regional Sales Manager – Beverage Industry
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 37
Breast cancer type: Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Breast cancer stage: 2b
Treatment: 16 Cycles of Chemo, 15 Sessions of Proton Radiation, Double Mastectomy with DIEP Reconstruction
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I have played drums in rock bands since the age of 13 and one of them even toured the US.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
My Name Is Human by Highly Suspect
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I have a strong family history, but surprisingly I tested negative for 94 genetic mutations, including BRCA. Because of my family history, my gynecologist was proactive, and at the age of 35, I started having annual mammograms and MRI’s. I had a clean mammogram, and only six months later, the MRI found cancer. I never felt a lump. I am forever grateful for my gynecologist. She saved my life by ordering these scans.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
“Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” As most women diagnosed in their 30’s, I was in complete shock. I have watched too many family members pass away from cancer, but they were much older. I was so scared I would be next. After the initial shock and crying outbursts, I went into fight or flight mode. I turned my anxiety into strength and determination. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about cancer and how to beat it. I had to be my own advocate from the start.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
“At least you get to have a boob job!” With how common breast augmentation is nowadays, many don’t understand that a mastectomy is an amputation. It is devastating to lose your breasts. Most people don’t realize that you also lose all sensation. I am so grateful for the fantastic surgeons that made me feel whole, but this surgery was a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Who was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
Oh, wow, where to start. I am so blessed to have the most amazing family, husband, and friends. Along with my husband, my mom or dad went to every single appointment and chemo with me. My parents brought me my favourite foods during treatment. My husband stayed in the hospital with me all four nights, never leaving my side. He learned how to cut stitches, pull drains, and helped me make it to the bathroom on nausea filled days. My friends helped me feel as normal as possible when I needed that the most. They surprised me and decorated my home at critical milestones. Two of my closest friends even picked out sunflower tattoos for us, and we went and got them just before starting chemo. Cancer is incredibly isolating, and I am so lucky I never felt alone. Cancer is also heavy, and some friends dropped off throughout treatment, but I am grateful for it because it revealed who my true friends really are.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
The most challenging part of being young with cancer is facing mortality. All of a sudden, your future isn’t a guarantee. I believe that to live a life, you assume that you have a certain number of years to live. You go to school, start a career, create goals, set expectations, fall in love, etc.. When you get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you’re forced to face the devastating reality that you may not have as much time as you thought. All of your plans and priorities change.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself?
A cancer diagnosis makes you dig deep to find the strength you need to get through. A friend asked me how I manage to go through these heavy treatments with a positive attitude. I responded, “What choice do I have? I want to live!” I kept my diagnosis and journey a secret, only sharing with close family and friends. Early on, I decided that I wanted to continue working full-time and have as much normalcy as possible. I had to dig deep to find that inner strength to get through the tough days where I felt sick and down from treatment. I always thought I was tough, but I discovered just how strong I really was.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young person who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Always advocate for yourself and remember that you are not a statistic.