I never thought I'd write something like this, or much less live it at this stage of my life. On June 12, 2020, I was diagnosed with early stage Triple Negative Breast Cancer, #tnbc. I hardly expected this 5 months postpartum, trying to get back to a new normal of life. Before I dive into where I am today, I want to rewind a bit.
History About Me
I am adopted. I know nothing about my family medical history which has made things more challenging as I've gotten older. When I was about 16, I had a fibroadenoma removed from my left breast via an excisional biopsy. When I fast forward back to right before this diagnosis, I thought to myself that this was likely another benign mass that would be surgically removed and I could move on with my life.
Pregnancy and Postpartum
I had a stressful pregnancy. I had accepted a new, more demanding position at my company days before I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I went for it anyway, thinking this was the best decision as I prepared for the huge financial changes facing our family. I can't say I would have changed anything as I look back, but I can admit now that I do not handle stress very well internally. I believe, in part, that this started to take a toll on my physical health as my body already went through the mental, physical, hormonal, and emotional changes of pregnancy.
I delivered my 9lb, 3oz baby girl about a week before her due date. I went into labor naturally and tried to have a natural delivery, but after hours and hours, she was finally born via emergency C-section. A week after her birth, I was in the ER for suspected postpartum preeclampsia. Thankfully, I was only showing signs of high blood pressure temporarily and all resolved itself.
Since day 1 after the birth, I tried my best to breastfeed. I didn't produce enough breastmilk for my daughter from the start. We instantly turned to formula as a means to supplement her until I could produce enough to exclusively breastfeed. Unfortunately, that day never came. About a month after she was born, I started to feel pain in my left breast, but I couldn't pinpoint where exactly it was coming from. I called my OB/GYN office and spoke with a nurse who advised that it was likely a clogged milk duct due to my inconsistent breast feeding. Her recommendation was to keep trying to pump to boost up my supply, apply a warm compress, and massage. I tried that for a couple months while my supply kept dwindling, pain kept increasing, and when I finally found a lump, the first wave of COVID hit South Florida.
Simultaneously, my 12-week maternity leave was up at the end of March. I was immersed back into the stressful, fast pace of my sales job and trying to juggle the balance of it all as best as I could. The painful lump in my breast took a backseat. Instead of taking the time to speak up for myself and take care of myself, I was struggling with 10-12 hour work days primarily, a marriage on thin ice, and a new baby I barely had time for anymore. Sunny and I were inseparable since her birth and suddenly I felt so disconnected from her while only being a few steps away. In order for my husband and I to work, we hired a nanny who helped take care of Sunny during the week days which helped tremendously, but not so much with where I felt I fit in as her mother.
By mid-May, I noticed the lump had grown noticeably. I called my OB/GYN office again to see my midwife. She ordered an ultrasound and a mammogram immediately. Although 31 is young for a mammogram, my lack of family history and breast history played a factor. By 3 weeks, I had a needle biopsy on the lump and within days came the diagnosis. As I mentioned before, I fully expected another fibroadenoma that would have to be surgically removed. The surgeon looked into my eyes, surgical masks on, and told me "It's cancer." I was alone, no visitors allowed at this time at any of my appointments. She tried her best to console me, but when she mentioned chemotherapy, I broke down. My mom waited for me in the parking lot of the facility that day. I looked at her without saying a word and she knew. I haven't cried in her arms like that since I was a little girl. I have to say how much I admire my mom in those moments. She becomes the strongest version of herself and does not show her vulnerability. Thank God for her.
I came home that day to my daughter and my husband. I called my dad to come over and told him the news. It was such a difficult day for all of us. Much like my mom, my dad soon garnered his strength and started to find solutions. We started making plans for my what my temporary future will look like during treatment. I don't know what I would have done, what I would do, without them.
Back to present day, since the original diagnosis, I met with an incredible oncology team. They ordered further diagnostic testing and found cancer in my lymph nodes. Starting chemotherapy first and right away was my single best option. My first day of treatment was on June 29, 2020 which was coincidentally my daughter's 6-month milestone.
That little light of mine, Sunny, will be all the motivation I need in life. We're going to get through this together and I'm going to show her how positively strong women are. That is my mindset through all of this negativity. I truly believe a higher power redirected my life for a good reason. It may seem harsh and abrupt, but my soul was crying out without me really listening. I am going to work hard at this second chance at life and I'm going to make it worth it.