#YWBC Profile: Shauna

Name: Shauna

Age: 33 (34 on May 18th)

Occupation: Archaeologist

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 33

Breast cancer type: invasive ductal carcinoma, no lymph nodes involved, ER+/PR+ HER2-

Breast cancer stage: 2

Treatment: Lumpectomy and lymph node dissection (6 removed), chemotherapy (docetaxel and cyclophosphamide), radiation and possible hormone therapy.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer: When I was a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist. In grade 3, I would make my teacher put paleontology and archaeology on my spelling tests.  Who knew I’d end up actually being an archaeologist!

What’s your go-to pick-me- up song? Shake it off – Florence and the Machine and Yin Yang – USS

How did you discover your breast cancer? I found it while in the shower a year previous to being diagnosed. It was thought to be a cyst but it never went away and started to hurt so my doctor thought it would be best to remove it.  I had an ultrasound and the doctor noticed it was a solid mass and said it was most likely a fibroadenoma, he did a biopsy just in case.  That confirmed it wasn’t a cyst or a fibroadenoma but cancer.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?  I kept thinking it wasn’t real and that it was a mistake.  I cried and then I laughed at the doctor’s office because I had just booked a trip to South East Asia 2 days before and I saved up for a year to go and this is just my kind of luck.  I’ve had so many struggles already in my life it just didn’t seem fair.  My doctor even said she’s never met anyone who’s been kicked when their already down as many times as I have.  I was just in shock and I think it never really sunk in until I met the surgeon and it all became very real.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? Do I have to pick just one thing?!  I have had a few people say “you don’t look sick” or “at least you don’t have ___ (insert a different horrible disease)”.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer? This online group has helped me so much, it’s nice to have other women who are going through similar situations to talk to and ask questions.  But my mom and dad have been the biggest support.  My mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer a week after me, she’s been there through all my appointments and treatments and I’m able to help her with her appointments and surgery as well.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer? The hardest part has been not having many people who can relate to what I am going through, as many groups in my area are for older people.  I’m also single with no children.   Dating seems impossible and I’m finding myself very self-conscious, wondering if I’ll ever be able to meet someone.  I’m also not sure if I’ll ever be able to have children now and the thought is pretty heart breaking.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?  I used humor more than I thought I would to get through some of the tough times.  I had fun shaving my hair into different styles with my friend, wearing fun tights to chemo and laughing with my family during those chemo sessions. I also learned an important lesson that I think everyone needs to remember. Everyone kept telling me to be strong and think positive and I felt like I was a failure for not being strong enough.  I learned that as tough as I think I am most of the time it’s also ok to not be strong and I’m allowed to grieve and allowed to be sad.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?  You’re stronger than you think you are and it’s ok to not be strong all the time.  

Shauna Kirby

For more on what it means to be young and have breast cancer click here.

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