I’m a breast cancer survivor but I was first a co-survivor.
I was diagnosed at the age of 30 after watching my sister and dad both get diagnosed with cancers, battle with more fight than imaginable yet be taken to heaven before they were ready.
My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly after my college graduation and passed away at the age of 51. In the midst of my dad’s battle, my sister was diagnosed and battled breast cancer for three years. She was taken to heaven at the age of 31.
My grandfather battled acute leukemia for years and passed away at the age of 54.
Cancer was my biggest fear.
I have recently learned that I have an “uncertain significance ” of the gene TP53. We learned my sister had the mutation as well and highly likely that my father and grandfather did too. I do not have a true genetic mutation but rather what they call “uncertain significance”. Once I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the significance of that gene became clear. I will be treated as having Li-Fraumeni Syndrome which is a rare inherited genetic cancer disorder that greatly increases one’s risk of developing cancer during their lifetime. I had a 90% chance of getting cancers by the age of 30. Here I am, 30 with breast cancer. In 2016, I faced my biggest fear.
Before Jill passed away she made me promise I would figure out how to be screened early for cancers. She trusted that if I learned how to do it, I would help others in my family to get screened. Those were mighty words while she was on Earth but her presence has been even more powerful from up above.
It took me years to recognize, appreciate and overpower the fear inside me. After receiving genetics testing and genetics counseling, I was finally enrolled in the ‘Reduce Your Risk’ program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). In February of 2016, I had my first screening at SCCA. In my first meeting we discussed all the ways I can help to reduce my risk and received an MRI. I was warned that being young (29 years old) that I might receive a lot of false positives and referred for biopsies that would ultimately be negative. My MRI came back negative. My family, friends and I were so relieved. I went back for testing again in September. I underwent a mammogram, followed by an ultrasound, and lastly three breast biopsies. The biopsies revealed that I had breast cancer. Stage 1 in the right breast and pre-cancerous or Stage 0 in the left breast. They re-examined the MRI from February and still saw no signs of the cancer. On September 21, 2016, I was told I had cancer. That’s right, yep, I was told I had cancer, cancer that was unrecognizable to one of the best cancer hospitals in the world just six months prior. My biggest fear became my reality. I’m here to tell you my story and how I became fearless amidst battling cancer, my biggest fear.